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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Last Film Show is a 2021 Indian Gujarati-language coming-of-age drama film directed by Pan Nalin. Samay (Bhavin Rabari), a 9-year-old boy, lives with his family in a remote village in India. His father Bapuji (Dipen Raval) makes a living selling tea when trains stop at the local station. A traditional man, he expects his children to go into respectable jobs. A family outing to view a religious film in a ramshackle theatre sees Samay instantly transfixed. Secretly, he starts returning every day, befriending the projectionist (Bhavesh Shrimali) who lets him watch for free in exchange for Samay providing his lunch.
Samay is absolutely mesmerized by films and filmmaking, and decides to become a filmmaker- much to the chagrin of his father who considers cinema a sleazy profession, unfit for the virtuous (like them). This doesn’t deter Samay from setting up his own DIY theatre with friends, but the going gets difficult with the arrival of computers and a digital projection system. Samay faces an uncertain future, in much the same way as his father, whose business is in peril with the coming of broad-gauge trains that won’t be stopping at the station anymore. Change, then, is the only certainty, be it in life or cinema.
Last Film Show is a heart-warming drama about the power and pull of cinema. In an era where streaming services are threatening to usurp it as a medium, writer/director Pan Nalin reminds us of what a transformative experience it can be. India’s Oscar submission is very assuredly done. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, Last Film Show is an entertaining and engaging coming-of-age drama.