Feature: Bringing the silver screen to the Pamir Plateau

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-09 20:40:54|Editor: Yamei
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URUMQI, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Aysa Kurebanx hops onto his motorcycle, rides from door to door in the village and shouts at the top of his lungs: the projectionists are coming.

For 40 minutes, the village official in Maryang Township on the Pamir Plateau repeated the sentence to inform his fellow townsfolk that it is time to gather for a free outdoor movie night.

With Kurebanx came a white van and from it emerged two middle-aged projectionists -- Barhatiya, wearing a plaid shirt, a red vest and a big smile, and Keshar, a slimmer and more stern bearded figure in a black jacket.

For the past 23 years, the two men have traveled across the plateau to bring movies to people who otherwise have little access to the world of film. "We have held 10,000 film screenings," said Barhatiya, in his 50s.

At the end of a long summer day, the brothers parked the van in front of one villager's house and began unloading their mobile cinema set -- a rolled white screen, four black boxes, a stereo set and a diesel-fueled generator.

Roughly 40,000 people, mainly ethnic Tajiks, live in northwest China's Taxkorgan County, which borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

While people in the cities have almost every type of entertainment at their fingertips, people who live in the remote border region have only started to use smartphones in the last two years. In some areas, phone reception remains weak.

Aysa Kurebanx's announcement gathers two dozen people to watch The Pamir Bride, a Tajik-language film released in 2013.

"Many people have cell phones now, but the movie night is a gathering for the villagers. Old folks can't do without them," said Kurebanx.

The county has a total of six projectionists, divided into three duos. The most popular movie genres are romance, action and documentaries, the projectionists said.

In 1996, Barhatiya and Keshar took up the job when the old projectionist needed to retire.

"The retired projectionist told us two things: 'first, there are no roads to some counties, you need to mind the fallen stones, mudslides and floods; however, no matter how difficult it is, you have to arrive there and do your job'," said Kesar.

In the years that followed, the duo rode on two camels and traveled from one settlement to another to screen movies. "Some summer pastures are hidden in the mountains, and we travel there too. Once, I played a movie for only three families," said Barhatiya.

Runoff from snow on the mountains frequently overran roads and paths. The projectionist partners at times journeyed five days on foot to a remote village. They quarreled over routes, and even thought of giving up, but both maintained that quitting was not an option.

"Some herders have also walked for hours to meet us for a movie. They like to see us. I see it in their eyes," said Kesar.

Now, the projectionists keep tea and watermelons in the trunk to give as gifts when they need to stay overnight with the villagers.

Each of them earns about 6,000 yuan (about 882 U.S. dollars) per month, but needs to spend close to a third of their time on the roads.

"I heard the county government is recruiting new colleagues and will buy new cinema equipment. Many people like to watch movies. I will continue to do my job," said Barhatiya.