“The Dying of the Light” at DOC NYC
Posted by unpaidfilmcritic
November 16, 2015. I really had a great time seeing director Peter Flynn’s documentary “The Dying of the Light,” as part of DOC NYC. This is a very important documentary that everyone who cares about going to the movies needs to experience. Flynn has created an important sociological and cultural document about a subject which many moviegoers have never considered, specifically film projection from reels of 35mm film in movie theatres. It was something which was a vital part of so many people’s lives, and yet many have probably never even thought about it. Well, that is what great documentaries can do – educate.
Most people, when they attend a movie, are interested in the story, the stars, the glamour. Rarely do most think about how the movie is being shown to them, or the person shut away in that booth above the auditorium. When people go to the movies they want a picture and they want sound, which is perfectly reasonable. However, movie exhibition, over the past several years, has undergone a revolution from movies being projected on 35mm film to movies being shown digitally, from a computer hard drive. This is a revolution as significant as the switch from silent movies to “talkies,” and yet many movie goers are unaware of it. “The Dying of the Light” brings up the fact that in 2008 only 14% of movie theatres were digital and that by 2013 93% of theatres were digital. Today, movies are not even being distributed on 35mm film.
“The Dying of the Light” has been beautifully lit and shot by Flynn. His interviews with film projectionists and collectors of now obsolete movie equipment reveal the passion, love and devotion that these people had for running films through projectors and caring for the prints of movies put in their trust. Impressive, mechanical, monstrous, outdated, projectors stand as reminders of the past, in contrast to the computer touch screens that projectionists (what few are still needed with the automated technology) now use to exhibit movies. The projectionists discuss the devotion (seven days a week, until late at night) that their jobs entailed. They describe how film projection was a real craft handed down from generation to generation of projectionists over one hundred plus years. As projectionist David Kornfield explains, now, with the automation brought by digital, the craft aspect of projection can be tossed into the gutter.
A wonderful companion piece to “The Dying of the Light” is director Chris Kenneally’s brilliant documentary “Side By Side” (available on Netflix) which examines the production side of movies shifting from film production to digital production. As in the case of “Side By Side” “The Dying of the Light” has captured a fascinating transitional moment in film history.
For more information on DOC NYC visit http://www.docnyc.net