Yet one of her strangest experiences revealed in her new book was visiting the
cinema in a Nicaraguan town ravaged by battles between the left-wing Government and the
American-backed Contra guerillas.
Bluefields, on the Caribbean coast, had borne much of the brunt of the years of war
that had brought the desperately poor renegade Latin American nation almost to its knees.
The state of its cinema, and the frenzied excitement among the locals at the prospect of a
movie actually being shown there, spoke volumes ...
'… The local cinema turned out to be a huge, high, bare hall with rows of wooden
slatted benches, looking more like a church than anything else. I wasn’t quite sure
which way to face when I sat down as there was no sign of a screen. One wall, though, was
painted white and, underneath, there was a single old speaker, covered in dust and
spiders’ webs. The place filled up. Young Doctors In Love had been, it seemed, a film
eagerly awaited in Bluefields.
It started well enough, but the picture started getting fainter and fainter until it
disappeared completely after about ten minutes.
There was an angry chorus of cat-calls, whistles and boos, a space of three minutes,
and then the picture appeared again, having missed out several scenes of the story. Every
ten minutes, the same thing would happen again.
The sound, meanwhile, seemed to be coming from six foot underwater, with the dialogue
quite inaudible. The Spanish subtitles were printed white on a white background so were
similarly impossible to make out. The audience, unperturbed, cheerfully shouted out
suggestions of what might be happening before us. Half-way through, someone switched on
their radio, playing a pop tune very loudly. A few people rose to their feet to dance.
Then, suddenly, something huge and black appeared, blotting out half of the picture. At
first, I thought it was part of the film, then I realised it must be a moth on the
projector. Most of the audience stood on the bench to yell to the projectionist to remove
the moth. It took him 15 minutes to respond. He then stopped the film, took away the moth
and came out to apologise. He’d apparently played some of the reels in the wrong
order … '
Extracted from Getting There: Journeys of an Accidental
Adventurer is published by New Holland Publishers, (rrp $21.95), available at all good
bookshops from January 11, 2001.