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WILLIAMS, SUE – ADVENTURES IN A FOREIGN CINEMA

Being abducted at gunpoint by army rebels in war-torn Uganda, hurtling down a mountainside in Ecuador crouched on a little wooden platform, waking up naked in a sleeping bag on a patch of wasteland in the Central African Republic with all her earthly possessions vanished … Australian columnist and movie critic SUE WILLIAMS has taken it all in her stride, as she reveals in her new book, Getting There: Journeys of an Accidental Adventurer.

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 ...

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'… 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 … '

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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.

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Sue Williams

ABOUT SUE:
Sue Williams is a Sydney-based journalist who writes about film for the Sun Herald newspaper, Australian Good Taste magazine and Elle. She spent nearly 20 years travelling the world before settling in Australia 11 years ago, and the pick of her journeys - she wanted to write about journeys rather than destinations - feature in her book, Getting There: Journeys of An Accidental Adventurer. (New Holland, published January 2001) Her first book, Powering Up, was about women's health.







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