Traveling movie 'theaters' that once brought joy to rural China fade in the face of tech
“I used horses and mules, and sometimes my own shoulders, to carry the equipment,” recalls wandering projectionist Zhang Yin Hua of the glory days before TV and smartphones.
I am walking 3,600 miles across China.
Long periods dedicated to foot travel can induce various states of mind. One, for better or worse, is self-reflection. In the words of Mohamad Banounah, my indomitable partner on a blistering walk through Saudi Arabia: “It is crazy, man—always thinking, thinking, thinking, and always seeing a movie of my life playing over and over inside my head.” We edit these movies ceaselessly. We are, to tweak a poet, the directors of no other movie except the one we star in, and, polishing with our minds, make. And then one day, you meet a professional projectionist like Zhang Yin Hua.
I spot Zhang by the roadside in Maidilong, a village