Fadeout near for traveling 'Cinema Paradiso' in Portugal

Mon Nov 9, 2015 6:55am EST
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By Shrikesh Laxmidas

MONFORTE, Portugal (Reuters) - Shades of Oscar-winning classic "Cinema Paradiso" run through the life of Antonio Feliciano, a sprightly 75-year-old who fears he may be the last of Portugal's traveling film projectionists.

"If I'm not the last one, I'm close," Feliciano said. "This is a legacy that is going to end. When I'm gone, traveling cinema will be mentioned in articles, but only as a memory."

After six decades traveling four million km (2.5 million miles) to screen 4,000 films in Portugal's far-flung villages, Feliciano does not plan to retire just yet. But he is resigned to the fact that the Internet, digital TV and distribution monopolies have made his craft obsolete.

Like Toto, the boy who befriends projectionist Alfredo in the 1988 Italian hit film, Feliciano also started as a youngster, in the 1950s, helping a traveling projectionist announce the weekend's bill on a loudspeaker in his village in rural Alentejo.

"The film bug", as he calls it, grew and by his teens he was out on the road, helping screen films in music halls and bullfighting rings. That led to a career which even the need to earn a living as a bookkeeper did not interrupt, combining weeks in a Lisbon office with weekend screenings.

About 200 km from Lisbon, hilltop Monforte is a typical Alentejo village - picturesque, but sleepy, its population reduced to 3,000 by economic woes and emigration.

On a bright Sunday, however, the village livens up with Feliciano about to screen a film in honor of Domingos Pecas, a local projectionist who died in 2005 after 50 years in the business.


Projectionist Antonio Feliciano, 75, checks his projector before showing a film in Monforte, Portugal May 16, 2015. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante