Written and directed by Florian Heinzen-Ziob and George Heinzen, Original Copy is a portrait of Sheikh Rehman, the last remaining film poster painter in Mumbai. Working in the old masters’ style with a trio of apprentices, Rehman creates massive, colourful banners that encapsulate all of the explosions, fist fights and romance found in a Masala movie. The only place to see this master’s work is when it hangs above the Alfred Talkies cinema, which it won’t for much longer. Rehman is not a master of a dying art form, he’s its last vestige, as the filmmakers use his latest work to frame a story about a dying movie palace.
Original Copy is documentary filmmaking as time travel. As we enter into the world of the Alfred Talkies cinema, it’s already “a sinking ship,” as its owner describes it. Attendance is spotty, film prints are growing more expensive, they are borrowing money to pay their employee salaries, and the theatre is about to experience its worst month of business ever. Theatres like the Alfred Talkies just don’t exist anymore—in its own way it’s a grand movie palaces of 1920s North America—this doc is a love letter to film much like Cinema Paradiso only with a sober eye. The filmmakers underline the escapist function this theatre offers its patron—a temporary reprieve from the deprivation and suffering of their daily lives.