Flicks in the Sticks: India

Indian film: Devdas aishwarya
Aishwarya Rai in Devdas

Flicks in the Sticks brings the sights, sounds and taste of India to rural communities

An Indian elephant lumbering along a lane near… Bishops Castle. This black-and-white pre-war roll of film was recently unearthed by The Bigger Picture, a Flicks in the Sticks archive project to discover and share archive footage of local people and events. Now the pioneering rural touring cinema scheme, part of Arts Alive, a registered charity whose aim is to deliver the very best in culture to rural parts of Shropshire, Herefordshire and surrounding area, brings India, larger-than-life and in full colour, onto the big screens of village halls and community centres across the Marches.

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of Indian independence Flicks in the Sticks: World has put together a short season of films highlighting a country with one of the biggest and most diverse cinema industries on earth. From the fairy-tale song-and-dance spectacle of Bollywood blockbusters (Devdas) to the films of internationally renowned directors such as Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!) and Deepa Mehta (Water) and the recent heart-rending Lion, which won co-star Dev Patel a well-deserved BAFTA, India @70 offers a fascinating glimpse into a different world.

Many of the village hall venues are providing complimentary Indian-themed delicacies to add the dimension of taste and smell to the on-screen spectacle. In the film Lion it’s the deep-fried, syrupy, saffron-coloured pastry called jalebi that triggers the adult Saroo’s lost memory of his childhood in Bengal.

At Escleyside Hall in South Herefordshire, the Bollywood epic Devdas, the film that cemented the career of superstar Shah Rukh Khan, comes with a curry supper (choice of lamb or vegan) while at Cawley Hall, Eye near Leominster, an extra £5 guarantees a full Indian feast (Tandoori chicken or vegetarian curry, dhal, rice, pickles, naans, papadoms and sweetmeats) to accompany the movie (Lion). Meanwhile the SpArC Theatre in Bishops Castle, Shropshire as organised a free sari demonstration with Indian treats from The Chai Shop.

Flicks in the Sticks is a rural touring cinema network, comprising approximately 100 community venues and screening 900 films a year. Flicks is part of a registered charity called Arts Alive whose aim to bring the very best in culture to rural parts of Shropshire, Herefordshire and surrounding area. artsalive.co.uk

Flicks in the Sticks: World has been running through the 2016/17 film season. Funded through the British Film Institute’s Neighbourhood Cinema Scheme, it has encouraged and supported local promoters to make more adventurous choices for their audiences, films that are exciting and enriching but rarely get within a stone’s throw of rural venues.

Feedback has been enthusiastic. Bettws y Crwyn, a tiny, scattered community in mid Wales, screened Volver by the Spanish director Pedro Almódovar in February: ‘What a treat! This is the story of warm, funny, determined, but somewhat discontented women, representing three generations of a family, living in a traditional, mid Spanish town. … There’s visual beauty lent by the ancient buildings in the town, not to mention the gorgeous Penelope Cruz. There’s a hint of romance, will she, won’t she! This film appeals on so many levels. However, there is a very dark side! I’m off to buy the DVD!’

Eleven screenings of seven Flicks in the Sticks: World titles, including the four India @70 movies, will play at selected Flicks in the Sticks venues in Herefordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, and Cheshire from May to July. Full details at artsalive.co.uk

23-May 7.30pm Lion PG The Talbot Theatre, Whitchurch SY13 2BY
23-May 7.30pm Water 12A Garway Village Hall HR2 8RQ
27-May 7.30pm Lion PG Waverton Village Hall CH3 7QT
10-Jun 7.30pm Lion PG Cawley Hall, Eye HR6 0DS
12-Jun 7.30pm Lion PG The Edge Arts Centre, Much Wenlock TF13 6NB
17-Jun 7.30pm Room 15 Clun Memorial Hall SY7 8NY
17-Jun 7.30pm Lion PG Upton-on-Severn Memorial Hall WR8 0HA
17-Jun 6.30pm Devdas PG Escleyside Hall, Michaelchurch Escley HR2 0PT
29-Jun 7.15pm Lion PG SpArC Theatre Bishops Castle SY9 5AY
30-Jun 8.00pm Salaam Bombay! 15 The Market Theatre Ledbury HR8 2AQ
27-Jul 7.00pm Volver 15 St Mary’s Church Hall, Ross HR9 5HR