Story of cinema: silent movies to digital tech

It is the 10th Muscat International Film Festival. The world of cinema is magical and it is here now. It has been entertaining the public for generations – from silent movies to the era of sound on film from words to imagery on celluloid.
As much as readers enjoy books, film enthusiasts have a special link to the silver screen. Some of the best stories have been narrated through this medium.
Technology has enabled sci-fi movies to be believable and at the same time reaching out to a wider audience through subtitles.
Movies have always been popular in Oman. Today theatres have spread out in major cities, but there was a time when watching a movie was special. In the seventies, it was the open air screen. In 66, 67 and 68, movies were screened at clubs and homes.
“There were some popular operators. Movies were shown in camps as well as at Petroleum Development Oman. Mohammed Jawad Abdel Redha used to bring movies from Dubai and Bahrain in the 60s. By July 1970, the renaissance had begun and the nation saw official theatres — Cinema Ruwi Mohammed Jawad Abdel Redha Sultan, Cinema Oman by Al Hashar Company and Cinema Rex came up. I must say Mohammed Jawad has been a pioneer in the area,” said Ali Mohammed Sultan, a historian who has been recording life in Muttrah from the fifties, sixties and seventies.
“I remember watching an English film at Rex Cinema. The theatre was so popular that a street in Greater Muttrah came to be known as Rex Road. Al Nasar Cinema and Star Cinema were equally popular despite the malls and their multiplexes.”
This proves how films have been able to capture hearts for generations. From video cassettes to DVDs to satellite channels to online presence, cinema continues its fight, without losing its exclusivity, as well as bringing in the moolah.
While millions of dollars are poured in to film production, where actors turn overnight celebrities, cinema weaves its magic that even the millennials cannot resist.
Cinema is a culture and a medium that preserves culture. It is also a medium that gives us a peek into the future.
Cinema is also an extension of writing. It is exactly where it started. Even as theatre and plays came into existence, there were writers in various parts of the world who put on paper their thoughts and observations. In cinema too, there are story plots, scripts and screenplays to be written.
The role of director is pivotal in visualising the story, while the actors bring life to characters on the screen. Not to forget are the camera professionals, technicians and editors.
With Oman being a venue for the shooting of several Indian films, can it become a magnet that attracts other nations as well, that specialise in the industry?
That is why film festivals are important for exchanging ideas as well as viewing and experiencing world cinema.
With digital technology and especially mobile technology, short films have been made possible. And proof of that is the number of Omani short films competing at the ongoing festival.
Like any other industry, this is also a sector that needs support from the private sector. Only when there is support can this creative medium grow.
The film industry requires skills, skills will grow when there is competition and the competition will happen when the industry is thriving. For the industry to thrive, the industry requires funds and support.
Here’s looking forward to seeing more support for Oman Film Society and the film festival. The next five days of the festival ought to be exciting as it showcases the current thoughts on screen.

lakshmiobserver@gmail.com