Tuesday 5 September 2017

A Postcard from Broome - Rod Bishop visits the legendary Sun Pictures during the Shinju Matsuri festival.

This year's Shinju Matsuri, Broome’s 47th Festival of the Pearl, was officially opened outside Sun Pictures by Dong Fong. As the eldest male of Chinese descent he and his two grandsons had the honour of waking up Sammy the Dragon.
The Dragon then wound its way around Carnarvon Street and into the Sun Pictures cinema, blessing all in its path and accompanied by loud drumming designed to “scare away negative spirits of the past year and bring positivity and happiness to Broome”.
Sun Pictures, designated by the Guinness Book of Records as the “World’s Oldest Open Air Cinema in Operation” then screened a program of local films. 

Built in 1903, the tin structure was initially an Asian emporium in Broome’s Chinatown, then a collection of “shops, bazaars, brothels and food stalls”. The Yamasaki family who built the store later converted it into a Noh theatre performance space before selling it to new owners who opened a picture palace in 1916.
Its history includes: closure during the Japanese bombing of Broome in 1942; decades of tidal flooding leaving patrons with their feet in the air during screenings; segregation with wealthy whites in cushioned cane chairs in the middle of the cinema, a children's playground in front of the screen, and pearl lugger crews of “Malays, Koepangers, Filipinos and Aborigines” who entered through a separate door.
Today, 320 patrons sit in canvas deck chairs under the night sky, their viewing pleasure interrupted by low-flying screaming jets that drown out the soundtrack. The Broome airport is only a kilometre or two to the east and the flight path includes Sun Pictures.
The local film package included 12 charming short films from the biennial Mud and Saltwater Short Film Festival, a festival sponsored by the Broome business community and the WA Government to showcase work that explores, respects, enjoys and protects Roebuck Bay and the Kimberley coastline. The shorts included rare animal life; Yawuru environmental Rangers; crabs that steal your car keys; humpback whales; people who use flashlights to photograph Stairway to the Moon, Broome's spectacular natural phenomenon; found object jewellery; growing up with jabirus, dingo pups and snakes; wet season awe; turtles and pollution; and mangrove crab migrations after a Big Wet.

The audience cheer whenever the aircraft thunder overhead and the children still play, dance and wrestle under the screen.

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