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Projecting Passion: His 40-Year Odyssey of Rural Cinema | Locals

By CHANG CHEN|Sep 15,2023

Chongqing - Yu Qilin, a projectionist, tirelessly showcases movies in various settings, from villages and schools to communities, nursing homes, construction sites, and scenic spots. 

He has witnessed the transition from black and white films to high-definition color movies, from old-fashioned projectors to digital ones. Yu plays a vital role in revitalizing rural culture, and his life is a remarkable tale of dedication to bringing culture to the general public. 

Yu Qilin became a projectionist at 19 years old. His motorcycle is a mobile movie theater. (Photo/Liu Li)

The 59-year-old projectionist prepares for his daily work as a projectionist in Ping'an Town, Yunyang County, Chongqing. His motorcycle is loaded with equipment weighing over 220 pounds. This motorcycle serves as his sole means of transportation, as well as a rural movie theater and a dream realized over decades.

Yu's journey began when he was a young boy. Inspired by his oldest brother, a projectionist, he developed a passion for movies. At nineteen, he became a projectionist despite the challenges of transporting bulky equipment through villages with poor access roads.

Despite all the equipment, including the projector, the stereo, the screen, and so forth, weighing over 220 pounds, it only takes Yu one motorcycle to carry them all. (Photo/Liu Li)

Over the years, the roads have been improved from dirt to cement, and Yu upgraded his means of transportation from a bicycle to a motorcycle. With all his equipment secured on the motorcycle's back seat, he can now travel effortlessly.

One of the most memorable scenes of Yu's journey was navigating the river to reach a school for a movie screening. To avoid a longer land route, he chose a fishing boat. The strong river current made the journey perilous, with Yu anxiously guarding the equipment. Today, conditions have greatly improved, eliminating the need for such risky river crossings.

Within the confines of the past 40 years, no honor Yu gained can compare to the satisfaction he has received by bringing happiness to others. (Photo/Liu Li)

Yu's commitment to serving his audience has also evolved. Before each screening, he surveys the villagers, especially the elderly, to create a playlist that caters to their preferences. He watches the movies himself, introduces them to the audience, collects feedback, and then decides which movie to play.

While Yu often rides and works alone, he never feels lonely. He finds joy in interacting with the audience and learning from them, especially the elderly. Historical-themed movies resonate deeply with him, reminding him of the value of our present lives.

Yu Qilin plays movies more than 400 times a year and intends to continue projecting movies for as long as he can. (Photo/Liu Li)

For the past 40 years, Yu has brought happiness to countless people, a reward greater than any honor he has received. His passion for his job remains unwavering, and he intends to continue projecting movies for as long as possible.

As the evening draws to a close, Yu packs up his equipment, closing his mobile movie theater for the night. Yet, the happiness he brings will persist as he heads to the next screening site.

(Liu Yujing, as an intern, also contributed to this report.)


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