Abel Ferrara’s new documentary is a portrait of a Greek Cypriot immigrant striving to keep New York City arthouse cinemas alive in the age of the multiplex.
Equal parts deep-dish immersion in obsessive cinephilia and inspiring immigrant story, The Projectionist is the latest in a line of small-scale documentaries by Abel Ferrara on vanishing and/or beloved urban neighborhoods (Chelsea on the Rocks, Mulberry St., Piazza Vittorio, Alive in France).
Plain-spoken Greek Cypriot immigrant Nicolas “Nick” Nicolaou, who in recent decades has endeavored to keep art and neighborhood movie theaters alive in various New York City boroughs deep into the multiplex era, may not be the most charismatic of screen figures, but his earnest devotion to film and family in a time of pervasive corporatism lends him a distinct Don Quixote profile that proves endearing. After its Tribeca Film Festival premiere, this labor of love should be embraced wherever the term cinephile means anything.
Nick appears to be one of those lucky guys who does what he loves with the support of a tight immediate family. Sincere, modest and never at a loss for words, he shows old pal Ferrara around his native village in Cyprus, a quiet place of “simple men, simple life” where becoming a fisherman is basically a given. Nick escaped this fate when a relative invited his family to join her in New York City, where the 12-year-old arrived in 1970.