The world premiere of Pan Nalin’s “The Last Film Show” (Chhello Show), which opens the Tribeca Film Festival’s Spotlight section, promises to be a welcome return to a big-screen cinema experience after a year blighted by COVID-19.

The partly autobiographical drama takes Nalin back to his roots in Saurashtra, Gujarat, western India, where “The Last Film Show” was filmed. The story is set against the backdrop of Indian cinemas witnessing a massive transition from celluloid to digital where hundreds of single-screen cinemas are either in ruins or have disappeared altogether.

The film follows nine-year-old boy Samay, whose life turns upside down after watching his first movie at the Galaxy Cinema. He passionately falls in love with films against his father’s wish. Samay strikes a deal with Fazal, the projectionist, who will let him watch movies for free in exchange for eating the contents of his lunchbox. Their food-for-films deal turns into an endearing friendship, but heartbreaking choices lie ahead.

“As the first major film festival of 2021 to be back in-person and the centerpiece of the reopening of the arts in New York, we couldn’t think of a more perfect film than ‘The Last Film Show’ to set the table for the Tribeca Festival this year as the kickoff to our Spotlight program,” said festival director Cara Cusumano. “This transportive film epitomizes everything we have been missing for the last year in its celebration of the magic and community of the big-screen movie-going experience.”

“With ‘The Last Film Show,’ director Pan Nalin wonderfully celebrates our return to projected films with this homage to the masters of cinema,” said festival artistic director Frederic Boyer. “This joyful reminder of what we love about movies, through the eyes of young boy, is a pure delight.”

Nalin is known for his eclectic, but visually striking, body of work including “Samsara,” “Valley of Flowers” and “Angry Indian Goddesses.”

“A few weeks ago I was thrilled to read the statement from Robert De Niro that as New York emerges from the shadow of COVID-19, it seems just right to bring people together again in-person for Tribeca’s 20th anniversary festival,” said Nalin. “Some days later, I got the news that Tribeca is inviting ‘The Last Film Show’ to open their Spotlight, and it will be an in-person red-carpet show. It is the best news that any filmmaker can receive during such testing times. I’m thrilled to make ‘Last Film Show’s’ first show at Tribeca. Because hosting a world premiere online would have left me heartbroken. I have nothing against festivals going virtual, but when people will watch ‘The Last Film Show’ they will know why this movie could not have premiered at any virtual festival. I’m a resilient storyteller, and this movie is all about celebrating cinema.”

The film is produced by Dheer Momaya (Jugaad Motion Picture), Nalin (Monsoon Films) and Marc Duale (Stranger88) in co-production with Virginie Lacombe (Virginie Films) and Eric Dupont (Incognito films).

“After a year of urban isolation and virtual events, we’re super excited to premier at an in-person festival, and have audiences experience the film on a huge screen in spectacular outdoor venues of New York City,” said Momaya. “Considering the theme of our film, there could not be a better festival and celebration of the return to cinema. ‘The Last Film Show’ is a local story but universal in its emotion and theme, and it is certainly destined for a worldwide audience that has been craving something filled with joy, nature, innocence, freshness and hope.”

As previously revealed by Variety Orange Studio is handling international sales.

“The whole Orange Studio team is extremely proud to handle international sales for ‘The Last Film Show,” said Daniel Marquet, head of international sales at the company. “We are delighted to present the film to the North American audience and market for its live worldwide premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. After a year of isolation and coping with digital content and relationships, ‘The Last Film Show’ is the perfect human and cinematic experience to celebrate the return to physical film festivals and screenings.”

The cast includes Bhavin Rabari, Bhavesh Shrimali, Richa Meena, Dipen Raval, Paresh Mehta.

The Tribeca Film Festival runs June 9-20, 2021.