CINÉ-REAL is the only film club in the UK to exclusively play films in 16mm format. They have been projecting movies from old cinemas and music halls for over 9 years now. We talked to founder Liam Saint-Pierre who set up this club with Projectionist Ümit Mesut, of Ümit & Son, Europe's biggest celluloid film shop based in Clapton, East London which stocks Super 8, 16 mm, and many other film formats. Liam talked to us about how this truly analogue collaboration started and his nephew Orrin Saint-Pierre photographed them in the shop where the story began, using some rolls of Lomography 400 CN 120 film.
Tell us about yourself and the Cine Real project and how it came about?
In 2011 on a cold October night, I was walking back to his flat in Hackney when I came across an old super 8 projector lying in a bin. Seeing this as a sign from the cinematic gods I wiped off the used teabags and banana peel and carried it home. The projector looked in good condition, but I couldn’t get it to work. I remembered there was a shop in Hackney called Ümit & Son that specialized in super 8 and 16mm film projection. The shop was run by Ümit Mesut, a passionate, friendly, life long film fanatic. As Ümit worked on the projector (free of charge) we talked about the beauty of celluloid and bemoaned the lack of places to watch a film on film.
Inspired by our conversation I decided then and there to set up a film night where we would show feature films projected on 16mm, keeping the art of film projection alive. Full of confidence I asked Ümit to be the projectionist, and was surprised by his answer “No”. He’d done private screenings before, but they were always small; he’d felt awkward doing it in front of a crowd. Undeterred I bought a 16mm projector and managed to get hold of a 16mm print of Jaws.
The first screening in a small gallery attended by friends did not go to plan. There were problems changing the reels, dealing with jumping splices and warbling sound, and though the audience was accommodating (entertaining each other with games of charades whilst he battled on), it was not a great success. The next day I returned to the shop and after a bit of persuading Ümit agreed to come to the next screening as a kind of projectionist’s mentor. Despite his initial resistance, Ümit loved the night. It still gave him a buzz to lace up the old projector and watch the warm glow of celluloid fill the big screen. He was excited by how many people were still interested in film and shared his passion. Since then Ümit has been the projectionist at CINÉ-REAL where we have shown 16mm films most months.
After the early years of screening films under damp railway arches, small bars, and old working men’s clubs, 3 years ago we moved into our permanent residency at the beautiful Castle Cinema where we’ve been selling out screenings every month for the last couple of years, with lots of regular faces and a sense of a community helping our fight to keep film alive.
Tell us about these photos, what did you choose to shoot?
We wanted to show a day in the life of a CINÉ-REAL screening day. We started in Ümit’s shop, which is a veritable museum to everything celluloid with stacks of film cans, and old movie posters. Orrin the photographer captured us selecting the print, Ümit checking the film as we prepared for that night’s screening. We then shot some of us setting up for our screening at the beautiful Castle Cinema in Hackney, a short walk away from the shop.
You shot with the Lomography 400 CN 120 film, how did you find shooting with these film, and did you like the results?
We shot the Lomography 400 CN 120 film on the Zenza Bronica medium format camera and we really liked the punchy colors of this film
What do you think the future holds for 16mm and super 8 film?
We chose 16mm over 35mm as it was easier to get the prints. There are also lots on super 8mm, but they’re often abridged and come on 8 reels!
There is something about the feel of analogue that you just don’t get with digital. It’s like the difference between sitting in front of an open fire compared to a radiator.
How has Covid impacted your events and what do you have planned for the next 6 months.
After all our events were canceled by Covid-19 for the first part of the year we decided to set up a podcast. After taking a few minutes to explain to Ümit what a podcast was (a kind of episodic radio show) he was game. So with the help of producers, long-term CINE-REAL fans (and cousins) Marc Gosschalk and Joe Paley, we’ve now done three episodes and each one takes a deeper look at the film we are going to show that month. Whether it’s talking to the screenwriter of Jaws about the making of the film or discussing the groundbreaking musical score of King Kong with its composer’s biographer, with each episode we’re hoping to share our love of film with a wider audience. Over the last few months, we’ve also loved getting back into the cinema. People’s appetite for the celluloid experience has not waned - last month we sold out for 4 screenings, returning to the first print I showed; Jaws, now 45 years since it’s release. With the new lockdown coming into place our screenings have been put on hold for November, but we’re hoping to return in December with a beautiful print of ‘The Godfather’. CINÉ-REAL is the only film club in the UK to exclusively play films in 16mm format. The film night was founded by Oscar long-listed Director Liam Saint-Pierre and Projectionist, Ümit Mesut, of Ümit & Son. Liam curates the films and Ümit masters the projection for a unique viewing experience.