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Film / 7 February, 2014

Going The Way of the Dodo

Documentary is a celebration of a dying medium and portrait of a true film aficionado

Ümit Mesut looks over the stock in his film emporium. Photograph: Liam Saint-Pierre

Ümit Mesut. Photograph: Liam Saint-Pierre

Running for just over seven minutes, The Way of the Dodo casts a fleeting but charming light on the work and passions of a Hackney film enthusiast.

Ümit Mesut runs Ümit and Son, a film emporium on Lower Clapton Road that sells projectors, stacks of classic reels and a few sugary treats to boot.

The wondrous shop caught the eye of talented Hackney-based filmmaker Liam Saint-Pierre, who shares Ümit’s affection for all things cine.

“The film was inspired after I found an old Super 8 projector back in 2011 and decided to get it repaired,” Liam says. “As Ümit worked on the projector we quickly slipped into a conversation about the beauty of celluloid.

“It took regular visits to the shop for about a year before he felt comfortable enough to allow me to begin to film. What started as a short interview ended in hours and hours of discussion, along with trips to film fairs and screenings.”

The documentary, completed between November 2012 and December 2013, is a smart and slick celebration of the joys of an ailing medium, with a punchy final edit that breathes perfectionism.

We join Ümit on a nostalgic tour of his long-term relationship with film, which began after a magical viewing of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad at a childhood friend’s house.

As a youngster he got a job as a rewind boy at a cinema on Kingsland Road before moving on to operate the full-sized projectors. He has since dedicated much of his professional life to preserving film’s appeal.

“I get people coming to me and they ask me can I do a film screening for them, I’m actually overjoyed,” he says. “I enjoy it more than they do because I keep it alive and it’s nice to keep it alive isn’t it? It actually makes my day.”

With sequences confined almost exclusively to Ümit’s film-buff treasure trove, the piece is beaming with character and eccentricity. Studded with old movie clips, the rolling clack of projectors and a flicker of archive footage, it’s a great sensual homage.

The shop itself has been open for close to thirty years and is well known to the local community.

“People have been going there for years, whether it’s to buy a can of coke or an obscure film. Every time I go in there’s always a few people who pop in to say hello or have a chat,” Liam says.

“I hope it keeps going and that more people get to experience it. It’s hard for Ümit and a lot of small shop owners. The rents and rates are going up, superstores move in and communities start to lose the things that give them an identity. I know he’ll keep going. If you love something as much as he does you always find a way.”

 Watch The Way of the Dodo at www.liamsaintpierre.com

 

/ 7 February, 2014

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