Often people ask, ‘what’s the best thing about working in the cinema’ – it’s the films, right? It is the films, but at Belmont Filmhouse it’s also the customers, and the community; the sense of history and the feeling of inheriting something that’s worth more than what you see in front of you, in the moment, or the present.
Another question – ‘what’s something about working in a cinema that people might not know, or understand?’ Contrary to the above often the strangest thing is the impermanence of film – the shifting sands that mean that once a movie has been committed to print, or digital, that it doesn’t simply just keep existing. One day they stop and cease to be, just like everything else. A visual memory, held by those lucky enough to have witnessed it.
Often this comes up when interested parties seek to hire the cinema. The internet has created a landscape where so much more culture is accessible at the click of a finger. People find films. People find films they want to see. Often, they are small releases, niche or from decades past.
They are sometimes impossible to procure. What gets left behind is ghosts – websites, long since updated. Social media accounts created as the film was distributed, now untended. Reviews and ripostes and recommendations. For something that has simply just stopped existing, almost anywhere. It seems funny, as film is so real when you see it. And once seen you can’t un-imagine it. But some just become finished projects; a line in a CV; a can in a basement; a file buried on a computer.
I lift a quote from a Wim Wenders interview with critic David Jenkins in Little White Lies, which made me think of all the above. Wim has gone through the process of restoring some of his back catalogue for a new retrospective, supported by BFI and some of which will be shown at Belmont Filmhouse in July.
He's talking of his Foundation, of which his films are now the property of;
‘It was my desire that the films would no longer have somebody who owns them. Why is that? Because it sucks. Ownership of film sucks. Most owners of films want a profit. And some of these films are still on and still showing – they have their own revenues. As with anything on celluloid, it fades, it deteriorates, and it needs to be transferred to digital. And not only transferred, but actually restored with the view to replacing the original film, because in a few years, nobody’s going to be able to make a print from the negative anymore. So if you digitise a film today, you create a new negative. A more permanent one.’
Wim is talking about process and finance; but he’s also talking about persistence and memory. The best way to make a film permanent to you of course, is to come and see them at the cinema.
The Reveries of Wim Wenders sits alongside a cracking July line-up. Smash book Where The Crawdads Sing sees itself hit the box office hoping it can recreate its success in print. Nitram is an unsettling Australian drama from the director of Michael Fassbinder’s Macbeth, Justin Kurzel. We’ve also a restoration of Rambo: First Blood, and a screening of local director’s Scott Graham’s film Run in association with the University of Aberdeen’s mini-fest HAME. We’re bringing back The Quiet Girl due to popular demand. And we’ll be showing British comedy-horror She Will, set within a healing retreat in rural Scotland, that happens to be the site of former witch burnings.
Lastly, from among everything else I’ll also pick out Ukrainian drama Olga. The film is a Ukrainian, French and Swiss co-production about a 15-year-old gymnast who is exiled from her home, as the people of Ukraine stage a revolution. It shows from 25th-28th of July and I hope you’ll join us as we support Ukrainian filmmakers, and their stories, while they most need it.