Umit Mesut and his magical world of film

Shop owner Umit Mesut at Umit & Son film emporium, which specialised in super 8 and 16mm film projec

Shop owner Umit Mesut at Umit & Son film emporium, which specialised in super 8 and 16mm film projection. - Credit: Archant

Umit has spent every day since the age of eight ­obsessed with the magic of cinema.

His world-famous Clapton store, Umit and Son, is bursting with Super 8 and Super 16 reels, classic VHS films, 100-year-old projectors and the overwhelming sense of love.

He opened his celluloid mecca almost 30 years ago on Lower Clapton Road, and hasn’t looked back since – despite a shift ­towards digital film making.

“When I was about eight or nine years old, and I’m going on 54 now, I went to a friend’s birthday party, and he said, ‘let’s go watch a movie’,” Umit explains, only his head visible from ­behind stacks of film reel.

“I thought he meant they had got a new television or something.


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“But then he got this 8mm projector out, a birthday present from his dad, and put on a 10-minute reel of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.

“And I saw the cyclops running around on the screen, a small screen, about five or six feet wide, and I just fell in love.

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“It’s magic, film is special. Film has got a language all of its own.”

Last week, Umit had the camera turned on him at a local screening of the Way of the Dodo, a documentary by Liam Saint-Pierre about his unrivalled ­efforts to preserve this magical medium in an increasingly digital age, as part of the Floating Cinema Festival along the capital’s waterways.

The godfather of cine cinema is determined to preserve this ­exceptional way of making movies now his store is the only of its kind left in England.

It’s a treasure trove of cinematic wonders, from VHS Star Wars trilogies to 1938 reels of The Lady Vanishes, not to mention Dial M for Murder, Psycho, and every Bruce Lee film you could think of, all for renting out.

And if it weren’t for Umit’s ­undeniable passion, it could have gone the same way as the documentary’s namesake.

“Sometimes people spend money, sometimes they don’t. Some days I make money, some days I don’t, but it’s my life and I love doing it,” Umit smiles.

“I don’t plan on giving up, but it’s getting a bit difficult these days, the rents are so high.

“The business rates are so high. Mine has nearly doubled in the last two or three years. It’s disgusting and a real pressure.”

Despite the soaring rates, nothing seems to be able to get in the way of Umit’s passion to preserve and champion this historical way of making movies.

“I just love real film,” Umit ­explains, “I don’t force this on people but whenever I organise screenings it gets nice interest, and people go, ‘Wow! Look at the picture quality, and the sound is so nice.’

“They started using digital about 15 years ago, George ­Lucas pushed it to the front, and he made a lot of enemies over it, ­because a lot of people lost their jobs.

“Clapperboards, camera loaders, lighting people in some cases – they all lost their jobs overnight.

“And now George Lucas has a lot of egg on his face, because they’ve gone back to shooting Star Wars on film now, so that must tell you something.”

With the likes of Spielberg, Tarantino, Besson, Nolan and J J Abrahams opting to shoot their films in the way Umit treasures, it looks like the renaissance may be starting. ‘‘Underground,” Umit assures me, but it’s still very reel.

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