I just got back from St. Etienne in France!! It's a place I've dreamed of going to since I was about 15, because of a terrible film I saw and there was something that massively spoke to me about the shots of the streets there. I can't explain it! But now I've finally lived my dream and been to St. Etienne! The event was the launch of a book called 'Kinetica' compiled by the great people of Gran Lux, which is an AMAZING cinema space with bar and huge rooms for massive film experiments, plus a film lab. It is incredible, really amazing what they've made in an old (and huge!) factory! I was massively inspired by it. Anyway, the book is about alternative spaces for cinematographic experiments, i.e. spaces used for cinema activity that weren't originally cinema spaces. They visited loads of these places around Europe (Cherry Kino included!) and compiled their information and photos into a gorgeous book. The launch event had loads of projections, live film performances, and installations, including a sound performance too. There was food too, and we all met lots of different people engaged in similar cinematic activity, with similar aims and desires, it felt like it had a really big impact on everyone there, and it was really enjoyable. I feel wiped out with tiredness (and partying) but absolutely invigorated at the same time, passion rising for cinema cinema cinema!
There is one place that particularly took my imagination - Bioskop in St. Sever le Moustier in France, a few hours from Montpellier and towards Toulouse, where a lovely guy called Florent Ruch bought at auction (really cheaply) loads of huge 16mm and 35mm processing and printing and sound machines from the French military, and set about putting them back together and finding spare parts etc, and now he has a fully operational 16mm and 35mm film lab! In the middle of the French countryside too! It's bloody amazing. A real inspiration. And something that perhaps we should all be trying to do, since labs are closing down left, right and centre. If we want to keep working with film, labs are the life blood. The CK lab is such a tiny space, and really hands-on, but I'm going to start looking for some small machines for Super8 and 16mm film processing and printing, to try to expand it, and I will look for a bigger premises too. This all takes a lot of time, but I've always loved the idea of making a lab, since 2008, and slowly slowly I'm getting there!
Honestly? Sometimes I feel that the UK is a sinking ship. I long to be somewhere with sunshine and a deeper sense of community, somewhere without millions of surveillance cameras, rules, scare-mongering, aggression, social division, class system, and so on. But rather than feeling down about the things I don't like about where I live (and there are plenty of things I love about it too) it's better to try to make things happen. I don't want to complain, I want to positively act. I know what CK does isn't a big deal at all, it's just a small and personal contribution, but I just hope it gives people some pleasure and access to art they might never see otherwise. It comes from a deep love for cine film, and the joy that working with it can bring, the art it can create, the way you can discover true beauty in the world through it. And it's a beauty that is yours, that is discovered and made without the restrictions of industrial ideology. Did you know that in America quite a few labs are owned and run by extreme Christian groups, who can refuse to send you your processed film back if they object to what it contains? That is absolute madness. Put film in your hands!
CK has a copy of the book at the lab, so if you come by you can check it out! It's written in French, but there are short English summaries too, and lots of pictures. Really big thank you to Gran Lux for paying for my flight, and to East Street Arts for paying for my train fares!