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Ben Barton cine camera

Ben Barton with his cine camera

Caught on camera

Step inside the Electric Palace cinema for a projection of handmade 8mm cine films by local filmmaker Ben Barton. These short, nostalgic films reveal a world of Hollywood glamour, fairytales, undead brides, dancing insects and lost home movies from the British seaside, writes Annie Waite. Plus, find out about Barton’s connection to David Bowie…

Folkestone resident Barton has spent a lot of time in Hastings, and his films have been shot all over Kent and Sussex – in particular, the Hastings, Folkestone and Dungeness coastlines.

Camera Obscura Hastings Ben Barton

See 8mm cinefilm at the Electric Palace

Camera Obscura collects together Barton’s films made over the past seven years. They’ve screened at festivals and events both in the UK, such as the Edinburgh Festival and London Independent Film Festival, as well as America, Australia and the Far East.

“I wanted to put them all together and show them as a whole programme. So that’s what ‘Camera Obscura’ is – a little insight into my filmmaking world,” says Barton. “Also, I just love the Electric Palace cinema, it’s my favourite venue in Hastings. So, inspired by vintage cinemas, my films will be interspersed with old movie trailers, ads for popcorn, things like that. So it was really the setting that inspired me,” he continues.

The allure of nostalgia

Barton was introduced to super-8 filmmaking by his father, an amateur super-8 filmmaker. “I just love the nostalgic feel that it brings. But it’s also about the colours – it’s something about the way images come out from the cine camera. They look like paintings,” says Barton. “Of course home cine film is silent, so I also collaborate with musicians to create soundtracks for my films. It’s quite a lengthy process – some are only three minutes long but they take over a month to make!”

Sharing a spacesuit with David Bowie

Image of man in spacesuit

NASA spacesuit Barton borrowed from Bowie

For Barton’s most recent project, a super-8 film set on a distant planet, he managed to hire an authentic NASA spacesuit (see a still from the film, right). A few days before the film was due to shoot he got a call from the spacesuit company saying that a ‘big star’ needed the suit urgently for a pop video. “It was all very cloak and dagger. This ‘big star’ actually ending up paying for my hire so they could have the suit first. I have very limited funds so this was good news to me!”says Barton.

Since then, Barton has discovered the person in question was apparently David Bowie, and the NASA suit is believed to have been used in his upcoming music video ‘Blackstar’. “So in a way, Bowie actually funded my latest film!” he says.

Technology versus authenticity

What’s the allure of super-8 over other formats? Nowadays you can get all these apps for your smartphone that supposedly ‘recreate’ the look of a super-8 film. “But I’ve tried it and they’re just not the same!” says Barton, “There’s something about working on ‘real’ film that can’t be simulated. Also, I hand-edit and hand-splice all my films manually, it’s really hands on and something of a dying art form. So I guess I’m doing my bit to keep it alive…”

Book now for Camera Obscura: An evening of Super-8 short films at Electric Palace cinema on Sunday 22 November, 8pm.

Posted 22:56 Sunday, Nov 15, 2015 In: Film

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