The Resurrection of Cinema Club

When June Shin ’25 was looking into colleges as a high schooler, he tried to hunt down institutions that had a student-run cinema club. An aspiring filmmaker, Shin wanted to find a place where he could practice writing and producing films. Swarthmore happened to be one of the colleges that advertised a cinema club. Little did Shin know that Swarthmore Cinema Club had been defunct for almost two years.

“At the club fair, I looked all over the area and there was no sign of the Cinema Club. I found it on the Swat website under organizations, and so I was just so disappointed,” Shin said. 

After the fair, Shin reached out to his Film Studies Professor, Bob Rehak, for more information on the status of the club. Rehak pointed Shin to three students who were associated with the club. Finally, after reaching out to those three students, Shin realized that Cinema Club was, in fact, defunct. Defeated, Shin approached Rehak again for advice.

“I talked to Professor Bob Rehak again, and he was like, ‘Yeah, at that point, I don’t think it’s running. But you know what that means? That means you should take charge. You should run it.’ And that is what really inspired me to just restart this club myself,” Shin said.

To help him in his endeavor of reviving the club, Shin reached out to a classmate he met in his Introduction to Film and Media Studies class, Selma Wu ’25.

Since the  Fall 2021 semester, Wu and Shin have continued to shape their own iteration of cinema club by combining the club’s old features while adding their own.

“One of the really big things I was excited for when I came to Swarthmore . . . was the idea that there were two short films being produced almost every semester beforehand for Cinema Club . . . and this is what we want to emulate to a degree,” Shin said, emphasizing how he wants the club to focus on the production aspect of film. “But at the same time, I know a lot of people just want to watch films or just want to talk about films. So, we also, in a way, wanted to be a platform where you can just do that as well.”

Shin also emphasized how current members of the club have a diverse range of interests that do not necessarily involve handling the camera.

“[Some club members] are very interested in acting . . . everyone wants to join cinema for their own reasons. And so that makes it so much more interesting that we have everyone who’s willing to do whatever part there is to making movies. Even if you don’t know what to do, there are enough roles for you to participate in filmmaking somehow,” Shin explained.

To Wu, the club’s success and purpose is not rooted in how many members they have or how experienced their members are.

“Even if we’re not the most experienced at filmmaking, it’s important that we’re just bringing people together. We’re bringing people who have multiple talents, experiences, and backgrounds together. And together, we can do something,” Wu said.

In their mission to bring back the cinema club, Shin and Wu have found a great resource in the college’s Media Center. In the club’s last meeting, Jeremy Polk, the Media Center coordinator, gave the club members a tour of the Media Center and the newly opened Idea Lab. Polk showed members the camera gear that the club can borrow from the college as well as gimbals and greenscreens. Wu and Shin emphasized that the reason they thought of touring the media space was through their contacts with Swarthmore alum Ariana Hoshino ’20 who also revived Cinema Club herself when she was a first-year at the college.

“I have to give a ton of credit to Ariana who was the previous president of the cinema club,” Shin said. “From her, I got so much advice on how to start a cinema club. When I went to the media center, and I introduced myself to the people there, everyone was like, ‘Oh, you’re just like the second Ariana.’ Every time I talked to Jeremy or the people there, they all talked about just how incredible she was.”

Looking forward, Wu and Shin are looking to ready their members to enter short films into the upcoming Tri-Co Film Festival this May.

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