ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN FEBRUARY 2011; the 8Fest Program Guide
Film is dead. We hear the refrain echo off tomb walls as we sit locked inside with Super 8 cameras in our laps and splicers in hand. Yet, film survives and the tomb crowds with people dedicated to preserving the format. It’s exemplified in festivals like the 8fest and the $100 Film Festival in Calgary. Festivals like these give filmmakers a raison d’etre, add to the canon of film art, and inspire audiences.
The films in this program come from past or current editions of the $100 Film Festival, which exhibits exclusively on Super 8 and 16mm film. Small format film continues to be an inexpensive way for filmmakers to play and experiment, and it is simple enough for anyone to pick up a camera and go. Many of the films in this program are by first-time Super 8 filmmakers; “The Plant” highlights the talents of two teenage participants of the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers’ (CSIF) Summer Media Arts Camp for Teens while several others are from the 2008 Festival Flashback program, which offered free workshops, film and processing for ten new filmmakers to make their first film on Super 8. Still more are from the Festival’s annual …one-eight-challenge… and Film/Music Explosion! initiatives.
This program highlights the diversity of recent filmic art in Calgary. Super 8 resonates with local artists as an opportunity to extemporize. The films in this program take risks, not only with that first step of actually exposing celluloid, but with their defiance of the myth that Calgary has no culture. While rarely being obvious about it, many of these films deal with themes of isolation and the tension of the colonial “Other”. Us against Them. We are different and we will prove it. Ironically, while acting as a challenge to Calgary’s identity, they are also prime examples of the Alberta maverick. Bold, not afraid to shock, and willing to chance it all. Alex Mitchell’s “Werewords”, literally risks life, limb, and camera to get the perfect shot. Lauren Simm’s “elevenses…” combines film, sculpture, drawing, and installation to create a new world, and films like “Fall Game”, “Wake”, and “the Runner” build on tension and horror in completely unexpected ways.
Whether these films are actually as Freudian as I might think is debatable, but one thing is certain – these filmmakers had fun. And that is perhaps the best quality of working with Super 8. The challenge to be free and to play, no matter how high the risk of failure might be. There are plenty of things that can go wrong in the filmmaking process, especially when you’re working with celluloid, but these artists push forward despite this, and—I like to think—because of it.