The Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers has long nurtured and promoted independent cinema in Calgary and its flagship $100 Film Festival can claim the title of being the longest-running film festival in town. Entering its 22nd year, the festival continues to provide an exceptional environment for both filmmakers and film lovers alike to appreciate the art and craft of experimental movie making.
Originally started in 1992, the $100 aspect of the name came from the average price of four rolls of Super 8 film and all movies that were submitted into the festival were required to be shot on these four rolls. Since then, the festival has expanded so that the only requirement for submission is for the movie to be shot and presented on either Super 8 or 16mm film.
CSIF’s festival programming director, Nicola Waugh, now in her second year with the organization, offers an insightful approach to these changing dynamics.
“At that time, it wasn’t a big deal that it was on film. But now, 22 years later, it’s become such a niche [that] the people who are working with these formats usually are experimental film makers… The content has become so out there, we want people to come knowing that it’s kinda crazy.”
One crazy portion of the festival is the Film/Music Explosion! program. Started in 2003, the program calls for a local filmmaker to make a short film based off a song from a local band, during a certain night of the festival the band will play a short set at the theatre before their inspired film plays. This year, the local bands and filmmakers will include: Go For The Eyes/Alex Mitchell, Burro/Neal Moignard and Mark Mills/Cameron McGowan.
The emphasis isn’t just on the Calgary community. The festival collects entries from all over the world and from various backgrounds.
“We get really amazing stuff from filmmakers that have been working for 20 or 30 years,” states Waugh. “We got one from Lebanon this year, Germany, the U.K, Scotland – it’s all over the place. There’s very few people actually working on Super 8 and 16mm, but the people that are working on them tend to be very passionate and dedicated to the craft.”
This year, CSIF is bringing in world-renowned filmmaker, Louise Bourque, who will be giving a workshop at Emmedia on March 8, as well as hosting an artist talk on various experimental techniques, such as multiple exposure and optical printing. It will take place at the Stanford Perrott Lecture Theatre at ACAD on March 13, completely free to the public. Several of Bourque’s notable films are also included in this year’s festival lineup.
Another dedicated filmmaker involved in the festivities this year is Newfoundlander Joe Kelly. Kelly migrated to Calgary in the early ‘90s and quickly journeyed through the halls of Emmedia, Quickdraw Animation Society and CSIF before submitting his first film in the $100 film festival in the late ’90s. Kelly’s film this year is called MSG (named after the tasty stuff they put in food) and utilizes camera-less animation, as Kelly explains.
“The technique I’m using is ink on clear film. I developed a process of making animated loops and printing them directly onto the film. I take a loop of an animation and make it into a roller and then roll the animation right on the film… I made a bunch of other film to go along with it and then I spliced it all together and made a film for presentation. It’s very abstract looking.”
This form of experimentation and the festivals that accompany them do come with various strains when it comes to appealing to the average Bob coming off the street.
“I think it’s really difficult for people to sit down and watch [an experimental film] and understand that there is no plot arc, there is no climax, there are no characters. These are moving images and you need to just sit with it. It’s approaching film from a fine arts perspective,” says Waugh.
Kelly offers this reverent and enduring sentiment to anyone who may need some convincing to partake in this year’s festivities:
“You’ll see something that blows your mind. [These filmmakers] have gone out and made their own content and challenged themselves to use a difficult technical medium and, a lot of the time, you’re in the audience with the filmmakers and their friends and family so it’s a very fun environment.”
CSIF’s $100 Film Festival runs March 6-8 at The Globe Cinema. MSG screens Saturday March 8. More info and festival schedule available at 100dollarfilmfestival.org.
By Alonso Melgar