By Joel Dryden
CALGARY — As modern filmmaking settles in to a long digital marriage with 4K, RED, ARRI – that is, any manner of very expensive and very impressive digital equipment – Kodak played the nostalgia card at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
In what Kodak’s Jeff Clarke called a new “ecosystem for film,” the company unveiled what they dubbed the Kodak Super 8 Revival Initiative – meant to coincide with the 50th anniversary of manufacturing Super 8 film; the initiative includes the release of a new 8mm film camera (the Kodak Super 8).
This isn’t state-of-the-art tech – remember, it isn’t digital, so one can’t hit record and instantly upload it to social media networks. The image doesn’t come close to what you can do with your new iPhone, it’s expensive (you’ll have to ship the cartridge back to Kodak for processing and return) and audio is another step in the process entirely – but the new old camera was one of the hottest pieces of tech at CES.
There’s just something to Super 8 film, as any prominent Hollywood director will tell you. Quentin Tarantino called the return of the format an “incredible gift,” while J.J. Abrams, hot off Star Wars: Episode VII, said the new camera is a “dream come true.” If you like your movies to have a bit of grain in them and not look like Global News, you probably feel the same way.
But long before Kodak recommitted to that format, smaller groups of film-lovers have gathered to experiment on and celebrate celluloid – including, right here in Calgary, the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers (CSIF) $100 Film Festival.
Since 1992, the festival has zeroed in on bringing a wide variety of “quality small-format films” to Calgary – and despite an industry rushing to switch to digital, the $100 FF has always stuck to celluloid.
“The $100 Film Festival has always been on film. We never felt like we needed to change,” CSIF programming director Nicola Waugh says. “There’s always been interest. There’s (even) been international recognition for being one of the exclusively celluloid festivals in the world.”
Once again this year, the festival will feature the always-popular Film and Music Explosion, in which local emerging filmmakers create Super 8 films based on a song by a local band.
“The filmmakers don’t have much time to put them together. They gather Super 8 film, they shoot and splice it by hand,” Waugh says. “[It’s done] over a two-and-a-half-month period. They have to shoot it, and we send it away to Toronto. On the night of the festival, the bands will play a short set and their last set will be played to accompany their film. It’s a pretty cool thing.”
One of those pairings will be electronic-experimental Calgary act SET and ACAD graduate and filmmaker Kyle Whitehead. Whitehead – who is well-versed in experimental sound and small-format cinema – said it was exciting to work with a song that was a little “more experimental or ambiguous.”
“(SET) is an instrumental, synth band which is kind of a nice thing when you’re making an experimental film, rather than working with musicians that have a lot of lyrics or more narrative to their work,” he says. “I’m working on it now, and I have an idea of how it will look, but it’s a pretty experimental process I’m working with.
“It’s difficult to say what it’ll be until it’s closer to finishing it.”
Whitehead’s creation will be unveiled on Feb. 27 alongside a performance from SET. Other pairings – hard rock act Dextress paired with Simon Chan on Feb. 25, as well as lo-fi no wave group The Basement Demons with a film by Berkley Brady on Feb. 26 – will kick off the other nights of the festival.
This year, Edmonton’s Lindsay McIntyre will serve as visiting artist, and one of her films will be shown each night of the festival.
Despite Kodak’s celebratory hullabaloo surrounding the “revival” of Super 8, analogue lovers have a long memory – and though they have stuck with the format, it wasn’t so long ago Kodak had seemed to abandon it entirely.
“They’re touting this celebratory thing, look at our brand new camera, whereas three, four years ago, they were like, we’re cancelling all of these,” Waugh says. “It brings up [questions]. Is film dead? What does it mean, is there a resurgence? What does it mean if there is a resurgence, and why? Those are questions that are hard to answer.”
Check out the 24th Annual $100 Film Festival at Art Commons’ Engineered Air Theatre from Feb. 25 to 27. For a full schedule and more information, visit 100dollarfilmfestival.org$100 Film Festival, AB, Alberta, Arts Commons, celluoid film