Small format filmmaking thrives at Calgary's $100 Film Fest

This weekend, the $100 Film Festival turns 24. That makes it the oldest film festival in Calgary, but that's not its only notable designation. It's also one of only a few festivals in the world that still exclusively caters to Super 8 and 16mm film.

It's one of the only festivals in the world devoted to Super 8 and 16mm film

Lindsay McIntyre's "Where We Stand"

This weekend, the $100 Film Festival turns 24. That makes it the oldest film festival in Calgary, but that's not its only notable designation. It's also among the few festivals in the world that still exclusively cater to Super 8 and 16mm film.

The festival originated in 1992 as a challenge for eight filmmakers to shoot a short film on four rolls of Super 8 — which cost a total of $100 at the time. It has grown into an international celebration of filmmaking on celluloid, with the budgetary limit dismissed and 16mm films added in. The festival's title is now a tribute to its roots, but as a result, the Calgary event has become an increasingly rare showcase for some of the world's best small-format films — and a community event for the many people who fought to continue creating them.

While there are fewer people working on film than before, there is still a thriving community of artists working with this medium.- Nicola Waugh, the director of the $100 Film Festival

"While there are fewer people working on film than before, there is still a thriving community of artists working with this medium, and we are thrilled to support this niche," says Nicola Waugh, who is entering her fourth year as director of the festival. 

Montreal filmmaker Francois Miron's "Paul Sharits"

It's a niche that is having a major moment in 2016, which happens to be the 50th anniversary of the Super 8 film. Just four years ago, the last remaining colour Super 8 film in production was discontinued by Kodak and enthusiasts of the format feared the worst, buying up whatever was left in circulation. But the medium is being resurrected thanks to new Italian film company Film Ferrania, which used a Kickstarter campaign to build a "new kind of analog film factory" in northern Italy. And now Kodak itself is jumping back on the bandwagon, launching a "Super 8 Filmmaking Revival Initative" that will include producing a Super 8 camera with digital functionality. 

Waugh said the $100 Film Festival is "thrilled to be part of this analogue renaissance," and it's clear the small format filmmaking community is too. The festival received over 100 submissions from around the world for this year's edition, eventually selecting 35 films "that challenge the boundaries of the medium and explore alternative approaches to storytelling."

The films are shown over three nights of programmes, each beginning with a live local band who play along to a Super 8 film that was commissioned for the festival. This year, The Basement DemonsDextress and SET will be playing. 

In addition to the film programmes, the festival will be inviting Edmonton's Lindsay McIntyre as their visiting artist.

"She'll be teaching a 'handmade emulsion' workshop, which will cover how to make your own film from scratch," Waugh explained. She also noted that there are three offsite programs at the fest that aim "to expand notions of traditional cinema," as well as a special presentation of PAUL SHARITS, a documentary about one of the worlds most prolific experimental filmmakers. 

$100 Film Festival. Feb 25-27. Arts Commons' Engineered Air Theatre, 205 8th Avenue S.E, Calgary. 7:30pm.


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