Vintage flicks more than a tradition

100 film festival

For artists in the know, Super 8 and 16mm filmmaking is a specialized medium. Despite the narrow interest, an entire festival is planned around films shot in both of these types of media.

Running March 8 – 10, the 20th Annual $100 Film Festival will be airing submissions from almost 40 different contestants. It’s a tradition that attracts entries from local, national and international filmmakers. 

Starting in 1992, the festival was named after the average cost of purchasing and editing four rolls of Super 8 film. The festival has since adapted to include 16mm film — which the programming coordinator Melanie Wilmink says “blew the budget out of the water.”

“These days, it’s less about the budget and more about the artistic choice to work on film,” she says.

The novelty of film may not be immediately accessible to everybody, as there are only a handful of international festivals that are exclusive to Super 8 and 16mm film.

Playful experimentation with the medium

In reference to the antique medium, Wilmink says: “There’s something magical about that chemical process of developing film. For me, it’s very similar to painting or printmaking where you’re pushing and pulling with the medium, rather than dictating your ideas and having them show up perfectly on screen.

“There’s always the chance of happy accidents,” says Wilmink, making reference to deliberate or impromptu tricks or experiments, which may include scratching, optics, animations, hand-processing and solarization of the film.

The festival has also seen a blend of media through both video and live music.

100 film festival

Melanie Wilmink, programming co-ordinator for the $100 Film Festival, adds another spool of film to the Steenbeck film-editing machine.
Photo by: Kyle Napier 

The Film/Music Explosion! pairs together three live musicians or bands with three filmmakers who create videos based on the music. Each night of the festival will be kicked off with an entry from this program, with the band playing alongside the video submission. Super 8 not having sound capabilities inspired this collaboration.

This year, Luke Black, part of the festival’s communications committee, will have a group video submission alongside local Calgary band Jesse Northey and the Dandelions.

Black says, “The live energy of these two elements performing together for the first time definitely sets a mood for the rest of the night of entertaining, experimental and challenging works of film.”

Wilmink says that the Film/Music Explosion! ties in with the direction of the festival, where experimenting is highly encouraged.

In the past, the festival has also seen submissions where “prisms, glass, and mirrors refract the image in front of the loop, so [we] had part of the film playing on the back of somebody’s head, and on top of the ceiling, and all the way around. So it really makes film projection really active and more performative,” says Wilmink.

“If you’ve never been to an experimental film screening, or you’ve never seen works like this, it can be really challenging and really exciting.”

International and award-winning submissions

Robert Todd, an associate film and media professor at Emerson College in Boston, will have two of his collaborative works hosted this year at the festival. Todd hopes that the two films – “Imperceptihole” and “Undergrowth” – will leave the audience “both fascinated and disturbed by the ride.”

“I love the idea of a $100 festival,” says award-winning Todd. “So many of the filmmakers I respect work with limited means to produce astonishing and challenging works — pushing at the notion of spectacle as something that’s closer to the every day terms of process which leaving it magical in terms of the viewing experience.”

The festival grants five different awards chosen by a jury and ballots filled out by the audience. The awards are for Best Super 8 Film, Best 16mm Film, Best of Alberta, Jury’s Choice, and Audience Choice – and are presented with a cash prize.

The 20th Annual $100 Film Festival starts at 7 p.m. on March 8 at the ACAD Stanford Perrott Lecture Theatre.

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