A safe haven for cinephiles
by Sean-Paul Boynton
Before digital video, IMAX, and Avatar, there was Super 8mm and 16mm film. Largely used by amateur moviemakers during their heyday, these formats
have also been adopted extensively by both indie filmmakers
– such as Kevin Smith (Clerks) and Jim Jarmusch (Coffee and Cigarettes) – as well as mainstream directors looking to add a little period romance or gritty realism to their pictures, such as Oliver Stone’s flashback scenes in JFK and Natural Born Killers.
Advances in technology have always had a way of snuffing out the old in order to make way for the new, but Super 8 and 16mm film has somehow survived to become a welcome artistic alternative to the coldly
clean shots executed by a digital camera. Bolstering this trend for more than 30 years has been the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers, whose programming director, Melanie Wilmink, doesn’t see the medium dying off any time soon.
“When photography was introduced,
painters didn’t all just drop their brushes and grab a camera,” says Wilmink. “It was just another medium. It’s the same with film: just because there’s the digital technology out there and it’s easier, there’s still a particular look and process to film that is attractive to filmmakers. It’s an artistic choice, and we foster that.”
One of the ways CSIF supports
this journey through the past, besides offering workshops
and equipment rentals, is the $100 Film Festival. Now in its eighteenth year, the festival is only open to short films shot in either Super 8 or 16mm formats,
and celebrates the pictorial
qualities and preciousness of film stock that, unlike digital video, forces directors to use their material wisely.
“There’s something about the process that makes it a lot more disciplined,” says Wilmink, “partly because it’s harder to find the right equipment
– which is why we rent out equipment directly to our members – and the film stock itself costs a little more money. But it also forces the filmmaker to really know in their mind what they’re going to shoot, because you can only use as much as you have; you can’t shoot as much as you want, like digital video, and there’s a lot less room for mistakes.”
If the small room for error sounds daunting, the people at CSIF know where you’re coming from. The “film co-operative,” as Wilmink calls it, always keeps its doors open to either experienced filmmakers
looking for a safe haven, curious enthusiasts who want to plunge into a new format beyond their dad’s camcorder, or even just film junkies who may not want to make a film, but thrive in an environment in which cinema is always the topic of conversation.
The CSIF holds several events that are open and free to the movie-loving public, such as their Classic Movie Nights, which are held on the second
Tuesday of every month. March 9 is the next installment,
however Wilmink says that the title of the film being shown is, as always, “a secret.” Since CSIF is located right across from Mount Royal in the Currie Barracks (J2, 2711 Battleford Ave. SW), Wilmink invites students to come on over on Tuesday at 6 p.m. for a great classic film, as well as “excellent popcorn and beer!”
The $100 Film Festival runs Mar. 4-6 at the Plaza Theatre. For more information about tickets, as well as the CSIF in general, visit www.csif.org.