Local festival seeks to open minds and celebrate indie cinema
On Feb. 26 - 27, Calgary will host its 23rd annual $100 Film Festival, courtesy of the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers to celebrate the beautiful and often underestimated medium of 8-16mm film.
The festival will showcase work from local, national, and international filmmakers exclusively on 8mm and 16mm film. The festivals namesake pays tribute to the original budget cap for content submissions, which equals roughly the cost of four rolls of 8mm film. While this minimal budget has since been dropped, the weird and wonderful format remains at the core of the festival.
"I don't think anybody expected it to evolve into what it has become," says Nicola Waugh, the festival director. "Over the years we've dropped the budgetary confinements and opened it up to 16mm. There is always talk of adding digital but what is really so special and what has stuck with the festival over its pretty long run is the uniqueness of small format film."
The first $100 film festival occurred in 1992, making it the longest running film festival in Calgary and one of only a handful of its kind in the world. It is Waugh's hope that the festival can cultivate a collection of experimental art that both longtime lovers and new audiences can appreciate.
"I would venture to say that all of the films being shown at this year's festival, you might never see in another circumstance like this again. You can watch some of them on Vimeo, maybe, but it's not the same," Waugh explains. "The festival is a chance to see the art in the way it's meant to be seen, and there is something very special about that."
"The colour is richer, there's a sort of grainy overlay. It's a really cool aesthetic and, a lot of the time, digital movies try to replicate what occurs naturally with film," says Waugh.
Indeed, hugely successful filmmakers like Wes Anderson use 16mm film in their big-budget, Hollywood movies. Anderson uses this technique in both Moonrise Kingdom and Academy Award winning Grand Budapest Hotel.
"The festival is a chance to see the art in the way it's meant to be seen, and there is something very special about that."
- Nichola Waugh, $100 Film Festival director
The festival's visiting artist from Toronto, Stephen Broomer, has been working with film since he was a teenager and agrees that the beauty in working with this tricky medium is in its inconsistencies.
"In the experimental film world, I believe that many of us who work with film do so out of a devotion to the particular aesthetics of the film image and the process that comes from working with film cameras, neither of which will ever be perfectly emulated," says Broomer.
Broomer will be giving a talk, titled The Transformable Moment, a concept he explained as, "a moment in time that can become subject to all forms of alteration and enhancement by technological means." Three of his short films, shot on 16mm film, will also be featured in the festival.
"We're very fortunate to have events like the $100 Film Festival, which year after year shows its commitment to film projection," says Broomer.
However, the $100 Film Festival won't just be projecting films. It has collaborated with a number of arts and media organizations in Calgary to put together several days of workshops and other events that link other media and artists together. For example - the Film/Music Explosion! - which features commissioned films from local filmmakers inspired by local musicians' songs.
Broomer offers the following advice for film fans more familiar with the typical narrative arc and aesthetic of big-budget Hollywood movies: "People should come to the cinema with an open mind: that's all these films ask of them. Films like these tend to act as a mirror, the best of them don't come with instructions."
The festival will run at the Engineered Art Theatre. Tickets can be purchased by calling 403-205-4747 or in person at the CSIF. Prices range from $10 for CSIF members, students, and seniors to $12 for general admission. Detailed information is available at http://www.100dollarfilmfestival.org/.
- By Megan MacKay