In today's world of planned obsolescence, you might think that Super 8 film - the stuff of sixties home movies - was a thing of the past. But this weekend's 8 Fest Small-Gauge Film Festival uses the analog film stock as its common thread.
"It's alive and well," says Jonathan Culp, one of the festival's programmers, dusting off a small Super 8 projector in his west-end office. "Many people try to take the tactile nature, look and the grain of film, and dump it on video. We're creating the challenge to stay committed to film."
More than 30 shorts will screen during the two-night program, including educational films from the 1950s and new experimental movies.
Super 8 film stock emerged in the 1960s as a new-and-improved version of standard 8-millimetre film. Instead of loading finicky reels, amateur and home moviemakers - who used it most - could simply pop in a Super 8 cartridge. Though VHS camcorders took the place of Super 8 at home, and most filmmakers used higher-quality 16-mm and 35-mm film (before digital video took hold), indie film artists have held onto Super 8; today, it's rare, retro and still affordable.
The festival's retro element will bring Toronto artists to provide their own narration for 16 vintage educational films on physics, home ec and biology. Artist Luis Jacob, who recently screened a film installation with Noam Gonick called Wildflowers of Manitoba to a strong reception at the Berlin International Film Festival, will read over one about teeter-totter physics called Action of the Lever.
But it's not all old school. Eight experimental shorts by nine Canadian artists will make their debuts including Bowling in Manitouwadge by Toronto filmmaker John Porter. The seven-minute short tours a small Ontario town best known to sports buffs for off-roading and snowmobiling - its slogan is "Play in the extreme!" but the town increasingly attracts retirees, many of whom play only in the local bowling alley.
There's also an element of show and tell. Local collectors Grant Heaps and Ian Phillips will screen five shorts for the first time at a festival. Their 30-minute program of period pieces reveals some colourful glimpses of everyday life. Some are just bizarre: In one clip from 1959, a Muskoka gas station bursts into flames. But mostly they offer low-key period detail - in a clip from 1970, a family party gets out of hand after too much cognac.
"They're very personal," Heaps says. "Like something you'd see on YouTube."
Tonight and tomorrow (7 and 9 p.m.), Trash Palace, 89B Niagara St., , $5 suggested donation, 416-203-2389.