The Brussels Super 8 International Film Festival 1983

I hope I have a fairly open mind about experimental work, I like to see people trying something new, but I have to say that I found 90% of the experimental films to be a complete waste of film-stock. Obviously there were good examples, I thought one of the very best films in the competition was an experimental film. As it happened, it wasn’t animated – it used weird angles and close-ups in live-action to present what was a celebration of the beauty of nature. A Puerto-Rican girl entered two examples of drawn-on-film experimentation. She had taken live-action footage, partially removed the emulsion with bleach and then drawn and scratched on the film. Here and there were little touches of humour, such as the scratched image of a little fish swimming around in the glass of water about to be drunk by a live action man. The film had no storyline or theme, but had the saving grace of being visually interesting. The majority of the films in the experimental group were irritating garbage.

Midnight in the Festival cinema.

The rest of the competition animation fell into two main categories drawn animation and pixilation. I don’t recall seeing any puppet or model animation (apart from my own). There were a couple of excellent drawn animations from Germany. They were apparently done on plain white paper, and the backgrounds were kept to the basic minimum. The best was a short film about a clock maker, and it included the finest character ‘walk’ that I have seen for a long tine. The film was essentially a one-joke film, but was extremely well done in a delightfully relaxed style. Another good film used the smudge and draw technique used so brilliantly by Sheila Graber in her film FACE TO FACE. The drawings were made in chalk on a blackboard and were rubbed out and re-drawn to obtain the movement. Towards the end of the film a character lights a fuse on one of the lines on the blackboard. The fuse burns along the lines of the drawing gradually erasing them as it goes along – eventually the blackboard has nothing left except the drawing of a light, a live action man walks into shot and pretends to switch it off. The screen went black and the end titles came up. This brings me onto a subject which caused some annoyance about many of the films. An astonishing number did not put end and start titles on their films, they simply ran out through the white
leader when they had finished. Half the time you didn’t know if they had finished or if a splice had broken – the film contents didn’t always help! One experimental film did break a splice, but nobody noticed until it was announced over the loud speakers.

There were several pixillated movies. I must admit these don’t do much for me. Having tried the effect long ago, it no longer impresses for its own sake. I suppose every film-maker has tried pixillation at some time. It’s where you use the single-frame release to film live-action. Many of the films in this section were simply moving things around to no apparent purpose – the novelty soon wears off. As with all techniques you have to DO something with it.

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