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Categories: Features

Raindance’s Itteshad Hossain looks back at the history of one of the most famous film formats, Super 8mm, highlighting 5 notable independent productions it helped bring to life.


This article was originally written by Itteshad Hossain, an aspiring writer-director, for raindance.org. For more of Itteshad’s work, visit his profile page at Raindance

Super 8mm is officially 50 years old. Created by Kodak in 1965 as an alternative to 16mm, the Super 8 started off as something people would use to film their holiday. But because it wasn’t necessary to thread film on a Super 8, independent filmmakers found it compact and cheap to shoot with. It’s also a camera where you can edit inside it, and has a frame-by-frame shooting feature for stop-motion. You may think Super 8 isn’t built for feature film, but some of the films below prove that what started off as a home video camera is actually a fully capable filmmaking beast.

A Polish Vampire in Burbank (Mark Pirro, 1985) 

In the 1980s Super 8 became the ultimate tool for horror filmmakers due to it being much cheaper than 16mm and compact. One of the many low-budget horror films is A Polish Vampire in Burbank. Written, directed and starring Mark Pirro this film debuted at Raindance in 1994. The film tells the story of a reluctant vampire who is taken on a ‘night out’ by his sex-crazed sister.  Find out more on IMDB.

Ozone: Attack of the Redneck Mutants (Matt Devlen, 1986) 

Raindance veteran Matt Devlen has built a career on producing shlock horror films with almost no budget. Ozone: Attack of the Redneck Mutants (Raindance 1995) is no exception. Made on a tight budget, the film has a classy B-movie feel thanks to the Super 8. Find out more on IMDB.

Year of the Horse (Jim Jarmusch, 1997) 

In 1996, Jim Jarmusch worked on a documentary about the band Neil Young and the Crazy Horse on their 1996 concert tour. It was the first commercial feature length documentary shot on Super 8. Above is an interview of Jarmusch and Neil Young discussing the film. Find out more on IMDB.

Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore (Sarah Jacobson, 1998)

A film that was shown at the Raindance Film Festival in 1997, Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore is a powerful exploration of young sexuality. Shot by Jacobson on her Super 8 camera, the film became an underground sensation. Sarah sadly passed away in 2004, but the film is a testament to her ability and what she would have gone on to do. Above is the full film. Find out more on IMDB.

The Man Who Met Himself (Ben Crowe, 2005) 

The films mentioned up to this point have all been features, but it is worth mentioning a short film that took the festival circuit by storm only 10 years ago. Ben Crowe’s The Man Who Met Himself was nominated for the Palme d-Or for Best Short film, and was shot with the Kodachrome film stock. The script had started off being written on ticket stubs while Crowe was doing shifts at King’s Cross station. Find out more on IMDB.

These are just some examples of films that have proved Super 8 is not just a camera for home movies, but a genuine cinema camera. It’s 50 years old, but looks like it’s making a comeback, as there’s a lot of videos online being shot with a Super 8, for that ‘Instagram feel’.

Did we miss one? Share it in the comments box below.

Posted on Jul 6, 2015

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