Curated by Karl Wratschko in collaboration with Cinémathèque16 and André Habib

After celebrating 100 years of the 9.5mm format in last year’s programme, we continue this year with another anniversary. Exactly 100 years ago, Eastman Kodak introduced the 16mm format as a less expensive alternative to 35mm film. Initially developed for the amateur sector, this invention became the most successful and widespread small-gauge film format for professional film production. The areas in which the 16mm format was and is used are very diverse. For this reason, we decided to join forces with the independent film institution Cinémathèque16 from Paris and present a selection from its eclectic collection, which covers many aspects of this format. The selection of films consists of vintage prints from the 1920s to the 1970s including a tinted silent film (Lucretia Lombard, only available on 16mm), early advertisments, scopitones (a forerunner of the music video), home-movie versions of famous horror features, trailers of lost silent films and artistic gems in fiction and nonfiction filmmaking by Éric Rohmer and William Klein. Each of the films presented in this chapter is interesting from a content and material point of view. The medium is the message and the message is the medium.
The second chapter of this programme is dedicated to experimental filmmaking from Québec and Canada. Here we dedicate ourselves to an area with very diverse cinematic activities, which has had little presence at our festival so far. The selection offers the opportunity to discover the experimental works of filmmakers such as Joyce Wieland and Etienne O’Leary, who are each represented with an individual programme. Wieland’s films offer the opportunity to lose oneself in the pleasures of everyday life, follow her in her reflections on the violence inherent in camerawork and understand that political analysis and experimental filmmaking are not mutually exclusive. The rarely shown oeuvre of filmmaker O’Leary (he was only able to complete three films in his lifetime) can easily be described as an invitation to take a trip. The three psychedelic films he made in Paris enable us to (re)encounter the intense, poetic and shortlived bohemian lifestyle of the late 1960s. There is a definitely reason why O’Leary was called “Le Rimbaud du cinéma” by some of his devotees. The opening programme of this chapter unites a variety of experimental gems including amateur films, colour tests, queer cinema, a surrealist underground science-fiction film… Encounter different cinematic approaches from filmmakers such as Louise Bourque, Michel DeGagné, Robert Desrosiers, Michel Gélinas, Jean Lafleur, Yves Lafontaine and Omer Parent in works made between the 1940s and the 1990s.

Karl Wratschko

In 1923, long before becoming a progressively universal format of multiple developments, 16mm sought to bring treasured moments back to life in the home environment, in line with its slogan, “It happens again on the screen.” The first catalogue included a complete range of equipment, from the Ciné-Kodak camera to the Kodascope projector, with all the necessary accessories for filming and watching home movies. From the outset, 16mm heralded a safe, non-flammable film, which was simple to use for the amateur. In 1925, it was only natural to launch the Kodascope Library, an extensive collection of films available for rental to the public. This is how the cinema became part of the family home.
After a few years, 16mm would conquer the world and the films would no longer be restricted to home use. Indeed, the lightweight format and projection equipment made it possible to operate 16mm in non-commercial settings such as schools and churches, especially in rural areas, far from the big-city picture palaces. The postwar years proved revolutionary for the format: adopting the technical sophistication of 35mm, it won over theatres and became the preferred tool for secular education through film-club networks. At the same time, artists appropriated 16mm as a creative tool, for which it is still admired today, notably due to the impetus of the New Wave and experimental cinema.
Since 2017, Cinémathèque16 has endeavoured to rehabilitate the format in all its richness and historicity. The dive sity and singularity of its uses should not be overshadowed by the many damaged eighth-generation prints of short comedies. This programme attempts to draw a multifaceted portrait of 16mm, an ultimately little-known format. Nearly all the prints of the Cinémathèque16 collection have been meticulously prepared for screening on the appropriate equipment. Thus, 100 years later, the oldest original prints, some of them tinted, can once again be seen by an audience. An emphasis will also be placed on the collectors, the temporary guardians of this heritage, and their amateur practices.
The prints presented in the programme have been selected for their authenticity, their rare qualities and at times for their specific purposes, which will require a thorough contextualisation.

Benoît Carpentier and Naeje Soquer