1 June 1990

The Super '80s: Australian Super 8 Films of the 1980s

San Francisco Cinematheque, 31 May 1990
Curated and presented by Michael Hutak

Program notes:

This program charts particular moves within a peculiar film scene: Australian Super-8mm film in the '80s. Historically, the emergence of a renewed local Super-8 film culture around the turn of the decade sprang from a perceived winding down of 16mm activity in the late '70s. Super-8 was championed by practitioners as almost a democratic medium offering direct and easy access to the contemporary image maker. After the success of the first Annual Sydney Super-8 Film Festival in 1980 a new scene was quickly defined and promoted as the "Super-8 Phenomenon."

Local art journals such as On The Beach and Tension were in the forefront of promoting the scene as straddling both independent film and the visual arts, with many artists, writers, and mixed-media artists trying their hands in both theory and practice. The scene reached a peak of activity around 1984-85 with the festivals of those years giving birth to a notorious "theatre of cruelty." Here any film which exhibited a sincere or self-important posture was greeted with howls of derisive laughter from the rowdy audience. The festival was replaced with a mixed-media event — The Sydney Film & Video Event — in 1988 and Super-8 as a popular phenomenon has been on the decline ever since.

The works which sprang from this milieu had at least one thing in common: absolute diversity. Therefore this program makes no claim to represent any wider field of practice but rather displays some of the more engaging films by artists who produced a body of work during the period.

One significant feature which the artists here do share is an absence of a self-conscious foregrounding of national identity: Australia is more a state of mind than a birthright, and while not easily denied, can certainly be ignored. Made by citizens of the worid, these films celebrate the decade when the world went global!

— Michael Hutak, 1990

Carumba! (1986), by Nick Meyers; Super-8mm, color, sound, 4 minutes.
Hoard (1981), by Stephen Harrop; Super-8mm, 9 minutes.
Twisted Legend (1985), by Richard De Souza & Rhondda Kelly; Super-8mm, 6 minutes.
Untitled (1984), by Merilyn Fairskye; Super-8mm, 3 minutes.
Suspect Filmmaker (1984), by Rowan Woods; Super-8mm, 10 minutes.
S.S.S. (1986), by Andrew Frost; Super-8mm, 6 minutes.
Shock Corridor (1985), by Mark Titmarsh; Super-8mm, 4 minutes.
Westworld Story (1984-5), by Catherine Lowing; Super-Smm, 6 minutes.
Ropo's Movie Night (1986), by The Marine Biologists; Super-8mm, 15 minutes.
Macbeth's Greatest Hits (1987), by Michael Hutak; super-8mm, 22 minutes.