Frank and the Super 8 movies

An overland truck trip in the late 80s. Amersham to Kenya with a bunch of strangers who answered an ad in Time Out. The above thread continued to explain how 12 years ago on holiday in Devon (the yurt gig where Connor thought the farmer was wanted by Interpol) we met a photographer who said that the last Super 8 developer globally was closing that October.

By this time, these two tatty films had travelled across Africa for 6 or so months, been sent home to me in the post (I jumped truck halfway through the trip), and moved house at least 6 times. They featured on this blog during a half arsed decluttering period back in 2011.

I tweeted asking if anyone knew of anywhere that developed this film or if I should finally chuck em. Bruce Bennett, a film studies academic, pointed me at Gauge Films who, in turn, said the Super 8 Reversal Lab in the Netherlands was my best bet. There I ‘met’ Frank.

Frank talked me through the process of getting the films developed by an arm of Canadian Film Rescue International. I had to courier them to him by Dec 17, prepare myself for a Brexit related hike in price [groan] and not expect to hear anything until March this year. The charge was pricey (you had to pay a set fee if there was nothing on the film and more if there was).


It was unlikely there would be anything to see given how much time had passed. Could I really not find out?

I’d pretty much forgotten the whole shebang when Frank emailed this week to say there was footage and the films were being couriered back home. Wow.

It was exciting holding the super smart package earlier. The revisiting, rediscovery even, of a piece of the past. The transformation of yellow ripped covering, of black snappy plastic casing and film into something else. I emptied the carefully wrapped content onto my lap.

What the actual fuck? Noooooooo….. I shook the padded envelope. Just a postcard. And two reels of film.

What do I do with these?! I asked Rich.

Er, find a cine projector…

We both laughed. He laughed more than I did.

I dug out Frank’s email to work out what had gone wrong. There was mention of a download. I emailed him and within seconds had the link. Two files. The first was black and white arial footage of Niagara Falls. [No idea. Rich laughed even more.] The second, 3 minutes of eerie, silent, grainy, washed out, truck trip footage. [40 seconds below]

The significance of holding onto artefacts is something I ponder over. My recent skip experience was a cracking example of a ‘gone schmon’ phenomenon. A mountain of stuff erased. The loft lighter. I’ve one sister who’s a stern custodian of the keys to a life clear of unnecessary stuff. I imagine her baffled, impatient even, by the tale of Frank and the Super 8 movies. Of the holding onto crappy, dusty bits of plastic for decades. Not responding to the random deadline issued on a Devon campsite or bothering to do anything with them before.

My sifting of old stuff has also underlined an unrealisation of anticipatory promise which oddly doesn’t disappoint. You can’t ‘rediscover’ parts of the past because they have passed: the richness and depth of sensations; smells, textures, sounds, feelings; the context, the person you were at that time and those around you. This is fine.

At the same time the capturing [of what and why?], the sharing [with who(m) and why?], the keeping and revisiting is important. The story of my Super 8 film, the brief piece of footage taken across a three month period in the autumn of 1988 by my 23 year old oblivious to white privilege self is (living) social history. The story, the film, has woven new strands involving Frank, Bruce Bennett, Rich, my sis, readers of this post, generating further riches and meaning.

Now I need to find out if my parents ever did a fly past of Niagara Falls. Or let Frank know there’s been a mix up.

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