The International Film Festival is a celebration of the entire Cinema with a big C. From blockbuster to indie film, everyone can find something there. This is also the case for the amateurs of the old filming methods with the screening of Bait, filmed in 16 millimeters format. Let’s embark on a trip down memory lane…
Before delving into the rich history of the 16 millimeter format (corresponding to the width of the camera), let’s first look at the different types of photographic film. The most common formats range from 8 to 70 millimeters, each has its own characteristics. The cameras that are suitable for a larger format are commonly used in blockbusters because, in addition to being the most expensive format, it is also used for a greater image capture and spectacular scenes. Dunkirk for example, which was shot in 70 millimeters (or IMAX), shows the scale of the scenes with an incredible number of troops. Conversely, the least expensive formats such as the 8 millimeters are used for small, often amateurish productions, but also in movies like Super 8 (by J.J. Abrams) for the sake of realism as the characters here are teenagers who film in Super 8 format (vintage effect of 1980’s).
Launched in 1923 by Kodak, the 16 millimeter format offers a more economical format than the 35 millimeter (one of the main standard formats). The format was quickly adopted, especially in the world of amateur cinema, but it was increasingly professionalized, the 16 millimeter being perfect for small screens such as television (reports, TV movies, etc.). Many films adopted this model, especially during the interwar period. In the 1970’s, the format became rarely used over time despite some progress like the Super 16. It was used in flash-backs or for desaturating the image as in Jason Bourne during his past-set scenes, but it is rare today to find films entirely shot in one of the 16mm format types.
Indeed, modern cinema doesn’t really dote on the 16 millimeters although many awarded films relevantly used it, adding a particular and realistic aspect like in the upsetting City of God, where the format accentuates the reality in the favelas. We can also turn to the acclaimed The Hurt Locker, giving to the film a reporter-like dimension with a real immersion in Iraq. Or the unmissable Black Swan, to which the director wanted to give a less realistic appearance. Despite the fact that it is underrated in today’s cinema, the 16 mm remains an essential format, opening up options sorely lacking when the format is different.