It was a treasure trove that my mother handed over to me about ten years ago. Film from an age when childhoods were not routinely captured as moving images. She entrusted the box to me as her eldest child – or possibly her most technologically literate (it’s the eldest’s prerogative to say things like that) – and tasked me with transferring the 36 reels of Super 8 footage to DVD. Which is what I had done, with the help of John Ross of Moving pictures. And now, once again, it feels like time to take these old films out of their shoe box. Or rather, upload them to YouTube.
Each reel lasts three minutes twenty odd seconds. That’s two hours of film, all told. Enough to make a movie of my early childhood, of my parents’ life before upping sticks to another part of the country. A skilled film editor could make something of them all, could take this random jumble of chronologically muddled Super 8 reels and perhaps transform them into a tale of the times, full of suggestion and pathos. But I am not that skilled editor of film. All I can do is present the footage more or less unedited, as they were shot, and try to make some sense of them with words.
The films come from what you might call the golden age of my childhood, before my parents’ separation and subsequent divorce. Those are stories for another time; and though inevitably what happened subsequently adds an optical or a mental filter to the projected images, what I really want to concentrate on in writing about each reel of film is the life before me, the captured colours and tones and the sheer otherness of the not so very distant past. The otherness, and the eerie similarities, as one generation succeeds the next.
The films have no sound, and tempting as it is, I’ve decided not to superimpose a musical soundtrack. There are only the moving images to watch, and my accompanying words to read, if you’ve a mind to. Bear witness to these small fragments of lives as they were lived forty years ago, and then perhaps set the Super 8 projector in your own mind running, in an effort to relive the earliest parts of your life. And if that seems too highfalutin’, then simply enjoy this historical record of a particular place at a certain time, all shot in the glorious, faded colours of Super 8.