16th January 1999: A Last roll of Super 8mm….

Firstly thanks to all youse wonderful folk for your kind words and best wishes today! So by way of an alternative 56th birthday message to you – and as a present to anyone who might in the least bit be interested – here’s a telecine copy of the last roll of Super 8mm that I shot with a secondhand camera that has been with me for my entire film/art career and which sadly – like many things these days – no longer works.

This roll of Kodachrome Super 8 shot in the company of a shaman and wanderer  up in the wilderness of Cape Wrath on the far North-Western tip of Scotland on my 40th birthday: 16th January 1999, marked the end of a filmmaking journey across the time and territory of Europe that had started-out in a shell-shocked Sarajevo before finally ending 5 years later on a NATO bombing range at the end of Northern Europe.

That particular cinematic journey went on to form the basis of an ‘experimental’ feature doc Victim of Geography which rather than just being a road-movie portrait of Europe in-extremis at the end of the 20th century/millennium, was also just perhaps a pre-ample to the uncertain and dark times that we’re all now living through .


So today – 16 years on from shooting that final roll of Super 8 at the end of Europe – I’m 56 – a birthday I’m proud to say that I share this week with Tamla Motown and the end of the Cuban Revolution and all I can say – before I think about spending the rest of the day in a pub – is that unlike my old Super 8mm time-machine, I’m still breathing and working even if I’m not earning a great living from what I do. Like many other people I know, love and respect, times have been tough over the past couple of years. And when I look around at the state of things now on our fragile planet – both as a filmmaker and as a human being – I don’t see too much to celebrate or spend the day in the pub for today.

But then tough times have always needed tough folk around with dare I say some experience and wisdom who still take risks? – Even if we do end up making our films/art as labours of love rather than as just paid for content. But then I also  still do happen to believe – perhaps rather unfashionably these days – in a ‘Poor Cinema’ ethos that embraces whatever means are at your disposal to tell your stories, monitor power and say something about the world we’re living in, by writing directly with a camera. Which is why I probably   picked up an old Super 8mm camera in the first place in the punk era, after also being told – while still at secondary school – that I couldn’t write and should learn to know my place!

So as well as celebrating the Cuban Revolution this week and raising a glass or two to the ‘soul power’ of Tamla Motown, I’m also celebrating just keepin’ on…keepin’ on making films  – and I guess that’s enough reasons to go to the pub for after all…

As for that old Super 8mm camera of mine?

Well my initial idea at the end of the filming on Victim of Geography was to throw-it over the cliffs at Cape Wrath out into the North Atlantic, but my Mum – who brought it me in the first place as a late prodigal/teenage birthday present in a Spiritualist church jumble sale – would have probably killed me….