Category Archives: super 8

Star Wars

As the world waits impatiently for the new Star Wars film, we take a look at the old one.


This is a Super 8 condensed version of Episode IV, made for the home market in the dark days before everyone had a VCR.  Instead of the entire film, you could watch the highlights at home.


The condensed version is around 20 minutes long, and the storyline is sort of carried, but all we see are the action sequences.

We ran this for an elementary school group that visited a few years ago, and one kid was very excited by this movie – “Now I understand why everyone loves Star Wars!  I’m going to go home and watch them all right now!”

It really warms our hearts when our jobs as archivists make a difference.

A very merry weekend of holiday films at the HFA

It’s that time of year again!

The Harvard Film Archive invites one and all to warm up with Christmassy film and video offerings from our collections the weekend before Xmas. Join us Friday, December 18 for Dear Video Diary: Christmas with Anne Robertson and George Kuchar and Sunday, December 20 for the free Annual Vintage Holiday Show!




Navigate the holidays with film and video diaries from Anne Charlotte Robertson and George Kuchar as they direct their cameras at visions of family, friends, food, and felines. The two filmmakers eloquently document the chaos and melancholy that many often feel, but few confront, during this festive season.




FREE AND FAMILY FRIENDLY! The Vintage Holiday Show is a 90-minute program of short films for both kids and adults curated by Harvard’s Film Conservator, Liz Coffey!

Wrap up your weekend and join in the merriment with the HFA’s annual event of holiday-themed gems from our archives. Experience the jolly spirit of viewing 16mm and 35mm films projected in all their glory. This year’s lineup includes CHARLIE’S CHRISTMAS PROJECT (1988), featuring a young Seth Green in the follow-up to last year’s audience favorite, CHARLIE’S CHRISTMAS SECRET (1984) and a TV adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN WALES (1987).

VINTAGE HOLIDAY SHOW-  Sunday December 20 at 5PM

All screenings held at the Harvard Film Archive Cinematheque at 24 Quincy Street in Cambridge, MA.

A good time will be had by all!


Newly digitized Anne Charlotte Robertson titles

Here is an update on the Anne Robertson films that have been digitized and are available for loan.  We are working on making more available soon!

Five Year Diary reel 26 making Magazine Mouth FYD47thrift_two_frame FYD83mother_and_sister

These are generally available as DCP or files.  Some are available on DigiBeta for you oldschoolers.  As always, please contact the HFA’s Loan Officer for more information.

Subways (1976) – 13 min.
Going to Work (1981) – 7 min.
Locomotion (1981) – 7 min.
Magazine Mouth (1983) – 7 min.
Depression Focus Please (1984) – 4 min.
Talking to Myself (1985) – 3 min.
Kafka Kamera (1985) – 3 min.
Apologies (1986/1990) – 17 min.
My Cat, My Garden, 9/11 (2001) – 6 min.

Five Year Diary newly digitized reels: Reel 3, Reel 26, Reel 40, Reel 47, Reel 83

FIVE YEAR DIARY (approx. 27 min per reel):
The Five Year Diary explores many aspects of soundtrack. Many reels have synch sound – mag stripe Super 8. Sometimes the soundtrack is spotty, other times it continues for the entire reel. Audio cassettes were used as well, either on their own or in conjunction with SOF (sound on film). Some tapes were used multiple times for many reels. A narration was usually performed live, and several reels have Anne’s audio narration, which she recorded in the 1990s for posterity and so her narrated film could travel without her.

Reel 1: The Beginning – Thanksgiving, November 3 – December 13, 1981
Vegetarianism, bingeing, Thanksgiving with parents. (ACR)
In the first reel of the Five Year Diary, we watch Anne grow up, consider food and fat, and don her yellow leotard in front of the camera for the first time. (LC)
SOF and audio cassette

Reel 2: Definitions of Fat and Thin, December 13 – 22, 1981
Anne consults the dictionary in this one – what is “fat?” what is “thin?” Inanimate objects are animated, and Anne experiences problems with her camera. (LC)
SOF and audio cassette

Reel 3: Christmas and New Year ’82, December 20-January 9, 1982
The first of many year-end holiday reels. Cooking, cleaning, pixilation. (LC)
SOF and audio cassette

Reel 9: April Fool / Happy Birthday 33, March 17 – March 27, 1982
Pixilation. Sleeping, cooking, resolving to quit smoking. (LC)
Audio cassette

Reel 22: A Short Affair (and) Going Crazy, August 23 – September 1, 1982
Anne finds a lover, loses him, mourns him, and has a nervous breakdown. (LC)
Audio cassette and narration

Reel 23: A Breakdown and After the Mental Hospital, September 1 – December 13, 1982
Anne’s nervous breakdown continues until she is hospitalized. One track was recorded during the mania; in the second track, Anne reflects, years later, on this troubled time. (LC)
Audio cassette and narration

Reel 26: First Semester Grad School, February 28 – May 20, 1983
Two years into the Diary, Anne began graduate school at Massachusetts College of Art. Reel 26 was shot silently; the soundtrack is an audio recording she made during a graduate review. She discusses her work with Super 8 auteur and professor Saul Levine and a second faculty member. Ideas brought up in the discussion were later implemented in Reel 22 and 23 and in the presentation of the work in general. (LC)
audio cassette

Reel 31: Niagara Falls, August 19 – 28, 1983
Anne takes a road trip to Niagara Falls trip with her family in this exceptionally beautiful Diary reel. (LC)
audio cassette and narration

Reel 40: Visiting Grandmother, My Insanity, & Wyoming, July 17 – August 26, 1984
Anne travels west with her camera to visit family. (LC)

Reel 47: I Thought the Film Would End, October 21 – November 2, 1986
The would-be penultimate Diary reel. Anne ruminates about the upcoming end of the Diary – and mourns it, of course. Familiar themes of Dr Who, drinking, comedy, and a nice trick-or-treat Halloween sequence. (LC)
“There is a tendency to film your life like it is scenes.” (ACR)
Sound on film.

Reel 80: Emily Died, May 14 – September 26, 1994
Anne’s niece Emily dies. Anne goes into a deep depression. (LC)
audio cassette and narration

Reel 81: Mourning Emily, September 27, 1994 – January 29, 1995
Anne mourns the death of her young niece, Emily. (LC)
audio cassette and narration

Reel 83: [Untitled, final finished reel] December 24, 1995 – March 19, 1997
It’s been 16 years, and finally the Diary ends, an unintended ending that visits familiar territory.

(ACR) = text by Anne Charlotte Robertson

(LC) = text by Liz Coffey


The Five Year Diary (1981-1997)


This week I’ve been watching some episodes of Anne Robertson’s Five Year Diary with a visiting researcher.  It’s been great getting back into this work.  There were quite a few exciting finds among reels I’d never seen, including one with a soundtrack recorded during a review at Mass Art.  Anne discusses her work with her professors, Saul Levine and a second, as yet unidentified, man.  This episode is somewhat early in the work (1983), but the discussion is relevant to the work as a whole.

Part of my goal with watching more reels of the Diary is to prioritize reels for digitization.  Presently, 8 reels of the work have been digitized and are available for screenings.  It is our goal to digitize the entire work; we are prioritizing and hope to have more reels available this fall.

The final reel of the Diary (Reel 83, 1997), which was only accidentally so, includes some images that remind me of earlier reels.  There is some focus on weight, a theme from the beginning, as well as the family gravestones, holidays, and, as always the moon.  I’m going to have to watch the entire work – is there an episode without the moon?  The moon and Anne are the constant characters in the film.  Anne travels; her companion the moon meets her there.  Anne goes through cycles of mental stability; the moon waxes and wanes.

The Diary is most obviously a thorough evaluation of the self, but despite Anne’s obsessions about her own body and life, she is also a solid viewer of the natural world.  The moon is the face of it, but we see the seasons closely monitored, plant life, the weather.  Paradoxically, her romantic obsessions are found on television, and on programs that are anything but celebrations of nature.

Here in Cambridge, the summer is drawing to a close.  It’s made most obvious by the return of the students, clearly demonstrated by traffic and restaurant crowds, but Anne’s films remind me to look to the trees that are beginning to brown, the flowers that are going to seed, the vegetables that will require harvest before the frost.

~Liz Coffey

FYD 2 reading definitions of fat and thin

Halloween with Castle Films

An afternoon selection of Castle Films: the perfect precursor to a Halloween movie marathon weekend. Intended for home-viewing, these one-reel, condensed versions of creature features would bring all the shock and horror highlights of a theatrical film to the living room screen.

Pictured below are some of the gems selected by our film conservation team.

Happy Halloween!


Several covers of Halloween-themed Castle Films, arranged in a mosaic boxes

Anne Charlotte Robertson Papers


In addition to her films, Anne Robertson left us a wealth of accompanying papers, including:

  • scripts
  • diaries
  • film recipts
  • festival entry papers
  • clippings
  • items made for film screenings
  • correspondence

A few winners from today’s work are below.  I especially like William Davis’ notes about the Five Year Diary chapter A BREAKDOWN and AFTER THE MENTAL HOSPITAL


flier for Mass Art program small IAC competition Suicide smallerA Breakdown judge report smaller


Sometimes we just have to laugh at the things that come into the Film Conservation Center.

audio tape


note in box of film

We have to laugh because otherwise we might cry.

super 8 film in a bag


16mm film in a bag


Home Movie Day 2013 is just around the corner!

Greetings, home movie makers and fans! We hope you will join us for our yearly screening of your home movies on Saturday, October 26.
What is Home Movie Day?For more than a decade, film archivists and the public have been convening in small spaces all over the globe and gathering around flickering images of times of yore. Grandmothers and babies, now since gone or grown, smile and wave to the camera-person as we watch them through the magical time machine of cinema.Vacations!


Amateur theatricals!

There is always something interesting and funny to watch, and we hope you will join us for this year’s event.

The Boston area HMD 11 will be held at SCATV in Union Square, Somerville.

Saturday, October 26, 2013
11am film check in
noon – 3pm screening
early film drop off encouraged, either at SCATV or HFA offices in the lower level of the Carpenter Center, Harvard University.

Formats accepted: 8mm, super 8, 16mm, VHS, DVD, digital files (playable via laptop)

Films will be inspected for damage prior to projection, so please drop-off early.

More information is available here:

 Here is our facebook event page:
We hope to see you and your movies next weekend!
Read about prior HMD events:

Anne Charlotte Robertson – upcoming screenings


The HFA is pleased to announce some of Anne Charlotte Robertson‘s films will be screening at this year’s Views from the Avant-Garde series at the New York Film Festival.

Since receiving the collection last year, we have been working with smallgauge film lab Brodsky & Treadway to make digital masters of the super 8 originals.  Several of those new transfers premiered this past weekend at our cinemateque.

We’ll be presenting a program of shorts, as well as 8 reels of the FIVE YEAR DIARY at the Views.  Three of these reels (1,2, and 9) have not been screened for some time.

Scroll past image for ACR’s filmography.

(above) FIVE YEAR DIARY reel 1 (1981)

Anne Robertson Filmography, with short descriptions written by ACR

EXPERIMENT: (1976) 3 minutes. Black and white. Silent. Two selves face each other. mirroring motion, cross-fading, time-lapse sunlit wall.

PIXILLATION (1976) 3 minutes. Black and white. Silent.  Another experiment in doubling oneself, set against clouds, brick column, and wind.

SPIRIT OF ’76 (1976) 10 minutes. Color. Silent.  Self-portrait allegories to doll, porch, garden, smoke, fire, compost pile. cat, etc.

SUBWAYS (1976) 13 minutes. Black and white. Sound.  Lightshow in public transit tunnels, patterns and flashes, screeching and bells.

DAWN (1979) 13 minutes. Color. Silent.  Many days and dusks. palpable moving light time-lapsed in view of a city backlot.

SNOOZALARM (1979) 10 minutes. Color. Sound.  The day-sleeper. amid cats, snores and re-sets the alarm clock, through seasons.

SUICIDE (1979) 10 minutes. Color. Sound.  Desperate artshock self-therapy, fantasies mixed with diary, saving life and mind.   [This film is unavailable until 2023.]

HOMEBIRTH (1980) 10 minutes. Color. Silent.  Documenting a swift painless midwife-assisted birth of second daughter to yogic family.   [This film is unavailable for screenings.  Not in HFA collection]

LOCOMOTION (1981) 7 minutes. Color. Sound.  Overdose, breakdown, and rage at system in a stylized mental hospital isolation room.

OUT A WINDOW (1981) 3 minutes. Color. Sound.   Self-portrait; stark loneliness of winter rooftop architectural details; crowd sounds.

GOING TO WORK (1981) 7 minutes. Color. Sound.  Daily morning trudge and trolley through snow and ice.

LONELY STREETS (1981) 10 minutes. Color. Sound.  A long walk through poor neighborhoods, loneliness

FIVE YEAR DIARY (1981 -1997)  36+ hours. Color.  Autobiography, storytelling, images, experimental

MAGAZINE MOUTH (1983) 10 minutes. Color. Sound.  Folly of American consumer bingeing, animated with photos/ads and patriotic band music.

DEPRESSION FOCUS PLEASE (1984) 3 minutes. Color. Sound.  Intended as a longer film, this proved sufficient to vignette the nuances of my sadness.

TALKING TO MYSELF  #1 (1985)  3 minutes. Color and Black and white. Sound.  Double-exposed, self faces self, wrangling. complaining, trying to hear oneself think.

KAFKA KAMERA (1985) 3 minutes. Color. Sound.  Filmmaker’s paranoia: one day the camera wakes you up, and pursues relentlessly all day.

FRUIT (1985) 8 minutes. Color. Silent.  Fantastical comparisons of myself to ripe fruits, as I lose weight eating them; nude.  [This film is unavailable until 2023.]

ROTTING PUMPKIN (1985).13 minutes. Color. Silent.  A white pumpkin painted with a lady’s face rots in time-lapse over several weeks.

ANNE ROBERTSON (1985) 4 minutes. Color and black and white. Silent.  A visual chronology, compilation of still photos by myself and others, introduces Diary.  [this is now part of FIVE YEAR DIARY Reel 1]

MY OBSESSION (1986)  16 minutes. Color. Sound and performance.  Crush on the BBC scifi hero Doctor Who, filmed off TV, with comic fan interaction.

THE NUDE (1987)  17 minutes. Color. Sound and performance.  Naked film dances, losing 40 pounds; live clothed self attempts to censor the image.   [This film is unavailable until 2023.]

WITH CLOTHES (1987) 17 minutes. Color. Sound and performance.  Film self tries on clothes while losing 40 pounds; live self in paper suit censors image.    [This film is unavailable until 2023.]

TALKING TO MYSELF #2 (1988)  17 minutes. Color. Sound and performance.  Naked film self sits and converses with naked live self, about health, weight, and image.  [This film is unavailable until 2023.]

WEIGHT (1988) 55 minutes. Color. Sound.  Walking and sitting in a repetitive pattern for three years, loss/gain of over 50 pounds.  [This film is unavailable until 2023.]

DIET (1988) 24 minutes. Color. Sound.  The eternal resolutions to go on a diet that never seems to happen; nude comedy.   [This film is unavailable until 2023.]

APOLOGIES (1990). 17 minutes. Color. Sound.   My therapy for excessive apologies, a constant sense of neurotic personal guilt explored.

MELON PATCHES (1998) 27 minutes, color and B&W, sound.  Gradually, life-affirming images of children, gardens, birds, replace depression.

ALIEN CORN (1998) 14 minutes, color, sound.  Dark visions are replaced by cheery scenes of children and adults as alien invaders.

ARTIST’S RESIDENCY (Digital Video) (2001) 61 minutes, color, sound.  Literally, an artist’s residency learning digital video in Buffalo, New York.

MY CAT, MY GARDEN, AND 9/11 (2001) 6 minutes, color, sound. My adored cat Zouina died a week before the tragedy; a week after, my garden died.

Anne Charlotte Robertson

It is with mixed emotions the Harvard Film Archive announces an exciting new acquisition – the Anne Charlotte Robertson Collection.  Anne died this September in hospice after a battle with cancer, and left her extensive work to the HFA.  [obituary]

Anne Charlotte Robertson was a Super 8 filmmaker and diarist who lived in Framingham, MA.  She began making films in the mid-1970s as an undergrad at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and earned her MFA at the Massachusetts College of Art (class of ’85).  Her main work is the 38-hour opus, FIVE YEAR DIARY, which she began in 1981 and kept far longer than five years.  Each episode of the diary, spanning varying numbers of days, is 27 minutes (approximately 8 camera rolls) and the diary is 84 reels long.  In addition to the FIVE YEAR DIARY, Anne made over 30 other (mostly diaristic) short films, including APOLOGIES (1990), TALKING TO MYSELF (1985), MAGAZINE MOUTH (1983), and MELON PATCHES, OR REASONS TO GO ON LIVING (1994).

Spirit of ’76

Ms. Robertson used a sound super 8 camera, and the films have many layers of soundtrack.  The original screenings were performances if Anne was in attendance.  There is the original sound on film, recorded at the same time as the picture, there are often also audio cassettes she would play with the film, and she spoke over the film as well.

Anne took the written diary form and extended it to include documentary, experimental and animated filmmaking techniques. She did not shy away from exposing any parts of her physical situation or emotional life.  She became a pioneer of personal documentary and bravely shared experiences and observations on being a vegetarian, her cats, organic gardening, food, and her struggles with weight, her smoking and alcohol addictions, and depression (she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder).   Romance (or lack thereof) and obsession are long-running themes in the DIARY films, as is the cycle of life.  In the films, Anne sows seeds, reaps vegetables, cooks and pickles them, composts the scraps.  She buries family members and beloved cats, notes the changing seasons, contemplates suicide, has nervous breakdowns, creates films, pines for her celebrity crush (Tom Baker of Doctor Who), finds religion, and obsessively documents her own life in film, paper, and audio tape.

Anne didn’t shy away from documenting her own weaknesses.  Weight and diets are addressed throughout the work.  Her struggle with mental illness is investigated again and again.  She made a film while undergoing a nervous breakdown.  She talks about being hospitalized, taking prescription drugs, and fearing the next breakdown.  In the layered audio of the DIARY film, she explains what was going through her head when she shot certain things – here she is looking for signs in the everyday; here she is obsessively visually cataloging her garbage; here she is worrying she is causing pain to the root vegetables she means to eat – a problem solved by re-planting them.


Ms. Robertson’s films were shown all over the world, often at super 8 – specific festivals.  Her work touched many people, and inspired a number of women filmmakers.  In 2001, she was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in Filmmaking.

The material given to the Harvard Film Archive includes the original films, film prints, video copies of the films, as well as the intellectual and distribution rights.  The collection also includes scores of hours of audio tape, papers (including diaries and letters), and photographs.

The HFA is working with the award –winning small gauge film lab Brodsky and Treadway to preserve these unique films by creating new digital masters, incorporating the disparate soundtracks, and will make them available for rental.  Anne had recorded her usually performed audio for some of the DIARY films, and masters have been created using both sound elements (the recordings and the sound-on-film).  She left scripts with some of her DIARY films, and requested that someone record the performed audio for future preservation work.

written by Liz Coffey

The following titles, as a condition of the will, remain unavailable until 2023:

SUICIDE (1979)


FRUIT (1985)

THE NUDE (1987)



WEIGHT (1988)

DIET (1988)

Some of the DIARY films will also be unavailable (titles forthcoming).

The HFA will be presenting a weekend of the works of Anne Robertson in September 2013 on the anniversary of her death.

For information regarding showing Anne Robertson’s films, please contact the Harvard Film Archive’s print trafficker, Mark Johnson at: mhjohns[at]fas[dot]harvard[dot]edu.

For more information about the collection, please contact the HFA’s film conservator, Liz Coffey: coffey[at]fas[dot]harvard[dot]edu