Home Movies in Raleigh

Made the trip to Raleigh yetsreday to participate in their Home Movie Day 2006 screening event, sponsored in part by the AV Geeks, and very much enjoyed it. as the Home Movie Day website points out, home movies present an important problem for archivists and film scholars who are concerned with preserving these valuable windows into the past. Most home movies are simply sitting in boxes in basements or attics, in part because families have no way to watch these films because they don’t own a projector. I don’t have very many home movies, but I very much enjoyed watching family movies, some of which dated back to the 1930s (or possibly even the late 1920s) and using those films to see images of family and community life throughout the US over the last fifty or sixty years.

Many of the home movies were taken in the 1960s and ’70s, often centering on holidays and special occasions such as Christmas, weddings, and graduation ceremonies, allowing a glimpse not only into that individual family but also into the fashions and tastes of a middle-class, southern family in the 1960s, the decrations on the Christmas tree, the children’s toys and preents, and other remarkable details that might go unnoticed. Other films included home movies taken at Yankee Stadium in the 1930s, footage of a family picnic featuring the biggest lobster claw I’ve ever seen (the claw was nearly as big as someone’s head), a 1970s Taiwanese family eating sushi likely in a Manhattan restaurant, and some incredible black-and-white footage taken through the bottom of a glass-bottomed boat. But the phrase “home movie” can also be misleading in that much of the footage was taken on vacations or other locations that aren’t exactly home. It was interesting to watch as people tried to recall when and where footage was taken, and at the Raleigh screening, we had home movies filmed all over the world, from as far away as Taiwan, Australia, Indonesia, and Brazil, in some ways complicating any simple definition of home.

Home Movie Day also served as avaluable reminder of the effect of the various film stocks and cameras on what we saw. Alternating between Super-8, 8mmm, black-and-white, and color film with a veariety of lenses, these home movie screenings can also serve as a valuable illustration of the history of how families documented themselves and the kinds of products developed and sold by Kodak and other comapnies specializing in marketing cameras for the home market. Simply a cool event all around. I even won a DVD collection of eductaional films, The Modern Housewife, compiled by the AV Geeks.

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