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Mining the Home Movie

Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Mining the Home Movie
    Book Description:

    The first international anthology to explore the historical significance of amateur film,Mining the Home Moviemakes visible, through image and analysis, the hidden yet ubiquitous world of home moviemaking. These essays boldly combine primary research, archival collections, critical analyses, filmmakers' own stories, and new theoretical approaches regarding the meaning and value of amateur and archival films. Editors Karen L. Ishizuka and Patricia R. Zimmermann have fashioned a groundbreaking volume that identifies home movies as vital methods of visually preserving history. The essays cover an enormous range of subject matter, defining an important genre of film studies and establishing the home movie as an invaluable tool for extracting historical and social insights.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93968-4
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    This anthology began as an international symposium—which I organized and in which Patricia Zimmermann was a participant—at the Getty Center in Los Angeles during its inaugural year, 1998. Called “The Past as Present: The Home Movie as Cinema of Record,” the symposium was a result of my tenure as a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute for the Arts and Humanities. The Getty, of course, began as a museum based in Greek and Roman antiquities, eighteenth-century French furniture, and European paintings before becoming a modern-day Edinburgh Castle looming over the cultural landscape of Los Angeles. Bringing an...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Introduction. The Home Movie Movement: Excavations, Artifacts, Minings
    (pp. 1-28)

    This innocent query suggests a web of misconceptions and dispossessions. Although the evolution of home movies and amateur film has paralleled the historical trajectory of commercial film since 1895, and despite the pervasive use of home filmmaking technologies since the mid-1920s, home movies too often have been perceived as simply an irrelevant pastime or nostalgic mementos of the past, or dismissed as insignificant byproducts of consumer technology. In the popular imaginary, home movies are often defined by negation: noncommercial, nonprofessional, unnecessary.¹

    Mining the Home Movieasks our readers to turn their thinking about cinema inside out, to reverse these popular-culture...

  7. 1 Remaking Home Movies
    (pp. 29-40)

    After I left Trinidad in 1971 to go to school, my mother would send me care packages. In typical Caribbean style, they were seldom mailed but rather entrusted to relatives or family friends. At one point in the 1980s I received such a parcel in Toronto that, instead of the usual guava jelly and Julie mangoes, consisted of a plastic bag containing two dozen reels of 8mm film. In an enclosed note, my mother explained that she had placed the film in an old iron safe—one of several ancient appliances she just couldn’t bring herself to discard—that sat...

  8. 2 The Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution
    (pp. 41-46)

    The Human Studies Film Archives (HSFA) was founded in 1975, as the National Anthropological Film Center in the National Museum of Natural History, through the coordinated efforts of a small but passionately committed group of anthropologists and filmmakers. In 1981, as the result of a reorganization, the HSFA was given its current name and became a part of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History. Although the HSFA was initially conceived as a repository for historical and contemporary ethnographic film records, staff soon realized that a much broader range of films would significantly contribute to a moving-image history...

  9. 3 Wittgenstein Tractatus: Personal Reflections on Home Movies
    (pp. 47-56)

    Over the past ten years I have made seventeen video-films based on private movies, most of them Hungarian sagas. Some of them are essays; others are comparative, international stories; two others are Dutch sagas. The source material for most of my work is archived in the Private Photo and Film Archive in Budapest, which was founded in 1983 to collect the vanishing fragments of the Hungarian past. Until 1988 my involvement was merely “archaeological,” but from then on, thanks to my first commission, I have produced for television, museums, and archives. Essentially, making these films and the research they require...

  10. 4 La Filmoteca de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
    (pp. 57-61)

    I define amateur cinema as films without an interest in profit, produced by technicians and actors who are not financially compensated. One subset of amateur film is family movies that focus on social events and celebrations. However, sometimes a more complex argumentative or documentary movie, often initiated by one or more amateurs, emerges. The basic purpose of these productions is to share a fun and enjoyable activity in order to make a more ambitious movie that circulates and is sometimes exhibited beyond the confines of the family home.

    In places where a more professional cinematographic industry did not exist or...

  11. 5 Ordinary Film: Péter Forgács’s The Maelstrom
    (pp. 62-72)

    The opening ofThe Maelstrompresents a silent image of small, seemingly fragile beings tossed on a stormy sea. Silence draws us out—where are we, and what are we looking at?—and then the film pushes us back. The remainder of the film—with only a few punctuations—uses sound (music, cries, sound effects) to bring us along. But we start with silence and the sea drawing us out. Where are we being taken?

    When sound emerges near the beginning ofThe Maelstrom, we see people drawn to waves that crash ominously against a floodwall. They are drawn to...

  12. 6 The Imperial War Museum Film and Video Archive
    (pp. 73-77)

    The Imperial War Museum Film and Video Archive (IWM Film and Video Archive) originates from the end of World War I, when the films taken by British official cameramen attached to the Army and the Royal Navy were passed to the newly founded museum for preservation. This material, together with the record film shot by combat cameramen during World War II and videotapes of more recent conflicts, constitutes the official core of the archive.

    When in the 1960s amateur film began to be offered to the archive, the material acquired for preservation was composed mainly of films shot by officers...

  13. 7 90 Miles: The Politics and Aesthetics of Personal Documentary
    (pp. 78-91)

    90 Miles(Juan Carlos Zaldívar, 2001) is a personal documentary, a story of becoming Cuban American. What makes90 Milesparticularly interesting to me is that, unlike some filmic journeys narrating how ethnicities combine to become “hyphenates,” this film names and records the failure, rather than the successful resolution, of that hyphenation. The three playful requisites cited in the above quote cannot provide sufficient glue to bind Cuban and American: those two names, those two histories, those two complicated and fractured formations.¹90 Milesis literally the measure of the distance between the two countries, but the film alsotakes...

  14. 8 The Florida Moving Image Archive
    (pp. 92-97)

    Since its founding in 1986, the Florida Moving Image Archive, formerly known as the Louis Wolfson II Media History Center, has become one of the largest and most active moving image archives in the United States. The archive was established with a donation of over two million feet of television news film and thousands of hours of videotape from the first television station in Florida, WTVJ, which began broadcasting in 1949 and is one of the oldest in the country.

    The archive’s policy is reflected in our mission to collect, preserve, and make accessible film and video materials made in...

  15. 9 Something Strong Within: A Visual Essay
    (pp. 98-106)

    During World War II, the United States government incarcerated over 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese descent—two-thirds of whom were American citizens by birth. They had committed no wrong and were imprisoned without due process of law. Although the U.S. was at war with Italy and Germany as well as Japan, only Japanese Americans were subjected to this mass removal and incarceration.

    The following are actual home movies of this chapter of American history. Most were taken by inmates while in camp. Since cameras were considered contraband, some of the films were taken surreptitiously. As time passed and...

  16. 10 Something Strong Within as Historical Memory
    (pp. 107-121)

    Something Strong Within(1994), directed by Robert A. Nakamura and written and produced by Karen L. Ishizuka, is a documentary film that illuminates the stateside detention camps established by the U.S. government for Japanese Americans during World War II. Pursuant to an executive order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, over 120,000 men, women, and children—two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens by birth—were wrested from their homes and communities without due process of law. They were detained in quickly constructed camps at ten desolate sites across the United States for up to three years. The legal injustices, widespread racism,...

  17. 11 The Moving Image Archive of the Japanese American National Museum
    (pp. 122-125)

    The Japanese American National Museum is a private nonprofit organization incorporated in March 1985 as the first museum in the United States devoted to presenting the history and culture of Japanese Americans. Its mission is to make known the Japanese American experience as an integral part of our nation’s heritage in order to improve understanding of and appreciation for America’s ethnic and cultural diversity. Through the development of a comprehensive collection of Japanese American material culture and through a multifaceted program of exhibitions, educational programs, films, and publications, the museum tells the story of Japanese Americans from the first Japanese...

  18. 12 The Home Movie and the National Film Registry: The Story of Topaz
    (pp. 126-141)

    Called “the biggest surprise” of that year’s list byThe Hollywood Reporter,¹ in 1996 home movies taken in one of the United States’ World War II prison camps for Japanese Americans were inducted into the National Film Registry. Established by Congress in 1988, the Registry is composed of an illustrious slate of American films that are selected by the Librarian of Congress for their enduring cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance. The year beforeTopazwas selected, the Registry numbered only 175 films selected from the thousands nominated, the majority of which were commercial studio productions directed by white males.Topaz...

  19. 13 The Nederlands Archive/Museum Institute
    (pp. 142-147)

    The Nederlands Archive/Museum Institute is a national, general film archive engaged in a variety of activities: preservation, restoration, selection and acquisition, cataloguing, research, publication, presentation, and distribution. These activities encompass the full array of materials in the archive: films, posters and other publicity materials, personal and business papers, scripts, stills, books, and so forth.

    “National” means, of course, that the Nederlands Archive/Museum Institute is first of all responsible for the Dutch film heritage. This mission is often misunderstood as preserving only national film productions. But as the Netherlands has always had a small film industry, most of the film fare...

  20. 14 Home Away from Home: Private Films from the Dutch East Indies
    (pp. 148-162)

    Home movies in their intended family settings differ from other types of movie screenings, as Eric de Kuyper and Roger Odin have argued.¹ The most significant difference is that home movies have participants rather than spectators. Not only do family members participate in the making of the home movie to the point of handing the camera from one family member to another, they also participate in creating coherence in and making sense of their images while these are being screened. It is in the conversations among family members that a home movie or series of home movies is made into...

  21. 15 The Library of Congress
    (pp. 163-167)

    Beyond preservation issues, a primary challenge for an archive is always the task of gaining bibliographic control over its holdings.A feature, television program, or short is usually able to be matched with information from reviews, catalogs, or copyright records that mention the title in question. However, even the minimal level of knowledge on the most obscure commercial production is greater than the extant records on the background of most home movies. The home movie is bound to be sui generis, unpredictable and quirky. By definition, there is no record of the film except in those rare cases when a scrupulous...

  22. 16 Deteriorating Memories: Blurring Fact and Fiction in Home Movies in India
    (pp. 168-184)

    As a filmmaker, I construct representations from already produced and imagined images: the readymade, the recycled, found footage, or found objects, the parts of an everyday culture inhabiting the private archives of memory. In the late 1990s, I embarked on a project to locate amateur films here in India that could provide me with raw resource material. In 2005, I made an experimental documentary entitledFilm Tales Is Straight 8, featuring amateur filmmaker Tom D’Aguiar and his films. I was searching for found footage. No public or official archive collects this material in India. My intention was to create a...

  23. 17 The Movie Queen: Northeast Historic Film
    (pp. 185-190)

    Northeast Historic Film (NHF) collects and preserves moving images from the northeast of the United States: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts. The collections include home movies, with particularly strong holdings from the 1930s; growing collections of 8mm and Super 8mm films; silent dramas; independent, industrial, and educational works; and television film and videotape. The archive houses more than seven million feet of film and three thousand hours of videotape.

    The archive balances preservation and accessibility, offering access to scholars and researchers, “Reference by Mail” video loan services, stock footage to producers and students, teacher workshops and student field trips,...

  24. 18 The WPA Film Library
    (pp. 191-194)

    The WPA Film Library was founded in 1987 with the purchase of the Colorstock Library, a collection of educational films and outtakes produced by Lem Bailey. Bailey began working in Hollywood on these productions in 1953. After acquiring North American rights to the British Pathé Newsreel Collection in 1991, the WPA Film Library established itself as a major source for historical images. The archive, which is a private enterprise and not a public institution, houses numerous newsreel, documentary, animated, educational, feature, and amateur film and video collections that span the period from 1896 through 2001.

    The WPA Film Library focuses...

  25. 19 Mule Racing in the Mississippi Delta
    (pp. 195-208)

    Startling home movie footage of animated, well-dressed black farmers racing mules around a track in Mississippi in the late 1930s and 1940s contrasts sharply with the more familiar still photographs of desperately poor black Southerners made by the Farm Security Administration (FSA) during the same period. Unlike professional photographs made by outsiders, this home movie footage captures the spirit and vitality of black Southerners and displays it on the screen. Preserved in the Southern Media Archive at the University of Mississippi, the film of the Delta mule races presents a rare glimpse of plantation culture and the world of African...

  26. 20 The Academy Film Archive
    (pp. 209-213)

    The Academy Film Archive’s holdings are composed of over eighty thousand elements, with an emphasis on American feature films, films that have won or been nominated for Academy Awards, footage of Oscar ceremonies, and materials that relate to the Hollywood film industry, such as behind-the-scenes footage, special-effects reels, and screen tests. We have extensive collections of home movies, documentaries, and experimental films. The archive also features collections of material from specific filmmakers, including directors Alfred Hitchcock, Satyajit Ray, and George Stevens; animator John Whitney; and documentarian Robert Drew.

    The archive currently holds over one thousand reels of home movies. About...

  27. 21 “As If by Magic”: Authority, Aesthetics, and Visions of the Workplace in Home Movies, circa 1931–1949
    (pp. 214-230)

    In the early and middle decades of the twentieth century, interest in industrial endeavor fueled an urge for storytelling that was not only a part of constructing national narratives about economic and technological might. From the very early days of home moviemaking in the United Kingdom, industry, along with family, holidays, and animals, was promoted as legitimate subject matter for cine enthusiasts.¹ These resultant unofficial moving histories of working people constitute an important record of past economic activities during decades of profound change. Many of the material traces of those industrial memories have now been erased from the landscape. Oral...

  28. 22 The New Zealand Film Archive/Nga Kaitiaki o Nga Taonga Whitiahua
    (pp. 231-234)

    The New Zealand Film Archive “collects, protects and projects” the country’s moving image history, giving equal emphasis to the processes of acquisition, preservation, and access. It has a broad-based collection, ranging from commercials and training films to features and television drama, from documentaries and newsreels to music videos and home movies. Our earliest New Zealand film (showing soldiers departing for the Boer War) is from 1900. In addition, the archive holds a large collection of associated support material—books, photographs, posters, periodicals, and ephemera—that document the story of film in New Zealand.

    Of our fifty thousand film and video...

  29. 23 Working People, Topical Films, and Home Movies: The Case of the North West Film Archive
    (pp. 235-248)

    The North West Film Archive (NWFA) is a public film collection housed at the Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester, England. Over the years, the NWFA has garnered professional recognition as the home of the North West’s filmed heritage. Currently, it contains Britain’s largest regional film source.

    The archive originated from a research project designed to salvage films about local people’s lives before they were lost forever through chemical deterioration, neglect, or destruction. This search and rescue initiative was part of a research effort by a team of historians united by their interest in recovering the story of the region’s working...

  30. 24 The Oregon State Historical Society’s Moving Image Archives
    (pp. 249-254)

    The Oregon State Historical Society’s Moving Image Archives contain over 15,000 titles, a total of approximately 8.5 million feet of film. The archives’ holdings include early newsreels, family movies, commercial/industrial films, travel and nature films, and a host of fragments and outtakes produced by professional and amateur cameramen and -women from 1902 through 1992. The diverse subjects include logging, fishing, family life, trolleys, aviation, and business and industry.

    The television news collections comprise the largest portion of the archives. Depicting daily Portland and Oregon news events from 1966 through 1984, extensive collections of film generated by KOIN and KPTV are...

  31. 25 Reflections on the Family Home Movie as Document: A Semio-Pragmatic Approach
    (pp. 255-271)

    This essay uses the semio-pragmatic model I have developed over the last two decades.¹ In France, the semiological approach to cinema² was developed in the tradition of Ferdinand de Saussure on a basis of immanence: film semiology focuses on thefilmic text. When semiology accounts for the spectator, the spectator is constructed by the film.³ When semiology investigates enunciation, it examines its traces in the text. This textual approach yielded positive results in cinema research.⁴ However, semiology completely underestimates the determining role of context in textual construction.

    My semio-pragmatic model maintains the benefits of the semiological textual approach and clarifies...

  32. 26 The Stephen Lighthill Collection at the UCLA Film & Television Archive
    (pp. 272-274)

    The UCLA Film & Television Archive’s collection has historically focused on professional film productions; its core consists of Hollywood studio features and Hearst newsreel footage. Over the years, however, a number of excellent examples of alternative film forms have made their way into the archive’s vaults. Prominent among these is a growing collection of American independent cinema. By its very nature independent film crosses the boundaries between “professional” and “amateur” quite freely, often exhibiting characteristics of both within the same production. An illuminating instance of this dynamic is the Stephen Lighthill Collection at UCLA.

    Stephen Lighthill, now a professional cinematographer, began...

  33. 27 Morphing History into Histories: From Amateur Film to the Archive of the Future
    (pp. 275-288)

    A historiographic theory of amateur film must map localized microhistories rather than nationalized, phantasmatic representations. These microhistories hybridize the local with the global, the psychic with the political. Amateur films do not simply absorb history. Instead, they mobilize an active historical process of reimaging and reinvention.

    If cinematic practices, technologies, sites, and histories are pluralized, how does historiography change? What models explain the endlessly mobile, contradictory histories of amateur film? This reconceptualization of amateur film as an active historical process transforms history into histories.¹ This historiography must move beyond the binary of the accomplished professional versus the deficient, privatized amateur....

  34. Selected Filmography and Videography
    (pp. 289-298)
  35. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 299-308)
  36. List of Contributors
    (pp. 309-314)
  37. Index
    (pp. 315-333)