It’s been a few years since the James River Film Society (formerly Richmond Moving Image Co-op) hosted a Home Movie Day event, but come this Saturday that oversight will be about as memorable as the flickers of darkness between the frames of your favorite home movie format (mine is Super 8). That said, some of my favorite movie moments ARE the flickers of darkness between frames, so perhaps that opening isn’t the best metaphor.
If past years hold true — and assuming the word gets out to the right people — a few folks ought to turn out with shoe boxes full of handmade, hand-labeled home movie reels full of shuttered memories. What I remember from past HMD-Richmond events is that many people had never seen the films they brought. These were inherited or saved heirlooms, left behind in the now rapid evolution of home movie making technology. More often than not these family treasures get pitched in the trash after an older relative dies or after “the well-intentioned” buy into the “newer is better” message of the less reputable home movie transfer houses, transfer their 16mm, 8mm, 9.5mm or Super 8 home movies to DVD (and now hard drives) and pitch the original films. For this and other reasons Home Movie Day was established in 2002 by a group of film archivists concerned about what would happen to all the home movies shot on film in the 20th Century. They knew many people have boxes full of family memories that they’ve never seen for lack of a projector, or out of fear that the films were too fragile to be viewed. Plus, they knew that people might transfer and throw away their “obsolete” films, mistakenly believing the new digital formats would “last forever.” Contrary to this popular belief, it has already been proven by film archivists that these original films and their viewing equipment can long outlast their newer clones on VHS, DVD and other digital formats. Now, that doesn’t mean that HMD is anti-video or anti-digital. Au contraire! It just means that we are pro-film!
A few of my favorite memories from HMD-Richmond’s past:
- An amazing 16mm travelogue of Virginia, shot in cinemascope and color (Kodachrome, if I remember correctly) — this one was shot by an amateur filmmaker (“amateur” used in the finest sense of the word, i.e. “an admirer, devotee; one who engages in a pursuit, study, science or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession) who was involved in a local photography/cine-club. I remember the title for the Virginia Beach segment was made in the sand, maybe with shells, and all the segments had similarly inventive and topical titles.
- A Little Rascal-esque film of a little boy (from the 1950s, early 1960s) “torturing” his dog. He chased it around and around, tried picking it up, pulled its tail, hit it, etc. — the person filming even stopped to try to get him focused on something else (it didn’t work). Finally the poor dog hid under a car while the little boy circled and peered under.
- Someone brought the home movie of her parents’ wedding that she’d never seen. She cried (as did many of us) as she watched it for the first time.
There were many other people who attended and helped create some amazing home movie magic in 2004 and 2005. Here’s hoping that the 2010 installment of Home Movie Day-Richmond creates a few more such movie memories for the blessed few who choose to bring their precious home movie cargo in shoe boxes, bags and other plain wrappings to share with us, strangers and friends — a special community, if only for the day.
Home Movie Day-Richmond will be presented by the James River Film Society on Saturday, October 16 at the Richmond Public Library-Main Branch basement auditorium (101 E. Franklin Street, Richmond, Virginia, 23219). The event is FREE and open to the public.
10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Inspection, cleaning, repair and tips for taking care of your home movies*
1:00-2:30 p.m. Screening of yours and others’ home movies*
* Limit one film reel per family (unless time permits otherwise)
What kind of movies will be shown? Is it OK to bring my kids/parents/ grandparents to this event?
Home Movie Day is a family and community event, and we encourage families to come and watch their films together. We have never yet had a problem with explicit material being shown to mixed audiences at Home Movie Day. However, most HMD events are BYOF (bring-your-own-film) open screenings, and many people will bring films they have never seen themselves. For this reason, the organizers of HMD events cannot predict in advance what will be shown, nor can we absolutely guarantee that all material shown will be appropriate for young children or sensitive viewers. If this is a concern for you, please consider taking an aisle seat so you can leave the room quietly if something icky shows up onscreen.