Richmond Home Movie Day a (Small Gauge) Success

Caryl Burtner hand cranks her 1960 self back to life, courtesy of an 8mm viewer at HMD 2010.

The James River Film Society’s Home Movie Day 2010 event (held at the Richmond Public Library-Main Branch) wasn’t overrun by people bringing their home movies like we were in 2005 and 2006 but the people who came brought beautiful little movies — records of lives lived — vibrant, color memories from the past captured on 8mm and 16mm film. We had no Super 8 offerings this year — just the venerable 8mm and it’s big sibling, 16mm.

So, what of these little movies that showed up? We saw a 16mm film shot sometime in the 1950s in Japan. A friend of mine gave me these films several months ago, not knowing what to do with them/how to watch them, and I told her I’d probably not get to them until Home Movie Day. The film can had this notation: LESHER/Cherry Blossom Dance/Meiji Shrine/7-5-3 Day.

"LESHER/Cherry Blossom Dance/Meiji Shrine/7-5-3 Day," one of Mr. Jay Carl Lesher's 16mm home movies of 1950's Japan, shown at Home Movie Day 2010.

Even in this photo taken with my phone while the film was running, you can see how vibrant the color is. That is actually part of the point of Home Movie Day, to show people how much staying power film has. Don’t throw away those home movies once you transfer them to your digital format of choice; hang onto them because (1) we know that film, stored in reasonable conditions (i.e. not in the attic, storage unit or damp basement where temperatures can fluctuate drastically and the elements can easily creep in, but in reasonable environments like a desk drawer or closet in the house) can last 100 years or more; (2) technology is moving so quickly that it’s highly likely that within 10 years (more or less) the format to which you transferred your movies (how many people still have a VCR in their homes?) will be obsolete. You’ll be stuck with no way to play your home movies for future generations of family and friends.

In addition to the 16mm movie of 1950s Japan, Caryl Burtner brought an 8mm home movie with wonderful images of her family and 1960 self (jumping up and down in a dress). Caryl had already transferred this and other home movies but came anyway and delighted in the experience of first watching her movie on a hand cranked 8mm viewer (in the picture above) and then during our community screening segment of the day (1-2:30 p.m.). Janet Mincz also brought an 8mm home movie — hers gave us a glimpse of trick-or-treating circa 1967, a 17-year-old Janet in pigtails and the Montreal Expo.

By sharing these personal, family films with each other (complete with impromptu narration from the films’ owners and questions from everyone else), the 10 or so of us who were there left with a greater sense of connection. After all who hasn’t been trick-or-treating, danced or jumped with joy, traveled to new and exciting places and shared stories and memories with family and friends. I don’t know about the others who were there, but the act of watching others’ home movie memories allowed me to relive my own. The act of sharing the specific and everyday aspects of our lives allows us to discover the universal — the ways in which we are “related” and relate to each other.

If you missed it this year, don’t worry, we’ll hold a Home Movie Day celebration in Richmond next year. So, get to work now. Dig out those home movies you have stashed away, ask your older relatives if they have any and put ’em in a safe, dry, reasonably temperature controlled place for Home Movie Day 2011. We look forward to watching your memories flicker back to life with you.

Janet Mincz watches her 1967 self at Home Movie Day 2010.

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One Response to Richmond Home Movie Day a (Small Gauge) Success

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