Family Film

On Oct 18 an epic event will take place in movie theaters and community centers across the globe. People will gather to watch the humblest of films: Home movies. The 12th annual Home Movie Day, an event organized by the Center for Home Movies, is designed to inspire everyone to unearth long lost home movies from dusty attics and closets. Because they have become a punch line for jokes (“Then they made us watch their home movies…”) viewers are often surprised at how entertaining and compelling they can be.

The reels of 8mm, Super 8mm and 16mm film are time capsules, instant windows into the past. Since the program is focused primarily on the pre-video era, most of the films are at least 40 years old and some date to the 1930s. Viewers are frequently stunned to see friends and relatives, some of whom are no longer alive, or much younger versions of themselves, not frozen in still pictures but walking around and hamming it up for the camera in vivid Kodachrome color.

If the occasional film can be snooze-inducing, the vast majority are stunning. Like a sudden rip in the fabric of time, these films are an explosion of the past into the present. It is not uncommon for people to burst into tears or laughter while watching. They offer a fascinatingly unmediated vision of the behaviors, styles, fashions and landscapes of eras long gone. At a time when many receive their sense of preceding decades in pre-packaged form on venues like the History Channel, Home Movie Day gives viewers an opportunity to connect directly with their own history in all of its messy glory.

Home Movie Day is also designed to encourage proper preservation. It may be difficult for those raised in the age of the smartphone to understand just how valuable these images can be. Because of their ephemeral nature, these films are always in danger of being lost. Everyone who attends a Home Movie Day event receives vital information on how to preserve their films including tips on storage and transferring to other media. The Center for Home Movies does advocate putting your films on a DVD for easy viewing but warns against the common mistake of throwing away the original films after the transfer. While DVDs are more high tech, they’re actually less stable as an archival medium than celluloid film stock. By contrast, film can easily last over a hundred years if stored in a cool, dry place.

Home Movie Day is a unique and delightful cinematic event, celebrating movies that were created for the most modest and personal motives, yet become more precious and illuminating with each passing year.

Learn more about Home Movie Day at centerforhomemovies.org.

dylan skolnick

Dylan Skolnick can usually be found at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, where he is a Co-Director.