Mention "home movies" nowadays, and most people immediately think America's Funniest Home Videos.
But that's not what Anthology Film Archives' Home Movie Day is all about. They aren't interested in videos of sledding accidents and talking dogs-they're celebrating those bygone days (which plenty of us still remember) of the boxy, hand-cranked 8mm cameras which only came out of the closet on Christmas, dance recitals, that trip to Mt. Rushmore, or when a first step was imminent.
With the advent of affordable camcorders in the 1980s, those old-fashioned home movies immediately became marginalized. But for the purist, they also came to represent a culture and aesthetic all their own.
Home movies were trickier both to shoot and to screen. They were grainy, jerky, and out-of-focus-and they also did a much more masterful job of capturing both the mundane and the sublime of America life-often at the same moment. They're funny, they're sad, and profoundly strange. My dad, for instance, brought an 8mm movie camera with him to Korea during the war, where he was a boom operator in a KC-135 refueler. This meant that as a kid, along with the Christmas/dance recital/vacation movies, I was subjected to hours of in-flight refueling footage. Only later did I realize that I, in essence, had grown up watching the title sequence from Dr. Strangelove over and over again-which may help explain a few things.
That's one of the fascinating things about home movies-to me, it was just more of Dad's boring refueling footage, but to a stranger, it might well be, Christ, Art.
And perhaps that explains why, for the third year in a row, Anthology is inviting you, and me, and anyone who might've picked up a stack of those small reels at some Conshohocken yard sale to bring our home movies in to be screened in a real-live theater full of people (and not just a sheet taped to the basement wall) this Saturday, August 13. There may not be any shots of trees falling on cars, fat ladies falling out of boats, or trampoline mishaps, but there will doubtless be countless examples of the unintentionally surreal and unexpectedly moving. Whether you know the people in these films or not, each one in its own way is a snapshot (so to speak) of an America that no longer exists.
(And if nothing else, you can always laugh at the clothes and the hair.)
There will also be a multimedia presentation by Huckleberry Lain and Jeff Mock, lectures on film preservation, a bunch of old celebrity "home movies," and a Sunday screening of Jonas Mekas' meditation on the art and meaning of the home movie, Lost, Lost, Lost.
For more info, or if you're interested in showing your own 8 mm, Super-8 mm, or 16 mm home movies, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or see homemovieday.com.
Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Ave. (2nd St.), 212-505-5181; 1-5., $8 gen. /$6 st./sc