Friday, May 23, 2008

Home Movie Love

My Dad shot some really great Super-8 home movies from roughly the late 60's through the early 80's. A couple hours of them were transferred (poorly, my Dad and I both think) to video for the occasion of his 60th birthday celebration 6 years back. The whole family got a huge kick out of seeing them, though getting a better quality transfer of this footage, especially while the actual 8 mm film reels are still in decent shape, is something I keep meaning to do.

But poor quality or no, I'm looking forward to toying around with some of this home movie footage sometime in the next month or two, putting together some short video essays exploring Breitenbach family folklore. Like a lot of folks, I'm fascinated by the Super-8 medium, the rich family history found in the scenes they depict (to say nothing of how these "scenes" can take on their own accumulative power over time and come to shape a family's own sense of history and shared experience, in a word, folklore) and the almost impressionistic quality of its grainy picture. Hell, I'm fascinated by how the grainy, color saturated moving images inherent of so many 8 mm home movie footage has been used in any number of Hollywood films over the years (sometimes gracefully, sometimes like a hammer) as a kind of shorthand for childhood nostalgia, authenticity and depicting the nuclear family at play.

Howard Jenkins gave a Patricia R. Zimmerman's Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film a shout-out in his own boundlessly enthusiastic Convergence Culture. I recently picked it and plan on cracking it later tonight. I can't think of a better way to ring in the Memorial Day Weekend.

Zimmerman's book, according to the declarative blurb on its back cover, "the first historical study of amateur film." Sounds good.

Update: And dadburnit if I didn't just come across that Zimmerman was co-editor of another book that I have perhaps completely unjustified high hopes for: Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories, a collection of essays exploring some of the more fascinating aspects of amateur film. I suppose it runs the risk of that dry, flaky prose some wings of the academy seem perennially onset with--though I almost find that with any collection of these kind of academic essay collections, you usually have the good luck of finding at one or two voices strong enough to follow further.

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