Re: home movies and experimental film

From: Ken Bawcom (email suppressed)
Date: Sun Jul 23 2006 - 21:04:32 PDT

Of course there is a distinction between films made by film makers, and
true "home movies." I added the disclaimer to my reply that these would
be considered home movies, IF they weren't made by film artists. Andy
was asking for "home movie" films made by film makers, shooting their
own footage, and diary and travel films. So, I think the films and film
makers we have mentioned are the sort of thing he was asking for. But
of course, "Sherman's March" isn't a true home movie, shot by an
amateur, on 8mm film. Ross is no amateur.

Often film makers will incorporate TRUE home movies, that they found in
their basement, or somewhere, of their own family, into a personal
documentary including new film. I also remember a film, title and film
maker not coming to mind at the moment, that was made using some found,
professionally shot, vintage home movies. Part of the film consisted of
the hunt for the home where they were shot, and the surviving family
members of the family in the film. It was an interesting film. So,
there is a spectrum of such film, and its usage.

Ken B.

Quoting Tom B Whiteside <email suppressed>:

> It's not necessarily something I want to debate endlessly, but I do think
> it would be worthwhile to consider a tighter critical description of "home
> movies." I know that the basic call here was for examples that might show
> some degree of genre-expanding cross fertilization (or somesuch....) but I
> many of the other titles mentioned recently have anything to do with home
> movies, and I think it's a disservice to both sides. I watch a lot of home
> movies, and grew up with my own (first onscreen and later behind the
> camera) and think that the genre is commonly defined too loosely, too
> casually. Amateur film is a very large field, and a lot of artists worked
> in that field. There is a great range of amateur film, it is practically
> boundless. Home movies are a specific subset of amateur film; some artists
> worked in this field. The limits are more clearly defined.
> Going back to a Golden Age of Home Movies (baby boomers such as myself
> were the subjects) consider this - the people on screen and the people in
> the audience were the same. We watched ourselves, our families, our
> neighborhood parades. And although the shooting locations might have
> been in and around the same house as the screening location (the den? the
> living room? where was the cinema in your house?) some shooting locations
> were quite far away, as in the case of travelogues and vacation pictures.
> Once I was very eager to watch the home movies of a guy who had lived his
> entire life in the county to which I had just moved. He was an interesting
> person, I wanted to know more about the area (Wilkes County, North
> Carolina) so I watched his 30 and 40 year old home movies with him. They
> were all shot in Hawaii, Japan, Grand Canyon, places like that. (I didn't
> learn much about Wilkes County from what was on the screen, but I learned
> a lot about him.) In any case, I think that the key element in defining
> home movies might be this - they were made to be shown at home.
> Jem Cohen was working for a much wider audience when he made LOST BOOK
> FOUND - he didn't make it for the people who appear on screen. Even though
> Ross McElwee's work has focused on himself and members of his family,
> everyone thought he was simply wasting his time until he started winning
> all those awards in places like Berlin and New York. There are many layers
> of structure in NORTH ON EVERS, not to mention the technical bravura of a
> hand-written text crawling across the bottom. When I think of this work
> (and I love them dearly, one and all) I just can't think of much that
> would connect them to home movies. LOST BOOK FOUND is a late city
> symphony, McElwee is some kind of autobiographical genius, NORTH ON EVERS
> is a multifaceted documentary that covers a tremendous range of issues and
> territory.
> Eveyone one knows it already, but it's worth repeating - home movies were
> different from home video. Nobody ever let the camera run that long, you
> never could shoot much in low light, and generally home movies were
> silent. Some people still shoot home movies, in 8mm, S8, 16mm; however,
> most people shoot home video. Anytime, anywhere, any light, just start
> recording and let it go....shoot the entire parade in one long take.....
> automatic sync sound whether you want it or not..... home video is a very
> different kind of moving picture.
> Wasn't it Jonas Mekas who said that home movies are the great folk art of
> the 20th century middle class? (no, I don't remember where I read that...)
> Full disclosure - in my first screen appearance, I peed on my grandmother.
> Although she is long gone and my bladder control is faultless these days,
> the Kodachrome has not faded.
> - Whiteside
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