It’s a long-standing tradition: the soft light and rhythmic hum of a projector illuminating memories from Christmases, recitals or softball games of yesteryear. Though it often produced a groan in childhood, the importance of home-movies capturing history—and emotion—cannot be overstated. However, the emergence of the digital age has left this familial pastime threatened.
What started in 2002, Home Movie Day seeks to give people the opportunity to play home movies shot on 8mm, 16mm and super-8 film. It celebrates classic technology and amateur filmmaking. The event also aims to inform people of the misinformation that’s been perpetuated by the rise of digital media.
Home Movie Day has spread throughout the country and internationally. This year it will come to Wilmington thanks to local film enthusiast Dr. Juan Carlos Kase.
“It’s kind of like an open-mic night but for home movies,” Kase says. “People bring in their movies, and sometimes they know what’s on them, sometimes they don’t. We always give the people who bring in films the opportunity to narrate the films.”
Some of the more poignant moments of the event come from listening to people getting to see their films either for the first time or for the first time in many years. People reminisce when seeing relatives who have passed away or memories that are long forgotten. Sharing these memories generates an unparalled sense of community.
“This is an amateur documentary of the private lives of Americans,” Kase describes. “Sometimes those private lives are just the average stuff, [such as] kids playing in the snow, birthday parties. Other times it’s historical events. I’ve seen the building of the Hoover Dam, footage of military figures with their friends before they go off to training, or local parades. So sometimes [the movies are] very private, sometimes they’re big public events, and sometimes they’re a mixture of the two. The great thing about [Home Movie Day] is that it’s full of surprises.”
The unique opportunity to spectate on an organic slice-of-life moment will be seen in various ways. Telling moments reveal relationships in families, child-rearing decisions, the good (and bad) fashion decisions from eras past, and even the decorum of society. The films can be curiously unpredictable.
“They can be really fascinating,” Kase enlightens. “If you’re interested in American cultural history, American sociology, or regional history then there are fascinating things to be learned about from these films.”
Wilmington’s first annual Home Movie Day already promises to deliver. A local man intends to bring in footage that was shot by a family member who was a Russian spy.
“A relative of his worked for Bell and Howell, the camera company,” Kase elaborates. “His cover was that he was a cameraman. So he has all of this stuff that he shot as a cameraman that relates, I assume, somehow to his military service. Sounds like a fascinating little snapshot of family history and national history interacting.”
Though entertaining, attendees will gain knowledge about handling real film. Kase and Paul Schreiber, a local technician who specializes in transferring old film formats to digital ones, will field questions in an effort to educate proper care for film. Given the shift from film to VHS and DVD, many people of the current generation have never actually had first-hand experience in the medium. A number of falsities also have emerged with this change in technology. People who made home movies on film— which is a work made on celluloid—often feel compelled to transfer them to video.
“Digital copies or digital transfers of old media are very fragile and not nearly as stable as the original media itself,” Kase states. “Although the [film] industry may be moving toward digital formats, and projection may be heading toward the digital formats, the history of cinema is not moving anywhere. This history of cinema was made on film.”
Film cannot only outlast digital mediums people now flock to, but it also features vibrant colors and image quality that can be compromised when transferring to video. “No matter what you do to them—how you transfer or modify them—you can’t improve the original image,” Kase emphasizes.
Assuming people remain uninformed on film, it will eventually disappear. Home Movie Day and its supporters hope to ensure that does not happen. Wilmington’s first Home Movie Day will be held in King Hall Auditorium on UNCW’s campus this Saturday, October 19th. The event is free to the public, and free parking will be available in an adjacent lot. People interested in playing their 8 mm, 16mm or super-8 films (not VHS or DVDs) are advised to come an hour early to guarantee their films get played. Films will be selected on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“If we have a diverse group of people from different backgrounds and different parts of the country, and we have different formats, we’ll have a much richer and more textured set of films to look at,” Kase urges. “So, I just want to encourage people to come, because the more people that come the better it will be.”
Home Movie Day
October 19th, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
King Hall Auditorium,
Free • www.homemovieday.com