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Home Movie Day set to preserve and share private memories

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Home Movie Day set to preserve and share private memories

By Giulia Schaub / For The Pitt News

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There’s no denying the charm and timelessness of a good old-fashioned home movie shot on Super 8 film, especially now that most of us shoot Vine and Instagram home videos every day.

To honor the vintage format, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is holding the 11th annual Home Movie Day (HMD), an international event that invites the public to share its own recorded memories and view others’ amateur films, on Saturday, Nov. 22, from noon to 4:30 p.m. at the main library in Oakland, with free admission to the public. Other stateside events will be held in Georgia and North Carolina, along with some international sites in Switzerland, Japan and Poland.

While some cities view VHS and Betamax videos on their Home Movie Days, Pittsburgh’s HMD is only viewing movies filmed on 8mm, Super 8mm or 16mm film this year. Filmmakers and casual observers alike are welcome to participate if they wish, or just wander through for their viewing pleasure. All films will be handled by archivists and viewed through vintage projectors, or participants may bring their own viewing materials. They can also bring their films to be examined or repaired and may learn more about the proper maintenance they need.

The purpose of HMD is to allow people to reminisce, through their own films and others’, and to witness the true, original essence of the period in which they were captured. Moviegoers can expect to see a wide variety of movies, most of which are silent, but an occasional film with sound may be shown.

“The nice thing [about HMD] is that every event is different because you don’t know what to expect,” said Amy Ergler, a librarian at Carnegie Library and Pittsburgh HMD site coordinator. 

In 2013, the films ranged from a psychologist’s clinical observations of her study in the 1970s to feminist allegory by a former Pitt film student who hadn’t watched her own work in over 40 years.

“[HMD] provides people with the opportunity to watch home videos that they might not have [seen] in years,” said Emily Davis, senior research associate of the time-based media collection at the Carnegie Museum of Art. “The event brings new life to home and allows people to find similarities between themselves and their neighbors. They’re just fun to watch.”

Many participants wish to recount their films as their stories unfold on the screen, according to Mark Lynn Anderson, an organizer of the event and associate professor of English and film studies at Pitt. 

“Far from screening boring, old, amateur footage, such occasions often provide us with compelling personal narratives that tell us things about previous eras that aren’t typically recorded in the public archives,” Anderson said. “And, more importantly, home movie presentations always tell us of the past differently from official history, where questions of historical memory are usually elided.”

In addition to the general public’s home movies, films from The Orgone Archive will be screened as well. A Pittsburgh-based motion picture exhibition group, The Orgone Archive and its custodian Greg Pierce salvage 16mm films dating from the 1920s to the 1990s. 

Thousands upon thousands of titles, consisting of local, national and international materials, make up the immense archive, which includes, but is not limited to, home movies, advertisements, medical films, pornography, fiction films, documentaries, educational and instructional shorts and television shows.

Normally this massive collection is kept private, but Pierce likes to make these films available to researchers when possible. 

“Greg [Pierce] is our chief projectionist for Pittsburgh HMD, and he’ll be featuring a few local gems from Orgone in between our screenings of whatever small-gauge films folks bring in to be inspected, repaired, perhaps, and screened,” Anderson said.

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Home Movie Day set to preserve and share private memories