Many basements, attics, closets and garages harbor dusty boxes of Super 8 films, VHS tapes or even mini-DVs. These old home movies show long-forgotten birthday parties, trips to the amusement park, babies cuddled by now deceased grandparents, all flickering moments in time captured but rarely screened.
The Center For Home Movies is trying to change that. Each year, the nonprofit sponsors Home Movie Day when people around the world dust off their old filmstrips and videotapes and watch them in public. Last year, 87 screenings took place across four continents; this year's celebration is Saturday, October 18.
"It gives people the opportunity to revisit these memories in these movies," says filmmaker and preservationist Taylore Dunne, who will be hosting this year's Colorado event at the Boulder Public Library.
Dunne first participated in Home Movie Day when she was working as a projectionist at Anthology Film Archives, in New York City. "I was blown away by the films people brought in," she says. "One of the films I saw was deemed a national treasure, and now you can go to the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress and see it."
Many of the prints screened feature the usual home movie fodder: babies, pets and parties. "But you never know what you're going to get," she adds. "Last year, this man was a pilot during Vietnam. He shot Super 8 from the cockpit of his plane, out the window. I think he said he shot it illegally. It was beautiful.
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"A couple of years ago, someone showed a film. I think we figured it was from the '30s. It was a home movie of this person's farm and there was a two-headed calf born on the farm, and they filmed it," Dunne adds.
One year a woman brought a film of her child who had passed away when he was a teenager. "The woman who brought the film hadn't seen it in 20 to 25 years, basically since her child was a baby," she recalls. "It was serious. I get choked up just thinking about it. It was emotional. The woman who brought the film was really grateful to be able to see it for that reason."
One of the goals of the event is to educate people about how to preserve film and video: Protect it from humidity, keep it dry, keep it cool.
Over the years, Dunne has seen families pay to transfer their old films to video or DVDs and then throw away the original prints. This is a huge mistake, she says: "Video tends to fall apart. Film is way more stable. We educate people on the availability of transferring to video but make sure they hold on to their films and do not throw them away."
To learn more about film preservation, to show off your own collection or just to see the private lives of the people of Colorado, head to the Boulder Public Library, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 18, for this free event. For more information, go to the Home Movie Day website.
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