It's time to dust off those canisters of old home movies, so easily forgotten in this digital-dominated age. The organizers of Home Movie Day believe such films -- yes, birthday parties, family vacations, weddings and the like -- are valuable cultural resources worth sharing and keeping for posterity.
The third annual event, planned for Saturday in more than 40 cities worldwide, was launched by a small group of film archivists concerned that amateur footage of the 20th century would be lost without a concerted public awareness effort. Washington's Home Movie Day will be held at the Warehouse Screening Room on Seventh Street NW and will feature 8mm, Super 8 and 16mm movies brought by attendees. Baltimore, Richmond, Philadelphia and New York are among the cities participating.
"We get a lot of people waving," says Amy Gallick, 29, a Library of Congress film archivist who volunteers as Home Movie Day's local coordinator, explaining that travel footage from the 1960s and early '70s dominated the first two D.C. events. She also remembers standout moments such as watching a group of older women learn the twist, and seeing footage of her mother, pregnant with Gallick, that she had never viewed before.
Organizers find that people often have old family movies but no equipment on which to view them. Others simply forget about their films until reminded by Home Movie Day, which also includes discussions about preservation and storage. Volunteers show as many films as they can squeeze in (first inspecting them for content -- no porn, please).
Snowden Becker, 30, a Home Movie Day founder and archivist for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, notes that amateur movie cameras were introduced in the 1920s and remained popular until the ascendancy of home video in the '80s. Becker says that while some home movies can take on major historical significance, such as Abraham Zapruder's 8mm footage of President Kennedy's assassination, most are important simply for the details of everyday life they capture.
"Home movies give us pictures of places and people -- a way of life -- that has changed," Becker says. "Sometimes it takes sitting in a roomful of strangers to realize that your grandparents shot a piece of local history."
The L.A. event tends to yield a lot of interesting footage of trips to Las Vegas, Becker observes, but also emotionally powerful moments. She recalls a woman who brought film that turned out to have been shot at her parents' wedding in the 1930s. Struck by the beauty of the event and the sight of relatives who were now deceased, "she starts crying," says Becker, "and I start crying."
Event organizers have also established the Center for Home Movies, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit with the goal of creating a permanent national archive at a location to be determined. They also plan to release a DVD, "Living Room Cinema: Remarkable Films from Home Movie Day," next year.
Becker concludes, "It's time to get over the prejudice that home movies are boring or uninteresting to people outside your family."
Mid City Artists
The members of Mid City Artists are striving to raise their profile amid the whirl of development where they live, work or both. The burgeoning Mid City area, anchored by the 14th Street NW corridor between Thomas Circle and U Street, has become a destination for theater, art galleries, shops and restaurants -- not to mention expanded living options created by a number of new residential buildings.
"All of us are very concerned about the neighborhood," says Mid City Artists member Regina Miele, "and keeping it an arts area and not letting it become like Georgetown."
The group started last year with two "open studio" weekends, followed by one in June and one planned for Nov. 12 and 13. An exhibition featuring work by 15 of the group's 27 members also opened Saturday at Raven Arts, Miele's 14th Street studio and frame shop. A public reception will be held tonight.
Miele, 35, opened her studio in 1998 and moved to the neighborhood three years ago. "It's important to show artists in their working environments," she says of the group's activities. "You might ask a question that you'd feel stupid asking in the middle of a gallery in SoHo, and you get to know the artists."
Opportunities for artists to relocate to Mid City are limited as the development boom drives up prices, Miele observes, and she hopes Mid City Artists can help send a message that their presence is vital to the community mix.
"We felt that there would be strength in numbers," says group member Sondra N. Arkin, 45. "Art is good for the neighborhood."
Home Movie Day at the Warehouse Screening Room, 1021 Seventh St. NW. Saturday at 7 p.m. Free. Call 202-783-3933 or visit www.homemovieday.com.
Mid City Artists Summer Group Show at Raven Arts, 1833 14th St. NW, second floor, through Aug. 20. Reception today 6-8 p.m. Regular hours Tuesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Free. Call 202-234-2550 or visit www.midcityartists.com.