Oct 19, 2008

Home Movie Boxing Day

Well, the day after the big holiday is called Boxing Day, eh.

At yesterday's Anthology Film Archives screening of home movies, one Super 8 film made an emotional impact that even surpassed the story of boxer Jose Torres' wedding film turning up in 2006. This year, a married couple and their adult daughter brought a single reel of Super 8, which they told us the daughter found in her grandmother's house in Spain. They had been unable to view the footage, so they brought it for us to watch with them.

They told us that the box holding the film indicated that it might be something from grandfather's poultry business back in Spain. Instead, what it turned out to be was a film that none of them had seen -- or even knew existed. Which shock, joy, and tears they realized that what we were watching was film of their own wedding.

The bride and groom had come to the U.S. to study. One day before he entered Duke University law school, the groom was joined by the bride and their immediate family members, who traveled from Spain for the wedding. Seventeen people gathered in a Catholic church in Durham, North Carolina in 1967. After the watching the whole film the family concluded it must have been the brother-in-law who shot it. No one knew what had happened to it all these years.

As often happens at these home movie affairs, moments of serendipity followed. We learned that the couple had celebrated their 41st wedding anniversity that very week. And that she had become a United States citizen 24 hours before HMD. A good week.

The New York Home Movie Day began this year with a film shot in Nigeria. A man, originally from Gary, Indiana, brought a reel of 16mm film his father took when visiting Nigeria in the 1960s. The moviemaker was a Baptist minister whose church had a mission relationship with a Nigerian church. While we listened to the son narrate what parts of the film he could, he took out his cell phone and called his 86-year-old mother while the film was still running. We had the privilege of hearing their sweet dialog about the trip 40+ years ago and what daddy (who passed away 32 years ago) had done in Nigeria. The footage ended with a kind of portrait of the new church he built in Gary.

I also like very much a 50+ year-old black-and-white birthday party film. Shot in 16mm, it showed "Pinky's 3rd Birthday," which took place in a large family home in Buenos Aires. Young Pinky and her party guests were being entertained by trained dogs and a ventriloquist, as well as the hired cinematographer.

Save that one.