Super-8 is enough

New York's amateur auteurs Cannes do on Home Movie Day.

SCREEN GRAB Share your personal oeuvre at Anthology Film Archives on Sat 11.

SCREEN GRAB Share your personal oeuvre at Anthology Film Archives on Sat 11. Courtesy of Larry Chern

Katie Trainor loves watching home movies—other people’s home movies. But she’s not a glutton for punishment: She’s one of the driving forces behind Home Movie Day, an annual event established to educate people about the importance of preserving our celluloid time capsules. On Saturday 11, would-be Coppolas (or their descendants) are invited to haul their old 8mm, 16mm or Super-8 reels over to Anthology Film Archives for a free evaluation and public screening. “Home movies offer this wealth of information about how people lived in the last century,” says Trainor, manager of the IFC Center. “Everybody had a camera and everybody filmed what was important to them. It’s a huge archive of human history, told firsthand.”

Sadly, Trainor warns, these beloved family treasures are in danger of extinction. “People don’t have the equipment to watch these films at home anymore, but they’re not sure how to convert them. So they often just get thrown out.” And those who do transfer their family memories usually think the originals are disposable, even though one scratch can render an entire DVD unusable.

Starting at 1pm, HMD volunteers will inspect participants’ movies—making repairs when possible—and then screen up to two reels per person in the Archives theater on a first-come, first-served basis. Within a few minutes, absolute strangers could be watching your four-year-old self run naked through the sprinklers. And if a reel runs long, the audience decides whether to let it play or cut it off. “We wanted to recreate the old living room setting, where you bring out the projector and everyone gathers round to watch and point and holler over each other,” says Trainor.

Since its inception in 2003, Home Movie Day has tripled in size to nearly 60 venues. It’s also spread internationally to Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Bologna, and drawn the attention of big-name cinephiles like Martin Scorsese and John Waters. As for the films themselves? “It’s not just parades on Main Street with people waving hi,” Trainor says. “The sheer diversity of subject matter has proved that we’re talking about one of the largest, most vital records of the last century.” New York–centric highlights have included family trips to the 1939 World’s Fair and Dreamland-era Coney Island, as well as Central Park sit-ins and the construction of the Twin Towers. Of course, many of the flicks are of a more personal nature—weddings, vacations and the like. “One guy brought in a reel with no idea what was on it,” recalls Trainor. “We all ended up watching his bris—he, for the first time.”

Home Movie Day takes place Sat 11 1–6pm at Anthology Film Archives.