Sunday, March 24, 2013

Memories To Light (2013)

WHO: Mark Decena (director of Dopamine among other films) has edited together home movies for the closing night presentation for this final evening of CAAMFest.

WHAT: I must admit I'm a bit unclear on some of the specifics here. I know that Decena has edited a film from his own family's home movie footage which is entitled The War Inside, as he talked about it on KALW radio earlier this week; the seven-minute interview can be heard here

But the Center for Asian American Media is also using tonight's event to launch a project they're calling Memories To Light, which intends to collect home movies from all over the United States for digitization and potential presentation. The rationale for this is best described on the still-under-construction website
Since the mainstream media has given us so few authentic images of the Asian American experience, home videos become the most real way to see how our grandparents, mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles lived their lives.
A more worthwhile and interesting initiative is hard to imagine; home movies can tell us so much that they weren't necessarily intending to communicate across time when they were filmed; not just about culture but about geography, ecology, fashion, and even the evolving relationship ordinary people have had with the camera over the decades. Although this project is Asian-American specific and I'm about as Anglo as they come, I'm tempted to dig back into my parents' reels of home movie footage to see if there are images of me playing with the many Asian-American friends I made growing up in the diverse Richmond District of San Francisco, that might be of use to CAAM.

I'm under the impression that CAAM already has collected quite a bit of home movie footage aside from Decena's, and that he may have been responsible for the editing of this other footage together for tonight's presentation as well as his own. Perhaps this compilation should be thought of as a film entitled Memories To Light, like the CAAM initiative. Those with tickets to tonight's event will soon be able to untangle all of this and report back; unfortunately I won't be able to attend myself.

WHERE/WHEN: Screens at New People tonight only at 5:00 PM. Advance tickets are all sold but there may be "Rush" tickets available for attendees willing to wait in line at the venue about an hour beforehand.

WHY: The festival program gives special thanks to archivists Rick Prelinger and Antonella Bonfanti, both of whom I've become friends with over the past year or two, but that shouldn't make me, them, or you feel awkward when I decide to highlight their excellent work here on this blog. Bonfanti is interviewed about her role in digitizing home movies used in tonight's presentation in the organization's brief promotional video, which also features CAAM executive director Stephen Gong speaking about the project. 

Prelinger is Frisco Bay's, and perhaps even the country's, leading advocate for increased prominence of home movies in cinemas and in our conversations about moving images. He annually puts together the extraordinarily popular Lost Landscapes of San Francisco events at the Castro Theatre, and his passion for home movies is perhaps most succinctly and eloquently expressed in words in this Open Space blog post from last year. I'm very excited that on May 5th the San Francisco International Film Festival will host the hometown premiere of his brand-new film No More Road Trips? also at the Castro. This film (which I've seen a brief but powerful excerpt from) is compiled from home movie footage and intended to spark a dialogue about the connections between the car culture of the past century and that of today, whether it's sustainable into the future, and if not, what that means.  Preferably this conversation will be carried out during the screening itself among the audience, as like his Lost Landscapes shows, he has designed the presentation to be an interactive one for an audience encouraged to provide a kind of crowd-sourced benshi soundtrack of comments, questions, and other verbal expressions.

HOW: Memories To Light will be a digital presentation with live "performance controlled" music by Davin Agatep. I'm not sure if the audience will be encouraged to interject during this screening like they are at Prelinger's, but I'm sure they'll be told one way or another beforehand.

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