This spring, the Center for Documentary Studies will present two film festivals, Home Movie Day and Alice Fest, highlighting the preservation of home movies and the role of women in media, respectively.
Home Movie Day, sponsored by the CDS and Duke’s Archive of Documentary Arts, is an annual event that has celebrated amateur films and filmmaking worldwide since 2002. To be held on Saturday, Jan. 26, the event will be hosted by Skip Elsheimer, founder of A/V Geeks, an online collection of educational and homemade films. In addition to the A/V Geeks films, the event will also feature works by local film archivists and the guests themselves.
“Usually people show up with a shoebox full of films,” Elsheimer said. “When you watch home movies of people you don’t know anything about, it’s actually fascinating. It’s like original reality television.”
Due to the varying equipment needed for different video formats, Home Movie Day will feature only 8mm or 16mm film movies. Although most people have discarded this type of film after transferring content onto VHS or DVD, Elsheimer argues that the quality of the original film remains the finest.
“What we want is for people to hold onto the original film. Those are irreplaceable,” Elsheimer said.
On the other hand, those who have retained collections of their home movies often struggle to find a compatible projector to view them, leading to growing piles of home movies at thrift stores, yard sales and even the garbage. Yet Elsheimer argues that what may appear as a simple personal memory, such as a surprise birthday party, is an essential preservation of cultural history.
“The older the film is, the more important they are because they show things besides Christmas or birthdays,” Elsheimer said. “They show how towns used to look, historical events, what celebrities came to town, all sorts of things.”
Originally held in Raleigh’s North Carolina State Archives Auditorium, Home Movie Day moved to Durham in the hopes of increasing accessibility and finding a new audience among Duke students.
“The CDS likes hosting events like Home Movie Day because home movies are really just another form of documentary,” CDS Continuing Education Coordinator Marc Maximov said.
Alice Fest, the second event to be held on Sunday, Mar. 10 in recognition of Women’s History Month, presents short documentaries, experimental film and multimedia projects by local women filmmakers. The Southern Documentary Fund, an organization of local documentarians, is partnering with Alice Fest and contributing works-in-progress from filmmakers based in the South.
Named after the first female film director Alice Guy-Blaché, Alice Fest aims to advance the role of women in filmmaking and media. The founder and host of Alice Fest, documentarian and CDS alum Vivian Bowman-Edwards, hopes to highlight women’s accomplishments in filmmaking, which often go overlooked.
“All the things that women are doing and have been doing, people just don’t know about,” Bowman-Edwards said. “Even in history, all the things you learn about, women aren’t included. One goal is to highlight women’s achievements; another is to encourage women to be involved in media and media-making.”
Similar to Home Movie Day, the event will feature not only curated works but also prior submissions accepted on a rolling basis. Divided into two screening blocks, the event will also include a Q&A session with the filmmakers and directors themselves.
In addition to film screenings, Alice Fest will also honor leaders among local teachers, educators, and mentors who have made women more visible in the media through their work. Last year, Alice Fest recognized Sonya Williams Harris, producer and host of the weekly television program Tarheel Talk, and Barbara Lau, director of Pauli Murray Project, a community project devoted to civil rights.
While only women filmmakers can submit entries, the content of the film can vary from food and travel as seen in Simone Keith’s Bia’s Brazil to a college romance in Nancy Kalow’s The Beginning of the End, both showcased last year at Alice Fest. Although the list of films for 2013 has yet to be confirmed, Bowman-Edwards looks forward to another positive step towards increasing women’s roles in media through the continuation of Alice Fest.
“It started out as a modest effort, but it turned out really well,” she said. “This is our second year and I’m hoping to grow and expand it.”
Home Movie Day runs from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26; Alice Fest begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Mar. 10.