Notes from Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories

July 13, 2010 — Leave a comment

from the Introduction; Patricia R. Zimmerman

“Jim Sharpe has explained that ‘those writing history from below have not only provided a body of work which permits us to know more about the past: they have also made it plain there is a great deal more, much of it secret still lurking in unexplored evidence, which could be known. Thus history from below retains its subversive aura.’ History from below raises questions about the nature of evidence, conceptual models, and methodology.” (p3)

The biography film inevitably crosses paths with the home movie:

“Home movies assume many shapes and elude fixity. Consequently, some home movies are enfolded into other articulations of amateurism, such as industrial or travel or missionary genres. The borders between home movies and these other forms – including narrative film – constantly shift within different historical, cultural, and minority configurations. As unresolved, open texts, home movies operate as a series of transversals, translations, and transcriptions between history and memory, between text and context, between the public and the private.” (p9)

“Developing this line of thought about the political function of history, Tzvetan Todorov has advanced that ‘totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century have revealed the existence of a danger never before imagined: the blotting out of memory. These twentieth century tyrannies have understood that the conquest of men and territories could be accomplished through information and communication and have created a systematic and complete takeover of memory, hoping to control it even in its most hidden excesses.’ F.K Ankersmit has similarly argued that ‘the time has come that we should think about the past, rather than investigate it.’ Similar to Guha and White, Ankersmit argues for a reconceptualisation of history as an interrogation of the incongruities between the past and the present and the invention of new languages for speaking about their juxtaposition. For White the idea of an inert, immobile past that is evidentiary and empirical is a fallacy. He claims, ‘It is impossible to legislate the way people are going to relate to the past because, above all, the past is a place of fantasy. It does not exist anymore. You can’t replicate, by definition, historical events.'” (p17)

An interesting break up of the various elements at play within the biographical doco:

“how to organise a series of seemingly disparate texts from multiple theoretical perspectives (such as those of the scholar, artist, and archivist) and different locations…Others theorise how amateur films operate within independent documentaries as a form of counterhistory.” (p22)

“Rather than continuities or a linear progression, contemporary theory has looked towards contiguities, the idea of spatialising through association and collage, as a way to connect evidence and ideas through conceptual connections rather than causality.” (p23)

From Wittgenstein Tractatus: Personal Reflections on Home Movies (Peter Forgacs)

“…the home movie is not simply an imitation of professional filmmaking, but an attempt to achieve an aesthetic result. The home movie or private film, not unlike the letter and diary, is biographical. It is one of the most adequate means of rembrance. It is a meditation on ‘Who am I?’ The original context of the private film is the home screening rite, the celebration of times past, of recollection, and of hints of the nonverbal realm of communication and symbols. It is a recollection of the desired, intimate vision and aims to immortalize the face of a lover, son, or father, or to capture ephemeral moments, landscapes and rites. The meditation inspired by these screenings is: What has been revealed by making visible that which had remained imperceptible before?” (p49)


Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories (ed) K.L Ishizuka, P.R Zimmerman, Uni of Cal Press, 2008


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