Maine Home Movie Day

Submitted by Katrina

On Saturday, October 16, Northeast Historic Film co-hosted Maine Home Movie Day from 1pm until 4pm at the Maine Historical Society in Portland.  We were very pleased to have about thirty visitors, eight of whom brought in films to be inspected and screened.  That afternoon we screened 8mm, Super8 and 16mm films; some of the film content was familiar to the owner, and some films were unknown surprises.  This was my first Home Movie Day, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.

Our special guest was Maine television personality Bill Green, who brought in 8mm family films from his childhood.  We showed two reels while Bill narrated.  He took special care to name everyone he could remember, including the father of current Maine Governor John Baldacci, and possibly Gov. Baldacci himself alongside his siblings as children.  The Green Family films depicted camping, gatherings in the living room and kitchen, sports games, vacations, and snowy Northeast winters.  I was especially touched to listen to Bill's sentiment in being able to see his parents in action again, moving and laughing on screen.

While a few visitors had recently seen the films they brought, many brought films that were just discovered or hadn't been projected in decades.  Bruce brought in two large mystery reels of 16mm film he found in his late aunt's house.  While one was too shrunken to show, the other turned out to be the 1951 wedding of his parents!  It had titles and appeared to be semi-professionally shot.  Having only seen black and white still photographs, Bruce narrated the films as best he could, seeing his entire family together, in color, and even identified the suit he wore to ruins starring as Dracula in his own childhood home movies!  During the wedding film I heard a woman say, "This isn't even my family and I want to cry!"  

I spoke with a woman named Meredith who brought in a bag of 8mm films she had recently projected for the first time at her home.  She discussed seeing the hospital in her home town built in the 1940s.  I was struck by her thoughtful reaction to seeing the hospital made from a gigantic pile of rocks.  She said she had no idea the amount of time and labor it took to create the foundation, one rock at a time. 

Our Super8 films for the day included footage shot in the USSR during a student exchange program in the 1980s.  Other regular 8mm featured more family events such as fishing trips, vacationing in Canada, skiing, and the everyday goings on of 1940s Essex County, Massachusetts.  I was really impressed with how intimate the audience seemed with one another.  Everyone openly asked questions, some quite personal, of the films they were seeing, and the people who brought them seemed so free in sharing what they could about each shot. 

One of my personal favorites did not come until the end of the afternoon.  I suppose it is my recent work with Martha Graham oral histories that had me feeling so affected, but, a woman named Jane brought in a few films shot by Elizabeth Dever, former professor of Physical Culture at Bennington College in Vermont during the 1930s.  I was captivated by synchronized modern dance movements performed by beautiful women in open, green fields and in various locations on the campus.  Some shots were close-ups of one woman making the same movement over and over again, I became so aware of how her muscles moved with every stretch and bend of her arm and leg.  Brilliant! 

In closing, my first Home Movie Day was an amazing experience.  I was glad to see how many people happened in off the street upon seeing our sandwich board advertisement.  It was an afternoon of sharing, asking questions, and celebrating our moving image histories. 

Thank you to the Maine Historical Society for their collaboration with us on this annual event. 

Thank you to Bill Green for allowing us a glimpse into his world.