ST. FRANCISVILLE — The West Feliciana Parish Library will host is first Home Movie Day on Oct. 24 to celebrate a popular form of amateur filmmaking that too often goes overlooked.
Ashley Smith, a doctoral student from Stockholm University in Sweden, has made home movies her mission. Each year in mid-October, in cities around the world, Home Movie Days are held and family films are screened publicly.
“These films that people think of as ordinary, uneventful or incredibly personal often become extraordinary when the viewing context is changed,” said Smith, who grew up in Woodville, Mississippi, and spent time in St. Francisville. “When the films are moved out of the family home and into the community screening, they start to operate in new ways. Instead of just being about the lives of one family, they start to be part of a local history.”
HMD also is about increasing awareness of film preservation. As a medium, film can be very durable as long as it is properly cared for and stored in a cool, dry environment. Different media like VHS, DVD or digital files can become obsolete, so Smith cautions to never throw out originals of films.
“I first got interested in home movies when I was a kid watching those that my grandparents shot in the 1950s and 1960s,” Smith said. “It’s one thing to see still photographs of family members, but it’s a haunting experience to see moving images of them. I was drawn in by the ability to see my mom and uncles as children — the way they walked and moved around and gestured at the camera.”
Smith’s dissertation relates to how private films such as home movies can be publicly relevant to today’s viewers. It focuses on how home movies circulate through institutional, archival contexts and are then reused in new creations like documentary films, museum exhibitions, or live screenings like HMD. She concentrates on home movies from archives at the University of Mississippi, Delta State University and the University of Georgia.
“Since most of the home movies I’ve seen from the archives were from north Mississippi, I thought it would be fun to hold this event in St. Francisville to see some films that were shot in a more familiar setting,” she said.
Viewings on Home Movie Day run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the West Feliciana Parish Library. Admission is free. Anybody who wants to offer films for viewing can drop them off from noon to 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at the library. Formats in 8 millimeter, 16 mm or Super 8 will be accepted.