Home Movie Day: History Meets Popcorn

Photo by Noom Peerapong on Unsplash.

Trent Valley Archives (TVA) hosted their second annual Home Movie Day on October 19, and once again, it was a success. The movie screening took place in Bagnani Hall at Catharine Parr Traill College where, as well as films that TVA brought to be screened, members from the Peterborough community also brought their own film reels. Popcorn generously flowed about the room.

Madison More is a Trent student who absolutely loves movies, and was a major part in convincing one of her professors Kelly Egan, a Visual and Media Studies faculty member at Trent University, to begin the tradition of Home Movie Day. The tradition of bringing these old films to light in the United States is already a popular, and also successful, endeavor. With that success and academic application, the event was brought to Peterborough.

The films that were displayed that afternoon were a wide range of topics, all over Canada, and in the formats of 8- and 16-mm films respectively, though the films that More studied while in Egan’s class were those of cultural and historical importance in Jewish culture in the Netherlands. The films range from usually 3 to 10 minutes, but in some cases can run for 30 minutes if the projector and spliced film strips keep themselves together.

“It’s important to preserve the past as well as focusing on the future in cultural studies, and I definitely think that there’s a desire to see these films, now more than ever,” More focuses on the value of these films academically and historically as well as the preservation of the reels both in the TVA’s possession and those that are donated or screened. “It’s very important to get the preservation right, or there’s a piece of history that’s disappeared.”

One man, who preferred not to give his name, brought in a reel of his uncle’s wedding in Toronto, outside of a church on St. Clair Avenue in the year of 1944. I know the street quite well today and seeing it in its old version was both bizarre but absolutely intriguing.

The TVA screened a reel showing the downtown of Peterborough being built and I was in shock at how empty the land used to be before, as I have known nothing other than bustle and hustle. Later on the same reel the camera-owners traveled to Ottawa, and in turn we see how the Legislative building looked, as well as the fashion, during that time period.

More brought in her own version of a home movie on a VHS, showing the Trent Child Care Centre where her mother worked in 2002, a family trip to the Riverview Park & Zoo, a birthday party at the Holiday Inn, Christmas of 2003, and an Easter egg hunt on her grandparents’ Christmas tree farm.

TVA screened another film depicting the east coast of Canada, showing PEI, the Cape Breton Highlands, and Halifax.

One of the most abstract pieces of film that was shown that afternoon was that of a man filming a sunset, and I have to say it was one of the dreamiest things I have ever laid my eyes on. The sky over the screen was a beautiful orange, and the camera captured what the sunbeams looked like as they were filtering through the clouds; I felt a calming sensation and appreciation for this recording art.

The TVA decided to show one last film for the afternoon, and it was one that Madison herself had both filmed and starred in. It was filmed on 16mm film, and was the final project for Egan’s class. The interesting thing about this film is that it was filmed through a small pinhole; only a small circular portion of the screen is visible. In that little sliver, we as viewers get to see delicate fingers playing piano, a woman’s facial profile & rustling hair, a clock with seconds ticking by, tapping feet on tiles, and hands wringing back and forth. Each student in the class recorded 10 seconds of film, and Egan’s vision is for it to be “a continuous project for all students who take the class and carry the legacy” for a long time after the course.

For more information about how to preserve your own home films or to get in touch with the Trent Valley Archives, please visit trentvalleyarchives.com or inquire by phone at 705-745-4404.