Memories To Light

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History & Significance of 8mm / 16mm Film

HOME MOVIES are unique cultural documents recorded on amateur motion picture film (generally on 16mm, 8mm or Super 8mm and a few esoteric gauges.) Home movies hold both a personal and cultural treasure that can last a long time for future generations to enjoy. More than ever, home movies are growing in appreciation as families and media producers of documentaries are beginning to understand the unique role these movies have as a repository of personal moving images.

Home movies are the moving image equivalent of a personal letters, a diary or family journal. Home movies where first introduced to a generation who is our oldest elders. Many skilled photographers found their hobby led them to try movies when they became affordable in the 1920′s and 1930′s. Home movies date from 1923 on 16mm film, circa 1935 on 8mm film, and 1965 on Super 8mm film. Amateur motion picture films provide a record of life that is unique. Unlike commercially produced movies, they are usually shot by people intimately connected to the experience who choose moments and subjects important to them.

Home movies often hold quite different content and form than professional films, whether newsreel or dramatic films. The professionals were paid to set up tripods and roll film of the rich and famous, the newsworthy event, the bankrolled script. Meanwhile, home moviemakers tended to family and friends, buddies with a shared love of a sport, the picnics at the beach, grandma’s place, play in the backyard, or hanging on the stoop waiting for the parade. The home movies give us information that is not centralized, not government propaganda, and not made for hire. home movies provide the culture with a deeper and different record than moving images made professionally. Home movies hold clips of life over the last 70 years, things that are passionately interesting and of importance to individuals. The uniqueness of point-of-view motion pictures from the past makes it imperative that more such records be made, be shared, and be preserved for future generations.

(Adapted from Littlefilm.org, by Toni Treadway)