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Other Histories: Amateur Films on the National Film Registry

Other Histories: Amateur Films on the National Film Registry is a three-program film screening series currently being curated by the Center for Home Movies. The series will premiere on the weekend of January 10-12, 2020 at the Roy and Niuta Titus Theater at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The series will be part of MoMA’s landmark Private Lives Public Spaces exhibition, the museum’s 100-screen gallery installation of home movies and amateur films drawn exclusively from its collection. The series will be projected digitally, including many new high-resolution 4k scans and new musical scores created exclusively for the series.

The National Film Registry, the Librarian of Congress’s annual selection of 25 films deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” was created in 1989 to celebrate American’s filmmaking history. Of the 750 titles currently on the Registry, 17 are by amateur filmmakers, including home movies of significant events, such as the Zapruder Film of the Kennedy Assassination (the first amateur film named to the Registry) and Dave Tatsuno’s films of the Topaz Japanese American internment camp. Other home movie collections, such as those by the entertainers the Nicholas Brothers the Fuentes family in south Texas, and Rev. Solomon Sir Jones in Oklahoma are notable for the cultures and people that they depict. Others in the group, such as The Fall of the House of Usher, Our Day, and Multiple SIDosis show the artistry and craftsmanship of amateur filmmakers. Together, this group of films shows a remarkable range of filmmaking styles and subjects.

Despite the fact that these films form a virtual canon of American amateur filmmaking, they remain remarkably difficult to see, other than on computer screens (and many are not even available there). The goal of this series is to give audiences an opportunity to view all 17 films in theatrical settings for the first time ever, honoring a form of filmmaking and a group of films that too few have seen.

See our Resources Page Home Movies and Amateur Films on the National Film Registry for film descriptions and links.

Draft program

Program 1

Zapruder Film of the Kennedy Assassination
(Abraham Zapruder, 1 min., 1963)
Sixth Floor Museum

Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse
(Barney Elliott and Harbine Monroe, 12 min., 1940)
Monroe Family

Nicholas Brothers’ Family Home Movies
(Fayard and Harold Nicholas, 14 min. [selections], 1930s-’40s)
Academy Film Archive

From Stump to Ship
(Alfred K. Ames and Howard Kane, 30 min., 1930)
Northeast Historic Film

Our Day
(Wallace Kelly, 12 min., 1938)
The Center for Home Movies/Library of Congress and Martha Kelly

Disneyland Dream
(Robbins Barstow, 35 min., 1956)
Library of Congress

Program 2

Cologne: From the Diary of Ray and Esther
(Esther and Raymond Dowidat, 14 min., 1939)
Minnesota Historical Society

H2O
(Ralph Steiner, 11 min., 1929)
Museum of Modern Art

Fuentes Family Home Movies Collection
(Antonio Rodríguez Fuentes, 8 min. [selections], 1920s and 1930s)
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi/Texas Archive of the Moving Image

Topaz
(Dave Tatsuno, 48 min., 1943–1945)
Japanese American National Museum/Academy Film Archive

Multiple SIDosis
(Sid Laverents, 9 min., 1970)
UCLA Film & Television Archive

Program 3

A Study in Reds
(Miriam Bennett, 20 min., 1932)
Wisconsin Historical Society

The Augustas
(Scott Nixon, 18 min., 1930s-1950s)
Univ. of South Carolina Moving Image Research Collections

The Fall of the House of Usher
(James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber, 13 min., 1928)
George Eastman Museum

Think of Me First as a Person
(Dwight Core, Sr. and George Ingmire, 11 min., 1960-1975)
The Center for Home Movies/Library of Congress and George Ingmire

Reverend Solomon Sir Jones Films
(Rev. Solomon Sir Jones, 14 min. [selections], 1924-28)
National Museum of African American History and Culture

V-E +1
(Sam Fuller, 22 min., 1945)
Academy Film Archive and Fuller Family