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HMD Report: New York City 2006

HMD Report: New York City

Andrew Lampert, on location in the Big Apple:

HMD NYC was, as usual, a blast. Anthology Film Archives played host for a 4-½ hour marathon screening of films from friends, family and strangers in the 70-seat Maya Deren Theater. Katie Trainor helmed an amazing group of volunteer Archivists and aficionados in the Anthology lobby. Orphan-maker and recent New Yorker Dan Streible was with us as well, which was a particularly a special treat. Dan gave insightful on-the-spot readings of films all day long and was one of the best film-runners we’ve ever had. I would guess that we had maybe 70-80 attendees throughout the afternoon. All prospective audience members and film-bringers were met with smiles, release forms and gloved hands. Films were inspected, repaired, leader-ed and loved. Info was made available about all things home movie, from Kodak give-aways to HMD DVD order forms. We had a fantastic turn out and most of the audience indeed brought a reel or two for screening. There were fewer voyeurs than usual this year, for some reason. More film is always groovy, if you ask us. Another anomaly from previous HMDs was the amount of 16mm that came our way. If memory serves, there have only ever been a few reels in previous years, but this time around we saw at least 10 reels of it. It was, as always, an afternoon of revelations. Super 8 and 8mm projection were projected in the theater by me, Andrew Lampert, and 16mm was handled from our booth.

Highlights:

One woman, known only as “ET”, arrived with a reel purchased from Ebay that outlined, in fastidious detail, what to do with a deer after you’ve slaughtered it. While not a pretty site for animal lovers, it was a fascinating and colorful look at the hunter’s ritual. If you’ve ever seen Franju’s BLOOD OF THE BEAST or Brakhage’s THE ACT OF SEEING WITH ONE’S OWN EYES then you get what I’m talking about.

Another gentleman dazzled and delighted with a couple reels from his recent trip to Cuba. Evidently he shot more than 40 reels of Kodachrome throughout the island. He wanted to capture the splendor and color of that time capsule country with everyone’s favorite discontinued stock, or so he put it. His wife also brought a recently shot reel, so it seems as if this is a family affair. Hope to see more from them next year.

Bradley Eros treated us to a look back at his mid-80s trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. He played a soundtrack from the booth and projected slides from the trip over on top of the Super 8 images, creating an on-the-spot expanded cinema home movie experience. It was pretty rad.

A visitor on vacation from Chicago arrived with a reel he found of a group of gay men also on vacation, albeit in been the early-to-mid 60s and at a spot a little more exotic than Anthology. Colorful and laugh-out-loud funny, the guys pranced around in short shorts and, well, no shorts. We all dug it very much.

Steve Carter, another regular attendee, brought a 10-year old reel documenting the fence that his brother built over in NJ to annoy his neighbors. While not a great cinematic masterwork, the story behind this film had us all in stitches. Steve is the guy who started a huge fight a couple years back and we always love his witty insights and opinions. And films!

Tim, a friend of HMD regular Jeanne Liotta, brought a wonderful S8 film of his honeymoon. But rather than mere camera reels, this movie was hand-painted, hand-processed and a real treasure to behold. It was unlike everything else that we saw that day, straddling the line between experimental and home movie. It was a definite highlight.

I dug into Anthology’s copious home movie collection to show a reel by photographer and downtown denizen Bob Parent of the Lower East Side circa 64. Legendary jazz club The Five Spot was only one of the many long-gone venues seen in the gorgeously photographed reel of the East Village. His films remind me of Aaron Siskind photographs, especially in the way he documents posters and writings on the wall. The reel ends with a trip to Washington Square Park where we see the booming folkie scene and nylon-stringed acoustic guitars that used to gather around the fountain.

But perhaps the most revelatory reel was brought by Ms.Liotta. Discovered along with a projector donated by a departing neighbor, this 16mm reel captures the preparations for an early 60s wedding in sumptuous b&w. Our astute audience ascertained that this was indeed the wedding of blushing bride Ramona and boxer Jose Torres. This was determined from a boxing poster in the background of a particular shot. The movie begins with footage of Central Park and then moves inside to the bride and her maidens as they prepare for the ceremony. The shots inside of the church are a little underexposed, but the party footage is dynamite. Overall, I’d have to say that it is one of the best reels that we’ve seen over the years. Evidently a professional Time Life photographer shot it, as we later found out. A long and strange series of events occurred after the screening thanks to Craig Lopez, a member of our dedicated audience. He went home, googled around and discovered that the Torres family live in NYC. He was able to get their number and made contact. Turns out that HMD was the 45th anniversary and that somehow we had all missed this fact when the wedding invite was shown on screen. They were thrilled to find that this film, which had been lost, turned up in time for their big anniversary party in Puerto Rico. Within days Jeanne graciously let us send the reel to Colorlab where Russ Suniewick generously oversaw the transfer to DVD. A gentleman who writes for the New Yorker has taken an interest and we will hopefully soon see an article in the Talk of The Town section. We’ll let you know as the story further progresses.

There were tons more, so maybe I’ll stop here. Speaking on behalf of Katie and all of our other co-presenters, I have to say that NYC HMD was once again a highlight of our cinematic summer.