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HMD Report: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 2008

HMD Report: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From Joanna Poses:

Event Venue: Community Education Center

Event Time: 12noon – 4pm

Total Audience: 25(?)

Number of people bringing films: 7 (includes volunteers’ films)

Number of Films screened by Gauge:

8mm: 1, Super: 4, 16mm: 9

The Philadelphia Home Movie Day was an interesting departure from last year’?s event. Our audience numbers were definitely down from last year?s when we had lots of curious restroom seekers, book borrowers, and homeless folk wander into the public library auditorium where we were doing our thing. This year, the event felt more like a happy family reunion than just another public event. We were based at the Community Education Center in West Philadelphia and most of the audience that arrived at noon stayed on until the last film finished just before 4.

Our only repeat audience members (excepting family -? thanks, mom!) were a mother, father, and endearingly geeky son who drove in all the way from Delaware! Needless to say, their loyalty made us feel like rock stars. Also adding to the rock star quotient were the unsolicited sketches by Aaron Krolikowski. A self-described ?courtroom artist for local people and events,? Aaron presented us with highly unique documentation of our cozy event. Check him out at www.interview-press.com.

We watched beautiful and surprising [and one dull] films throughout the afternoon, but the real magic was the synthesis of the films with their owner?s’ narrations. At Philadelphia Home Movie Day, every film is narrated. If a film is found footage then we question the owner about the film?s circumstances and let audience members provide their own commentary. All of the screenings are interactive with people asking questions, identifying familiar sights, and cracking corny jokes. After four hours of alternately personal and generic home movies, there is a palpable bond forged between everyone in the room. At Home Movie Day, strangers let their guards down and let you into their families and childhoods and lives. This is not a generosity you often see in Philadelphia. …but, ?nuff with the mush!

Our favorite guests were the Lombardis: an 87-year-old Philly native, his daughter and her husband. Their films and stories were amazing. The family had survived the rise and fall of the Great American Dream. Mr. Lombardi?’s father had come to America with a suitcase and built a fortune on sewage systems. The family business had huge commissions up and down the east coast including a major project in Washington, D.C. There, the Lombardis built a 30 ft. wide sewage system that ran under the White House. We saw footage of the construction on this project and it was as utterly compelling as Mr. Lombardi had promised us it would be.

Most of the company’?s work was based in Philadelphia, but the family was especially proud of the D.C. commission; the workers on this project commuted every week from Philadelphia. Mr. Lombardi?’s father soon became a millionaire and, eventually, bought the village in Italy where he was from. All of the extended family in America would, occasionally, ride luxury liners back to Italy to visit family and to travel the country. Mr. Lombardi was proud to note that the family brought 2 automobiles and a maid on these voyages with them. We watched a LUSCIOUS black and white film of the family?’s 1936 vacation to Italy. Mr. Lombardi answered all our questions about the trip and correctly identified the first visible land mass as the Rock of Gibraltar. When questioned about the family business and fortune, Mr. Lombardi waxed philosophical and noted, ?everything goes up in smoke. You just have to give it time.?

Mr. Lombardi was gracious, knowledgeable, and humorous and he completely charmed the audience. As everyone was leaving, his daughter decided that she should interview him; we hope she does! Other standout presenters were Jenifer Baldwin and Caroline Savage. The youngest of five, Jenifer introduced us to her family through several films shot before she was born. The family lived all over the country and we got to see her parents reveling in swimming pools from Michigan to Maryland.

Caroline’?s father worked in [I believe] military and diplomatic roles for the U.S. government in the 60s and 70s. He had bought a Bolex in Switzerland at the end of World War II and took films of the family?s life throughout the Middle East and Pakistan. The family moved back to America when Caroline was 12, but she described a childhood lived on film. She can’?t remember what she remembers and what she?’s seen in the family home movies. She is now a filmmaker and she also showed us her unimaginable footage of mudslides in San Francisco in the early ’80s.

Projectionist/collector Jay Schwartz contributed some interesting found movies. He started the afternoon with a hunting and fishing film from the 40s or thereabouts? we watched deers being gutted… Amy?’s Reign of Terror apparently continues – where she touches home movies, they turn to animal cruelty! Jay also brought footage of a grave being excavated at a local historical cemetery in the 1940s. There are so many reporters present in the film that we feel compelled to follow up on the scene and discover the larger story suggested by the film.

Last, we saw footage of a family barbeque in the Philadelphia neighborhood where I grew up (one of the first intentionally integrated neighborhoods in the country). Jay observed that this is one of the only African American home movies he has ever found. There were other delights, to be sure, but I guess you just had to be there.

Many thanks to Whole Foods, TLA Video, and Ritz 5 for their generous donations. Thanks to the Philadelphia Film Archivists Collective for all their contributions and hard work. PFAC includes: Kate Pourishariati (and Shapoor), Janine Leiberman, Corin Wilson, John Pettit, and Oliver Gaycken. Special thanks to Jay Schwartz, Amy Gallick, and Jim Keitner, our all-star projectionists.