Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories

By Karen L. Ishizuka; Patricia R. Zimmermann | Go to book overview

4 La Filmoteca de la Universidad
Nacional Autónoma de México

IVÁN TRUJILLO

I define amateur cinema as films without an interest in profit, produced by technicians and actors who are not financially compensated. One subset of amateur film is family movies that focus on social events and celebrations. However, sometimes a more complex argumentative or documentary movie, often initiated by one or more amateurs, emerges. The basic purpose of these productions is to share a fun and enjoyable activity in order to make a more ambitious movie that circulates and is sometimes exhibited beyond the confines of the family home.

In places where a more professional cinematographic industry did not exist or where there was not access to filmmaking, films made by beginners played an important role in generating local cultural awareness. These movies are more than documents that become testimonies or judicial proofs; they provide important cultural information about certain places and periods that rivals that found in more professional films. Because amateur films are intended as leisure-time pursuits, with almost infinite exhibition in circles of family and friends, they imply conservation and preservation of memory, in contrast to the commercial film’s immediate objective of recovery of investment.

The Filmoteca de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México’s (UNAM) film archives houses several collections of amateur cinema. The archive is especially interested in films related to Mexico and Latin America. Some reels came from outstanding cultural figures who used films to complement their professional activities. Examples include indigenous dances and rites shot on film by the musician Carlo Chavez and the painter Miquel Covarrubias. Both artists not only filmed their trips, but also used this material as case studies for their more professional work.

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