ABSTRACT

A projector starts up with a whir, the lamp is turned on and the celluloid ghosts come to life. Appearing on screen are family members and friends, recordings of trips, celebrations and holidays. The images are familiar, a repertoire of fi lmic memories of events past and of people long dead. These are home movies, those fi lms best characterized as the recordings of domestic everyday life made by family members to be shared in the private sphere. A staple of domestic image production from the 1920s until surpassed by video in the 1980s, the home movie is easily identifi able: the settings are naturalistic, the subjects are non-actors and the events recorded are taken from everyday life. Distinct from either the documentary or the fi ction fi lm, the home movie’s aesthetics are also instantly recognizable: shaky camera, fl ash panning, grainy image, blurry focus and cut-off heads. These home movie traits are so ubiquitous that they are readily mimicked in narrative fi lms and commercials that aim to replicate the home movie “look.” Yet a further trait of the home movie aesthetic needs to be acknowledged-the home movie performance. Home movies engender a unique performative style, one that is distinct from performances in amateur fi ctional fi lms, Hollywood narrative fi lms, documentaries and contemporary home video. The home movie performance is marked by the subject’s awareness of being fi lmed, but this awareness is part of the home movie’s performance aesthetic, and home moviemakers generally do not attempt to eradicate the traces of this awareness, but rather accentuate and celebrate them.