There's great fun to be had for the whole family at the Chicago Film Archives' Home Movie Day!

There's great fun to be had for the whole family at the Chicago Film Archives' Home Movie Day!

One of the newer film-related organizations in the city, the Chicago Film Archives has quickly grown into an important resource for all of the Midwest. Like many worthwhile non-profit endeavors, the Chicago Film Archives was created for a specific purpose, and then expanded its mission in order to fill a larger need. Started at the end of 2003 to save and preserve approximately 5,000 16 MM films that the Chicago Public Library was letting go, they originally set up shop in a donated space on LaSalle Street, but soon grew out of it. After a long search, they found their current home in a renovated industrial warehouse right on the river at 329 W 18th Street.

With climate controlled storage facilities, roomy freight elevators, and plenty of room to grow; the CFA almost immediately began looking to collect and preserve as many other old films as possible. Executive Director Nancy Watrous elaborates, “We started talking about the mission of the organization and what we should be doing, aside from just taking care of this collection from the CPL, and it quickly became clear to all of us that this part of the country needed a regional film archive. There simply was no existing place to take in, track, and try to save the films that represent [the heritage of] the Midwest. So slowly but surely we morphed into a regional film archive.” They worked out an expanded mission, “We take in films that either reflect in their content the Midwest, or that are made by Midwest filmmakers,” and other donated films began pouring in, expanding the collection to over 7,000 items.

A major part of the CFA’s mission is to select the rarest and/or most important films and submit grants on their behalf to the National Film Preservation Foundation for preservation as part of our national cultural heritage. Those films which receive grants are then sent to labs which specialize in restoration and preservation of old films.

One of the most fascinating and unexpected aspects of the CFA’s mission is the collecting of home movies, which are considered by film archivists and a growing segment of the public to be an important part of our shared cultural heritage. This has led to a fascinating outreach activity known as “Home Movie Day”, where CFA technicians and archivists set up inside a location (such as the Chicago Cultural Center) for a day long celebration of home movies. During the afternoon, interested persons may bring in their old home movies for inspection and evaluation by professionals and/or to donate films to the archive (they can also arrange to make use of the CFA’s transfer and repair services, which are done for a fee). Then later that night, the movies that are most interesting or in the best condition are then shown to large crowds which gather for a taste of Midwestern home (movie) cooking.

Which brings us to the fact that the CFA is sponsoring another Home Movie Day on Saturday, October 17 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington Street (Michigan Avenue between Washington and Randolph across from Millennium Park).

3:00pm to 6:00pm:
Interested persons can check in their films and make an appointment to meet with a CFA archivist who will inspect their film and talk about home movie care.

6:00pm to 9:00pm
Those who brought in films can see their home movies up on the big screen in front of a live audience!  David Drazin (a noted silent film musical accompanist who is also interviewed in Hollywood On Lake Michigan, 2nd Edition) will be playing piano behind the films for the full “movie palace effect.” (Which will really provide a dramatic context for that footage of Uncle Morty passing out in his mashed potatoes during Thanksgiving Dinner in 1961).

From those who bring in their footage, to the curators and experts who evaluate it, to the folks who just come to enjoy the screening in the evening; Home Movie Day is great fun for all involved. And it’s completely free!!! [although people can arrange for paid services to restore their damaged treasures]

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a CFA archivist call 773-478-3799 or 312-243-1808.  Ask for Anne or Nancy.