Perché studiare i film di famiglia? Che senso ha ricostruire le pratiche amatoriali del fare cinema? Quali saperi aggiunge una storia del cinema amatoriale alla ‘storia ufficiale’ del cinema? Certo, dopo gli studi pionieristici di Roger Odin e della sua scuola non si tratta più di fondare la legittimità scientifica di un oggetto – fondamentale, tra l’altro, per capire i processi di definizione delle pratiche di consumo istituzionale o per comprendere le strategie industriali per accaparrarsi il mercato, scena di una lotta accesissima, ancora negli anni Cinquanta, tra formati, standard e modelli. Si tratta, piuttosto, di trovare la giusta collocazione a quest’oggetto che, soprattutto per quel che riguarda i film di famiglia, sembra offrirsi a molteplici letture. È in un’idea di cinema come traccia di una storia della cultura che l’amatoriale si impone come studio necessario, soprattutto per ricostruire le forme di appropriazione di un linguaggio e del suo significato. In pratica, si tratta di domandarsi in che misura l’amatoriale contribuisca a definire il cinema in quanto forma culturale.
Various studies of amateur cinema conducted in recent years have sought to fill a sizable gap in the international panorama and at the same time open up various problems and perspectives. In the first place we have to recognize that amateur cinema traverses different communicative spaces and needs to be investigated in
relation to them: if the home movie is ultimately a continuation of the photo album – in styles, models of discourse
and functions – the ‘amateur’ film draws more properly on the cinema. In the second place we have
to question social ambits and parameters hitherto neglected, such as the role of home movies in non-Western
spaces and cultures or in relation to determinations of class, religion etc. Further, it is necessary to take stock
of the ways the new amateur technologies (from video to digital film to the Web) have profoundly modified
the boundaries between amateur and professional or between public and private spaces, raising new issues.
In particular, the encroachment of amateur productions on the public space, in both Tv programs (Video Gag)
and remontage films or audio-video blogs leads to the necessity of questioning whether and how far these
types of products, with their testimonial scope, constitute agents of social ‘deregulation’, a weakening of the
civil (and global) institutions as a result of an awakening, sometimes emotional, of questions of identity and
definitions of the self.
This paper is a first step towards a systematic study of amateur movies from the technological point of view. While they follow a marginal path – though, on the temporal level, one that parallels mainstream cinema – amateur movies have existed and developed ever since movies were first invented. There were many attempts
by the industry to ‘shrink’ film into a smaller format that would be cheaper and more accessible and extend the market for sales of film together with projectors and movie cameras, but most of them were failures. The historic breakthrough for amateur films came in 1922: the almost simultaneous introduction of safety film in 16mm format by Kodak and 9.5mm by Pathé spread amateur movie-making across the United States and
Europe. Then in 1932 came 8mm film, which partly ousted them and remained the standard amateur format until 1965, when Super8 appeared and ushered in home movie-making as a mass phenomenon in some countries until it was pushed aside by video technology.
From the end of the Twenties, the motion picture company Pathé-Baby begins to distribute its own products in Italy. Despite the difficulty to supply an exact description of the diffusion of Pathé-Baby’s appliances in Italy, this essay aims at going through the kind of offer, the forms of promotion and the conversational level reached by the amateur practice and, eventually, the figures and institutions that, until the mid-Thirties, constantly used, though not in a widespread way, motion-picture cameras, projectors and their attachments manufactured by Pathé-Baby.
This paper seeks to study home movies as a practice of media consumption socially widespread since the second decade of the century. Starting from the case of the Swiss family U. – resident in Genoa until 1940 and the owners of a collection of Pathé-Baby films numbering almost sixty titles – the paper analyzes the forms of private consumption of the cinema. These forms envisage not only the viewing of amateur movies made by families but also commercial films specifically intended for the amateur market. The screening of movies at home entails improvising a ‘cinema’ in one of the rooms of the home; it therefore includes a material and playful dimension involving all members of the family which constitutes an important part of this private form of entertainment. As firms like Pathé gradually built up a catalogue richer in titles for the amateur market – from the classics of the history of the cinema to animated or comedy films – collecting also became part of the practice of private consumption, anticipating modes that television and the home video were to make mass developments. The analysis of forms of private consumption is preceded by a description of the development of the Pathé-Baby technology, a fundamental step in spreading ‘home cinema’.
This paper examines the social discourse that accompanied the birth and early codification of amateur filmmaking in Italy in the thirties through an analysis of manuals and specialist magazines. Firstly it investigates the technological factors, which in Italy were affected by the scarcity of a national industry of production of equipment and films, continually envisioned but never achieved. The paper then examines the discourse
bound up with the use of home-movie cameras, the grammar and rhetoric of the amateur production, such as codified manuals offering advice on how to make films ‘properly’. Finally it analyzes the space of amateur film-making – on both the individual and collective levels, above all in the Cineguf societies promoted and
organized by the Fascist regime – as contradictory practice, suspended between anarchic impulses, artistic needs and strong codifications: a training ground with a view to an entrance into professional cinema, and at the same time an opportunity to express a new sensibility towards the environment and the landscape. The paper seeks to demonstrate how public discourse sought to create an Italian cinematic identity in which commercial and amateur practice were not antagonistic but cooperated in the difficult confrontation with american cinema.
«Ferrania», a magazine published from 1947 to 1967 by the homonymous industry – the most important in Italy – manufacturing photographic and motion picture material, presents several articles devoted to the socalled ‘amateur’ cinema, characterized by the use of films downsized to 8 and 16mm. Among the different contributions, those of Guido Bezzola, Leonardo Autera, Enzo Monachesi and Alfredo Ornano do stand out as they share a few dominant themes ranging from the need to supply technical information in order that the professional quality of film strips may be improved, to critical observation on the ability of certain amateur film-makers to create innovative products from the artistic and the cultural viewpoint. Asystematic analysis of this magazine shows that both the Fifties and the Sixties were a season marked by a large spread of the amateur cinema to different ‘genre’ levels: domestic (o home), experimental, narrative and documentary. Particularly in the Sixties, everybody look up to French (Nouvelle Vague) and American (New American Cinema) experiences as possible models to take for low-cost professional productions. In the total heterogeneity of the products envisaged by definitions such as ‘amateur cinema’and ‘downsized’, «Ferrania»’s constant care consists in the fact of eliciting, somehow, an improvement of the amateur film-maker’s technical abilities, who must aim at reaching the utmost professionalism even though he is supposed to make a film strip on his son’s christening.
This paper is devoted to the figure of Piero Portaluppi (1888-1967), a Milan based architect who was extremely active in the city and between 1929 and 1965 the maker of numerous amateur 16mm films. Now preserved in the Fondazione Piero Portaluppi, his collection ranges across all the genres of amateur cinema, from home movies to travelogues and fictional films, and it contains many highly interesting images of Milan and its urban transformations over the decades. The paper describes salient features of the collection, with a view to the possible practical reuse of these materials in an edited version.
The experience of the Associazione Home Movies in the national panorama takes the shape of a concept for an archival model dedicated to amateur cinema and in particular to family films (in reduced 8mm, Super8, 16mm and 9.5mm formats). The archive is so conceived that it can be reconfigured to suit the project the Association has in mind. It is not intended only to preserve materials, nor is it a film library in the strict sense,
a closed space accessible only to scholars and film-lovers, but a facility devoted to historical research at all levels and open to participation by those who so far have preserved the private memory on film: individual citizens, film buffs or their relatives, who wish to make public and share this cultural heritage. It is a place where this memory can be recorded, re-elaborated and disseminated.
There is a deep and ambivalent connection uniting film with the collective memory. The connection tends to be little explored – certainly less than the link between television and memory – and yet it is decisive and rich in implications. This paper analyzes the nature of the relationship created in the course of the twentieth century between the cinema and the social processes of memory, one that goes quite beyond the placing of the past in discourse to affect the logics and the strategies of mnemonic narrative and the deep-seated mechanisms that govern the collective processes of remembering. Seen against this background, the home movie appears as an extraordinary example of meta-memorial construction, a valuable record for the reconstruction of the history of genealogy, but also a privileged point of observation for understanding the deep mechanisms at work in the coding of the past and the legacy of different kinds of knowledge on which the identity of a community is built.
This paper analyzes Un’ora sola ti vorrei (2002), a film assembled and edited by Alina Marazzi, using the home movies originally made by her maternal grandfather Ulrico Hoepli between 1926 and 1972. A singular attempt to reconstruct the memory of her dead mother exclusively by using traces from the past (home movies, her mother’s letters and diaries and clinical documents), the film is much more than a found-footage
operation, standing halfway between documentary and film diary. The reconstruction of the life of Liseli Hoepli proceeds by interweaving discourses (familial, social, medical, amorous) and representations (home movies, diary entries, medical-social ‘normality’) so as to present us with a many-sided portrait of a woman who was unable to adapt to the identity of the role which others sought to impose on her. So home movies with their images of happiness give us not so much sensitive memories of an experience and a life but rather scenes from an inviolable social performance.
Is it possible to conceive home movies as a form of self-representation? How is individual expression mediated with the mandate of the family as institution? The making of home movies enables the person behind the camera to say something about him/herself, about his/her world, life, and affections. The film diaries of Jonas Mekas, in their proximity to private films of the family type, thus make it possible to emphasize us convergence between the record of familiar everyday life and the positioning of a personal and exclusive look at it. The search for the mode of expression and representation of the self thus involves all practices of inscription of one’s own image in the course of the filming (self-portraits), of images of other people (family portraits) and, residually, of any trace that, by attesting the presence of the body of the operator, presents itself as a sign of subjectivization of the familial filmic text. In this double tension between the filming oneself and films others, the paper seeks to explore the peculiarity of the authorial impulse and the process of imaging oneself through the mechanism of amateur film-making.
This paper proposes the application of psychoanalytic categories to family film. In particular it seeks to reconstruct
how, within the text understood as a psychic device and filmic mechanism, it is possible to isolate and
describe certain structures of ordering the representation and interpretation of reality. These structures would
assume the character of an Ordering Gaze, capable of (paradoxically) mystifying reality at the very moment
when they subject it to a memorable fixedness, and can be assimilated to Lacan’s concept of the ‘Name of the
Father’. Starting from the recognition of the dialogue with these Names of the Father, it is possible to construct
a negotiated relationship between the family film and the non-family viewer.
Starting from Appunti romani [Notes from Rome], a cutting film made by the author, this contribution deals with strategies, procedures, outcomes related to a widespread – nowadays – form of expression which eludes strict and consistent rankings. The film is based upon a trip of the memory, both personal and social, through many a representation of the city of Rome. It avails itself in a free form, deliberately and provokingly ‘antidocumentary’ and anti-narrative, of heterogenic contributions taken from public and private archives both from a visual (images from news-reels, family films, fiction works, postcards...) and from a sound-related point of view (popular songs, speeches, nonsense-rhymes...). The cutting, based upon a poetical reconfiguration.
of materials, strengthens the ‘free’ nature of the work which, released from any practical aims (didactic,
institutional etc.), also appeals to gaps, as indicators of the impossibility to leave room for omnicomprehensive
dramaturgies. As a consequence, the showing experience grows into a participation not rational but
‘fusional’ with a glance-megaphone; a sort of experience not cognitive in a direct way but capable to breed a
common page taken from real life and to bind together several heterogenic audiences in a harmonious dimension.
Hence, the found footage becomes an opportunity to perform a new elaboration, which is personal and
collective, private and public, deliberate and unconscious, of the visual imaginaire related to a prismatic and
always evasive object, such as the Eternal City.
This essay deals with the connection between Mussolini’s public figure and his own private image, by investigating, in particular, functions and uses of amateur and domestic (o home) films which involve the dictator and his family. In terms of consumption, the amateur cinema fits the cult of those objects symbolising modernity
(cars, aeroplanes, radios, motorboats...) which the Mussolinis like to be surrounded with. On the other hand, the communicative functions the Mussolinis’ films do accomplish are of two kinds, if one takes into account the fact that images are filmed by cameramen working on behalf of the national propaganda body: Istituto Luce. Within the family, in the shape of movie letters the daughter sent from Shanghai, all those films
display a private relationship which appears and is strengthened on a public scenery; on the contrary, the domestic (o home) shots of Mussolini’s children telecasted by news-reels have the purpose to build a private image of the dictator that large audiences may benefit from. As it is impossible to talk about a true Mussolini’s ‘family cinema’, the examples document the ceaseless superimposition of public and private spaces, as well
as the building logics of hybrid products.
The earliest movies made by missionaries, originally for educational reasons as well as to provide publicity, are examples of amateur film-making, but they also have some absolutely original features. In defining the characteristics of these films, we have to consider the audiences they were made for, shaping the forms they took to suit the conditions of reception case by case, in a relationship of reciprocal determination between the medium and the (institutional, social) venue where they were shown. This strengthened the identity of the group, cohesive in sharing the same needs and striving towards the same goals. The case of Fiamme, a fic- tional film made by the Saverian Fathers of Parma in 1929, displays the narrative and linguistic models of mainstream movies yet also has the practical sense and ‘hand-crafted’ qualities typical of autodidacts.
In the years of the economic miracle, the Italians filmed the family model they were pursuing. Modern Italy
began to have a single, recognizable face. Through a comparative analysis of the modes of representation in
home movies and in films commissioned by the government from the 1950s on as part of its policy of modernizing
the country, we can trace certain correspondences that gave rise to the new model of the Italian family.
The paper focuses on some exemplary themes in home movies (vacations, the automobile, amusements,
the home) and analyzes the harmonies with the modes of representation found in institutional shorts, such as
those found in the ‘Settimana Incom’, devoted to the same subjects.
This paper sets home-movie making in the context of the development of tourism in Italy, particularly in the boom years of the 1950s; it reconstructs the symbolic value that public discourses of each branch assign to home-movies in this context and in that of the amateurism itself; and it deduces a semio-pragmatic definition of it, underlining the importance of these collective experiences in developing a modern tourist gaze in Italyand hence new patterns of use of audiovisual technology.
A ‘formless’ genre, which traverses the whole history of the cinema, frequently altering its appearance and functions, the ‘back-stage’ or ‘making-of’ film appears at many points of its history to converge with the immense range of amateur practices. A series of clues, relative to both the form and production strategies and to the enunciational perspective that characterize it, are in fact related to the field of those audiovisuals pro- duced and consumed within a non-professional logic and context, and where it is precisely the dimension of ‘love’, namely the dimension of the impassioned and the affective, that emerges as the driving force. The paper exemplifies the development of the genre and its frequent oscillation between amateur and profession- al approaches by means of case histories drawn from the history of the Italian cinema.
From the nineties on, ‘low fidelity’methods of filming and styles inspired by family films and home movies
began to make their way also into mainstream cinema. In their turn digital technologies soon replaced traditional
ones in recording family and intimate memories. The old glamour of cinéma-vérité and the chance to
create an aesthetic in sharp contrast with Hollywood’s prompted some art-movie makers to adopt these techniques.
In Italy the issue is still open. In Italian movies, the inscription of features of home movies in filming
has two aspects: 1. inscription of the technology in representation 2. stylistic mimesis. Films like Io ballo da
sola by Bernardo Bertolucci, Ovosodo by Paolo Virzì and Il più bel giorno della mia vita by Cristina
Comencini exemplify the first type; Scarlet Diva by Asia Argento or L’amore probabilmente by Giuseppe
Bertolucci the second. In any case they still entail introducing the subjects and techniques of home movies
into fictional films, conceived for cinema audiences and usable almost exclusively in art films