CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 1 . . . . September 6, 2002
When My Father's Camera was awarded the George Foster Peabody Award in 2002, it was called an "innovative" film "which blends home movies with original production to explore the role of personal filmmaking in cinematic history." This entertaining documentary demonstrates that home movies capture more than a family album on film. Director Karen Shopsowitz illustrates how the footage she includes from her father's, amateur filmmaker Israel Shopsowitz, home movies reveals the world as seen "through his eyes." For her, there is a connection between the concept of viewing the world through the camera to the capturing of a different context of history as recorded through the eyes of amateur filmmakers.
In My Father's Camera, Shopsowitz explains how amateur moving pictures engage the audience in a different way than do professional films or still photographs. She shows the creativity and potential of this medium. The footage is not just a record of people and events, but a record of what is important to the film maker. As Shopsowitz explains, often the intent of the film maker is unknown, but inadvertently he or she captures historical moments that are rarely found in professional films of the same period. Footage of a parade that includes a procession of Klu Klux Klan members or billboards and ads for the Dionne Quintuplet exhibit can show less favourable moments of the last century. Amateur filmmakers also record another perspective of our history through filming the "other" faces of Canadian and American immigrant families through their home movies.
My Father's Camera shows the high level of interest in amateur film. Interviews with archivists and filmmakers reveal the potential of home movies to provide viewers with a world view of historical moments from daily events. From black and white silent films to colour movies, the audience begins to understand the value of images and now, for, as the director states, "images made by anyone matter."
This documentary can inspire amateur filmmakers and home movie buffs. It will provide people of all ages interested in the study of film and its history food for thought. It is a definite statement by Karen Shopsowitz about the cultural value of home movies.
Janice Foster is a teacher-librarian and enrichment facilitator at Oakenwald School in Winnipeg, MB.
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