Birthdays, vacations, family reunions. These are the occasions that Barron Sherer and Kevin Wynn watch over and over. As co-curators of Cinema Vortex, a nonprofit organization dedicated to collecting and screening Florida's old movies, Sherer and Wynn have seen thousands of children blow out birthday candles, a ridiculous number of parades, and hundreds of people doing the twist, which Sherer describes as "the dance of the home movie." Sherer and Wynn are gearing up for Home Movie Day, an international celebration of herky-jerky eight-millimeter memories.
The Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archive, in the basement of the Miami-Dade Public Library downtown, is where Florida's films come after the filmmakers die, after the businesses close. There are entire shelves of footage from the old Parrot Jungle and Pan Am Airlines. Then there are the home movie reels, varying in size and age. As the archive's curator, Sherer is pleased to show off their latest stash, collected from an old man in Little Havana.
"It never gets boring," Sherer says. On a small screen, he's projecting images of a parade down Biscayne Boulevard in the Twenties. "See, there's the old Everglades Hotel," he points out.
"Back then, people who were able to make home movies were rich," Wynn explains. Home movies didn't become commonplace until the Fifties, when the advent of the affordable eight-millimeter camera made every suburban parent a director. Of the staggering number of amateur films the Archive has received, only two are made by African-Americans. The footage of a segregated Miami is the kind of rarity that makes Home Movie Day so exciting for history buffs: a window into the unvarnished past, captured before people became self-conscious in front of the camera. "The immediacy of home video changed everything," laments Wynn. Now there's always someone with a video camera, or a cell phone that takes digital video images, ready to capture even the most innocuous moments and post them on the Internet. "Is it The Truman Show yet?" Wynn wonders.
The title of the event is a bit of a misnomer -- Home Movie Day has grown to two days. "Recovered Memories: New Acquisitions" will celebrate recently obtained home movies, and the donors of these films are specially invited to share their recollections. Lincoln Road will come alive with flickering images of the past during "The Big Picture," which will feature amateur films of two 1939 World's Fairs, projected onto a huge display window. At "South Florida on a Fold-Out Screen," Sherer will wind up his sixteen-millimeter Bolex camera and guide a hands-on film workshop, shooting and processing an original home movie that will be screened as soon as it dries.