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Report Amateur Film Day 2012

On the 28th of September, 2012 the annual Amateur Film Day took place at the Dutch Film festival in Utrecht. Theater De Kikker proved to be a good alternative for the Louis Hartlooper Complex, on which the event was held previously. This year’s theme of the Amateur Film Day: “celebrations”.

The morning kicked-off with a celebration of the 28mm film gauge, a less known film format which was presented as ‘the first successful home movie film gauge’. This ‘forgotten’ gauge, precursor of more recognized standard amateur film formats such as 9.5mm, 16mm and 8mm, was developed in 1912 and therefore celebrates its 100 years of existence this year. For the occasion, collector Brian Giles (UK) had installed an original 28mm projector from the Pathéscope KOK series (and a 28mm Victor projector), which he has restored himself. Giles briefly presented the development of 28mm as a film gauge and projector – the first self-contained home cinematograph – after which he screened some beautiful original 28mm film footage.

In the afternoon the program switched from the celebration of 28mm film to the 80th birthday of NOVA, the Dutch Association for Amateur Filmmakers. Kees Tervoort, president of NOVA, presented the history of NOVA along with some examples of outstanding Dutch amateur films among which the classic ‘A Miller’s Daughter’ (1934), the somewhat alienating film ‘Fiction’ (1966), the animation-film ‘De Kooi’ (1981) and the award-winning amateur film ‘Mol’ (2011). Tervoort made two remarkable observations. First of all, he strongly distinguishes between the serious amateur filmmaker and the casual home moviemaker. For the serious amateur, the film practice did not change significantly. Like the 1930s, serious amateur filmmakers still – somehow paradoxically – strive for ‘professional-like’ films which requires a good script, actors, directing and editing. What did change in Tervoort’s view, however, is that we no longer have to go to the cinema only to see films. We can use other (online) platforms as well. Since Tervoort wants the NOVA to open up for new generations of amateur filmmakers, this change has been reformulated as a challenge at the same time.

Obviously, technological change should not be underestimated here. In her presentation on the birth of the Amateurfilm Platform, Lotte Baltussen from the Dutch Institute for Sound and Vision (Beeld & Geluid) problematizes the idea that only amateur film can be valuable archival material. While both regional and national archives have preserved and conserved 9.5mm, 16mm, 8mm, double-8 and super-8 film material, there still seems to be a gap to bridge when it comes to its electromagnetic successors on VHS, MiniDV, Hi8, Video8, Betamax and Digital8. In general, our audiovisual past between 1980 and 2005 – our analogue video memories, so to say – have been rather underrepresented in the archives.

The Amateurfilm Platform, a great initiative from Beeld & Geluid supported by the Mondriaan Fonds and VSB fonds, has formulated three major aims: (1) filling the video gap in the audiovisual archives’ amateur film collections, (2) making these collections accessible to a broad public and thereby opening-up contextual information, (3) creating consciousness about the cultural and social value of amateur film and video.

Lotte Baltussen illustrated the shift in (and often conflicting appreciation of) changing technologies in the amateur filmmaking practice, with a humorous video from the NOVA collection. This video jokingly foregrounds the ‘generational conflict’ that often emerged between a user generation that favours the old analogue super8 technologies, and a new generation that embraced the possibilities of videomaking:

In order to collect amateur video material, several special “Home Movie Days” have been organized in collaboration with the regional archives of Rotterdam, Groningen and Limburg. These Home Movie Days have been planned on October 14th (both Groningen and Rotterdam), October 20th (Amsterdam), and October 27th (Venlo). For more information, see:

The Amateur Film Day was festively concluded with the premiere of a short film made by children from the Kanaleneiland quarter in Utrecht who used the summer vacation to make their own new items. It was the fifth collaboration between the Stichting Jongeren Cultuurhuis Kanaleneiland and the Amateur Film Day.

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