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Lost in Light is a videoblog about small gauge filmmaking featuring weekly posts of home movies, work by artists, articles by preservationists and film scholars, video tutorials and other film gems.




Family Movie by Elliott Malkin (silent, 2004, 5 minutes)

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Guest contributor

Family Movie is a short reconstruction of my parents’ super8 home movies from the 1970’s. I shot the reconstructions on video, at my parents’ home in Chicago and at the former Marco Polo Hotel on Miami Beach, where the original movies were recorded. My brother couldn’t join us in Miami, though he makes a cameo in the Chicago wrestling scene.

In the original footage, my parents alternate between the roles of filmmaker and subject (never appearing in the same shot but implicitly together in the construction of the scenes.) In my new footage, they are subjects, or “actors,” and now I am the one behind the camera. The split screen is the framework for this reversal: I am absent as a subject but present at the scene. When I first viewed the old movies, I felt depersonalized, disconnected from the image of myself as a toddler onscreen. And though I can recall that sensation I can no longer identify with it – I am now depersonalized from that depersonalization.

Most of my work on the project was spent in front of Final Cut Pro. The first task was to log the full two hours of original footage and organize the shots according to subject and location. (The idea for the project actually occurred to me in the course of this exercise.) On location, I experimented with different ways of reconstructing the scenes. While in Chicago, I kept the original footage on my laptop. My parents and I would study each shot at the kitchen table and then went through numerous takes of the reconstructions.

The real challenge was to get my parents’ gestures to work in concert with my camera movements. For the long panning shot at the Marco Polo Hotel, I had my handheld dv camera, and two dv tapes: one blank for the shot, and one with my dad’s original pans. Once I was able to identify his original position at the pool I memorized his fairly simple panning routine: left, up, left, down, right. Still, it required a lot more time in Final Cut to smooth it all out. And even then, the shots do not mirror one another exactly – it’s really not possible to reconstruct the past.

Elliott Malkin lives in New York City. His work can be seen at


Comment from robbie malkin
Time: January 16, 2007, -5

Very interesting. Keep up the good work!

Comment from Jonny Goldstein
Time: January 16, 2007, -5

You really can’t reconstruct the past, but you can evoke it, reference it, and comment on it. Nice piece Elliot.

Comment from cheryl colan
Time: January 16, 2007, -5

Yes – even though you can’t reconstruct the past, I found the images fascinating in which detail was the same (or nearly so), and what was different. Really quirky-cool piece!

Comment from giles p
Time: January 16, 2007, -5

Beautiful and very poignant, enhanced by a lack of soundtrack!

Comment from Shawn Van Every
Time: February 3, 2007, -5

Elliott, thanks for sharing this. I love the juxtaposition. Do you have more, are you going to do it again in 30 years with whatever the technology is then? A lifetime.

Comment from Francisco
Time: May 26, 2007, -5

On the surface, about 30 seconds into the movie, I thought the picture dimensions and double screen was charming. Once I followed the beat of the shots though, I was reminded of the temporal. I thought about dust. In following the shots your parents took, it was a way for to reunite with their breathing. The places and colors take the viewer into your experience. It’s really quite wonderful that in your shooting from the old vantage points, you captured your parents gestures. Great job working with your parents participate with you on this project. Your patience paid off! I’m going to watch the rest of your work.

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Time: August 1, 2010, -5

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