Family Movie by Elliott Malkin (silent, 2004, 5 minutes)
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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 â€“ 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 â€“ it’s really not possible to reconstruct the past.
Elliott Malkin lives in New York City. His work can be seen at www.dziga.com