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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.




Sugar Cane

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This week’s post is another from the home movie collection of the Dobronte family, this time from Hawaii in the early 1950s. This excerpt contains arresting footage of the burning of the sugar cane fields, as well as fascinating footage of sugar cane production.

Contributor Diane Dobronte from California adds some detail:

Part of the Dobronte Family at the Sugar Cane Fields on Oahu, Hawaii in the early 1950’s…

My father, Dr. Frank Dobronte, shot this when we were invited to the factory to watch the process and tour. We lived in Hawaii from about 1951 – early 1955.

I don’t know if they still burn the fields now but the whole process started by a dramatic controlled burning of the fields prior to harvest. Then the cane was collected, washed and squeezed by heavy presses to extract the sugar cane juice – the juice went through a series of dryings… they gave us little cotton bags about 4in x 4in of the pure raw cane sugar. it was so delicious… I can still taste it. Not like the white sugar we are used to.

My Dad is filming and I’m with my Mom in the clip – don’t know where my other sisters are but there are 4 of us, and then 5 when my brother was born – in fact my Mom is probably pregnant in this film. In the clip is my Mom, Mary Dobronte, and myself, Diane. Great memory and I can still smell the wonderful sweet smell of the whole experience……… glad to have found this!

As always, see our File Directory for a link to twenty five minutes of high quality footage of the Dobrontes’ experiences in Hawaii, available at the Internet Archive.


Comment from Aaron Valdez
Time: August 20, 2007, -5

This is one of my favorite reels we’ve transferred so far. I love that dad had you stand in front of the camera with fields burning in the background. It could have easily been Disneyland or Old Faithful.

Comment from Renate Bergsma / Serious Film Rotterdam
Time: July 31, 2008, -5

Dear Diane Dobronte,

I’m working for Serious Film in the Netherlands and we’re making a documentary of a very famous, but tragically died Dutch singer Herman Brood. We would really like to use 8 seconds of the footage of the burning of the sugar cane. You or your Mom are not in it, only a close-up of the burning sugar cane. Would you give your permission for that? I hope to hear from you at:

Renate Bergsma

Warm regards!