Home Movie Day 2016 in Prague

The crowd at the entrance of the cinema Ponrepo (Prague), October 15th, 2016.

Prague (Czech Republic)

As part of the Home Movie Day (HMD), most archival institutions invite members of the public to bring their home movies to a designated place where, after careful inspection, the material can be shown in a public screening, often together with relevant commentaries or explanations from the providers themselves. This year, the National Film Archive in Prague (NFA) is taking part in this international initiative for the third time, althought neither of the preceding years has proceeded in the same manner due to the search for the ideal way to reach potential providers of home movies. The form of the programme for the afternoon meeting in the Ponrepo archive cinema and the means of advertising, choice of media partners and the organisation of the collection of film materials itself have all undergone gradual changes. 

This year saw the decision not to restrict the collection of films to the single day on which the event is held, but to allow people to bring in film materials three weeks in advance, on two days each week. In contrast to the previous two years, publicity for the event was greatly intensified. It included an information spot (used in the Ponrepo cinema and on the internet), a presentation broadcast by Czech Television (a report on a main evening news programme and an interview in the morning studio on the day on which HMD was held), on Czech radio stations (Radio Wave, ČRO Vltava and Regina) and in the daily press and its internet editions (“Lidové noviny” and “Deník”).

At 2 pm on 15 October 2016, the archive cinema and its adjacent café opened their doors to the public. Inside the auditorium, two portable projectors for amateur 8 mm, Super8 and 9.5 mm formats stood on a table positioned in the centre aisle with their lenses trained on a small home screen which had been erected on the stage. This was used to screen a selected number of the home movies brought to the event, accompanied by commentaries from their owners inspired by frequently asked questions and partial comments from other visitors to the event. The almost family atmosphere of the screening was only disrupted by the breakdown of one of the period machines. The afternoon programme ended with a film reel made up of home and amateur films that had already been added to the NFA collection in the past, documenting the architectural transformation of Prague and its surrounding areas.

If public participation in the last two years was somewhat more modest and the total number of people interested in preserving home movies in the NFA depositories amounted to no more than 10, this year’s attendance grew to four times as many. On the day of the event, the Ponrepo cinema was visited by more than 40 people and a further 130 home movies owners contacted the NFA by telephone or e-mail in the course of the following weeks.  

The final novelty of this year’s HMD was the organisation of a similar meeting in Mariánské Lázně held at the local Municipal Museum. The event, organised a week after the one in Prague, failed to arouse great interest. This would appear to be partially due to the fact that the efforts of the NFA to promote the event remained somewhat distant, which can be taken as a valuable lesson for next year’s HMD, planned for the autumn of 2017.

Jiří Horníček

National Film Archive