Saving Private Reels:Presentation, appropriation and re-contextualisation of the amateur moving image

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University College Cork, Ireland
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Call for papers

Saving Private Reels

Presentation, appropriation and re-contextualisation of the amateur moving image

An international conference at University College Cork, Ireland
17-18 September 2010

Often underrated as a private and, thus, socially irrelevant phenomenon, and equally dismissed in aesthetic terms or at least confined to the domain of amateur pictorialism, in the 1960s the home movie became central to the personal, subjective avant-garde and experimental filmmaking of New American Cinema. The practice of incorporating private home movies in experimental film and video resurfaced powerfully over the past decades, with artists such as Alan Berliner, Péter Forgács, Rea Tajiri, Daniel Reeves and Michelle Citron, among many others.

The socio-political impact of which private footage is potentially capable is epitomized by the most complete and most viewed recording of John F. Kennedy's assassination, filmed on 8mm by Abraham Zapruder on November 22, 1963, as well as by more recent examples, such as the beating of Rodney King, videotaped in Los Angeles by bystander George Holliday on March 2, 1991, which played an important part in triggering the Los Angeles riots of 1992.

Even films that do not happen to capture significant events and historical moments, but focus instead on domestic settings, private occasions or everyday scenes in the public sphere have now become valuable documents of the customs, values, identities, practices, rituals and historical realities of generations of amateur filmmakers. What makes them so relevant today is precisely what previously relegated them – their ephemeral, private and subjective nature.

As a result of the waning of authority and objectivity as compelling social narratives, alternative, subjective and contingent accounts of reality have become more appealing. The proliferation of amateur videos and video-diaries on the Internet testifies to the strength and intensity of the phenomenon. In parallel, the humanities have registered an ever-growing interest in self-representation, first-person narratives and practices of memorialization that go beyond official historiography. The success of recent non-fictions such as Andrew Jarecki's Capturing the Friedmans and Jonathan Caouette's Tarnation has once again demonstrated the eloquence and power of private images when used for purposes of historical and cultural investigation and of self-scrutiny and representation.

This conference aims to explore the pressing issues of the use, presentation, appropriation and re-contextualisation of the amateur moving image, of our relationship with it, both historically and today, and of the senses and meanings of its encounters with a variety of contexts, technologies and discourses.

Papers of the duration of 20 minutes and pre-organized panels of up to 4 papers can address the following or related aspects and issues:

• (Re)presentation and the archive
• Private document, memory, memorialization
• The first-person documentary and autobiographical cinema
• The personal on the Internet: YouTube, Videoblogs
• Amateur footage meets art film
• Orphan films
• The re-contextualization of amateur footage in fiction and documentary
• Amateur form and aesthetics
• Capturing the Zeitgeist, making history: amateur newsreels
• Representing the family
• Imagining the nation, imagining the self
• Leisure and pleasure and the touristic gaze
• Amateur filmmaking and modernity
• The banal, the commonplace, the repetitious
• Audiences and reception
• Reflections of class, ideology and society
• From 8mm to digital: evolution of amateur technologies
• Identities, sexualities, genders
• Amateur fictions, amateur genres
• Shooting on the edge: guerrilla filmmaking
• Self-censoring and selection

Confirmed keynote speaker: Patricia Zimmerman, Professor in the Department of Cinema, Photography and Media Arts at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York, USA, author of Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film (Indiana, 1995) and co-editor of Mining The Home Movie: Excavations In Histories and Memories (California, 2008)

Submissions: Panel and single paper proposals (abstracts of 300/500 words plus short bibliography) should be sent to the following email address, along with a brief biographical note, by the deadline of February 8th 2010 :

Conference homepage: For further information and for updates visit our homepage,

Organizers: Dr Barry Monahan, Dr Laura Rascaroli, Dr Gwenda Young (University College Cork, Ireland)