Flowing in all directions: Home Made Visible

Eight years ago I walked into Charles Street Video (CSV) with a kernel of an idea about preserving home movies. I recall Greg Woodbury, CSV’s Operations Manager, swiveled on his chair as we mulled things over. Pam Baer, the programming coordinator, added her thoughts from a nearby couch where she ate her lunch, and Sanjit Dhillon, an intern, who sorted through equipment in the next room, piped in brilliantly to contribute to our brainstorm. I felt at home in this environment where ideas and questions flowed in all directions.

I was the Executive Director at the Regent Park Film Festival (RPFF) Toronto’s longest running, free, community-based film festival. I was interested in BIPOC stories and the joy found in home movies: how could we preserve home movies and how could they inspire other joyful stories?

Charles Street Video came on board as our technical partner, one of the three legs of the project. Konrad Skreta, CSV’s in-house editor, digitized the film and video RPFF gathered from across Canada and sent it to York University Libraries, our second major partner, where it was archived by Katrina Cohen-Palacios.

With these key partners, an active advisory and a solid project team managed by Elizabeth Mudenyo at RPFF, we created Home Made Visible, an ambitious national project that received funding from the competitive New Chapter grant program at the Canada Council fo rthe Arts.

We were cautioned by many that our search for home movies might not result in much. Home movies required resources and time especially before the advent of cell phone cameras. Did BIPOC families dabble in home video-making? Regardless, we all agreed the search was worth the effort. In CSV and York University Libraries, RPFF had found partners with whom we could succeed, but perhaps even more importantly, we had found partners with whom we could navigate failure.

CSV was instrumental in connecting RPFF with artists and organizations across Canada, as well as thinking through the care that needed to be established when dealing with so much sensitive personal and historical materials. As an artist-run centre, CSV also supported the eight artists we commissioned to produce original works from archival materials.

Home Made Visible culminated with a symposium
In the end, we digitized over 300 home movies and had to turn down many requests as the project drew to a close. In 2019, Home Made Visible was awarded the Lieutenant-Governor’s Ontario Heritage Awards for Conservation.

BIPOC families have dabbled in home movies. How they managed and how their processes relate to geography, economy, patterns of colonization and settlement, migration, class, race, gender, ability, sexuality and other life markers that shape us, remains to be studied. And still, much more remains to be digitized.

Charles Street Video played a critical and defining role in the success of Home Made Visible by never separating technical expertise from thinking about impact on people and community, starting from considerations of equity within their own spaces. Looking back, that initial conversation

Ananya Ohri

Photo Captions:

Top photo: Ananya Ohri (Executive Director of Regent Park Film Festival), Greg Woodbury (Operations Manager, Charles Street Video and Elizabeth Mudenyo (Special Projects Manager, Regent Park Film Festival) receiving Lieutenant Governor’s Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation for Home Made Visible project

Bottom Photo: Picture of Frances Bastianpillai in poster by Maya Bastian, as part of her documentary, Arrival Archives commissioned for the Home Made Visible project, 2018

CSV 09 September 2022

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