May 12th 19:00 Maria Vinogradova. Filmmaking Is for Lovers: Rediscovering Soviet Amateur Film Culture
In the Soviet 1960s, suddenly, everyone was a film amateur. Members of tourist clubs packed the newly available light-weight 8mm cameras on their travels, while scientists, factory engineers, urban planners and other professionals organized amateur collectives at their workplace. The professional 35mm gauge continued to be used by the most advanced amateurs, frequently under patronage of newsreel and other professional film studios, or with support from a wealthy trade union. Hundreds, possibly thousands of films were created every year, screened at amateur competitions and on specialized television programs, and reviewed in the press. What were these films like? Who participated in the movement? Did state sponsorship nurture creative talent or keep dissent under control? Introducing the main historiographical milestones of the Soviet amateur film movement, it will highlight its specific facets by discussing the individual films presented in the screening.
May 21st 16:00 Inese Strupule. Political, social, and cultural meanings behind Soviet Latvian amateur films (1955–1991)
In her talk, Inese Strupule will attempt to chart the historical development of the amateur filmmaking movement in Soviet Latvia from the mid-1950s to 1991. She will approach the amateur filmmaking movement in Soviet Latvia as a cinematic and aesthetic phenomenon, as well as will investigate this movement as a phenomenon with a significant historical, cultural, and socio-political importance in the context of Soviet society from the Khrushchev ‘Thaw’ period to the collapse of the Soviet Union. In addition to this, she will aim to identify and explore the various functions that amateur filmmaking performed in Soviet Latvia beyond its ostensible mission of transmitting Soviet ideology, and will examine its role in creating alternative political, social, and cultural meanings. Her talk will be supported by various themes, concerns, and perspectives, such as, for instance, the dynamics between the amateur and the professional filmmaking spheres, the institutional and civic aspects of amateur filmmaking efforts, as well as amateur cinema’s role in revitalizing Latvian national cinema.
May 28th 16:00 Liis Jõhvik. Happily, on the Road. Soviet Estonian Home Movies and Amateur Films about Travelling
Family day trips to the seaside or a zoo, visiting friends and relatives, taking a bus or a train with friends or colleagues to travel to another country or city. Back in the Soviet era, many of the blissful holiday-moments were captured with an 8-mm or 16-mm camera. Even though the practice of making home movies was affordable only to the privileged few, there are substantial collections of private films in Estonia. Much of the footage depict travelling or being on the road. The camera recorded the present for future reminiscence – to reconstruct the past’s (happy) experience of the self and others. The films not only depict what was seen on the road, but also bring the imaginaries of the traveller to the surface. The films also offer the viewer an ‘outside-in’ glimpse into themselves, providing proximity with the visited place and with the past. In my talk, I explore how the self is documented in Soviet Estonian home movies and amateur films. How does the ‘amateur’ eye reconstruct the sense of self and space? Ultimately, I am interested in how the home movie becomes a memory practice and how travelling is remembered in the films.
June 4th 16:00 Oleksandr Makhanets. Amateur filmmaking in Soviet Lviv: Individual Practices
At the beginning of the 1980’s Roman Buchko, film director and film enthusiast from Lviv, who used to be a leader of a local amateur film studio, tried to organize a festival on a bigger scale. He got over 200 names and addresses of people who used to develop their small gauge filmstock in the lab and sent them the invitations to attend the festival. Only two replied trying to figure out how their addresses were leaked. The idea to involve more people in the local amateur film movement failed. But who were those 200 people behind the addresses from the lab and many-many more who developed their 8mm films at bathrooms at night? Individual filming was a kind of invisible activity as it was done mostly for private purposes or small communities and only with the archiving amateur films today we can imagine and reconstruct the practice of the camera owner. The spectrum of films done by independent amateurs is diverse and hard to arrange by genres, this art rather occupies a liminal position between social practice, creativity, and self-expression. The lecture will give an overview of the local context of Lviv individual amateur filmmaking in the second half of the 20th-century based on the collection of The Urban Media Archive of the Center for Urban History.