Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film

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Indiana University Press, 1995 - Performing Arts - 187 pages
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Amateur film has been seen as the junkheap of private culture. Yet music videos recycle home movies as authenticity; commercials copy its style to sell intimacy; documentaries use it to recount history "from below."

Reel Families is the first historical study of amateur film, the most pervasive of media. Patricia Zimmerman charts the history of this medium from 1897 to the present, examining how ideological, technical, and social constraints have stunted amateur film's potential for extending media production beyond corporate monopolies and into the hands of everyday people. She draws on an array of sources—camera manufacturers, patents, early film and photography technology journals, amateur filmmaking magazines, professional magazines, and family-oriented popular magazines—to investigate how the concept of amateur film was transformed within evolving contexts of technology, aesthetics, social relations, and politics.


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I found this book on a Google search for Victor information and read about five pages of one pertinent section, starting at page 56. What I found was paragraph after paragraph of incorrect factual information. There are so many errors and so many faulty conclusions drawn from those errors that it's difficult to put any credence in what the author is saying. This is a difficult area to research thoroughly because material from the earliest years is so rare that it is easy to assume you have found the "first" of something simply because it was the earliest you could find. Miss Zimmerman is not the only modern writer to make that mistake. One must be cautious with Victor material because Victor made so many false claims in both his advertising and retrospective commentaries. The difficulties are understandable, but the material is, nevertheless, incompletely researched, so at least some of the conclusions drawn are highly suspect. I gave it a generous middle rating because I did read only part of the book, and perhaps that part is not representative of the rest, but the error density in that small section is astonishingly high--enough to indicate that the author does not have a clear understanding of the relationship between Kodak, Bell & Howell, and Victor or their relative positions and impacts in the market during the early years of the 16mm format.
My read was incomplete, but I also immediately sought out a copy and purchased it. If what I find warrants a more detailed review I will revisit this and expand it.



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About the author (1995)

PATRICIA R. ZIMMERMANN is Professor in the Department of Cinema and Photography at Ithaca College. She is also the author of States of Emergency: Documentaries, Wars, Democracies and has also published articles in Screen, Afterimage, Journal of Film and Video, Cinema Journal, The Independent, Genders, Wide Angle, and Current Research in Film.

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