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Chicago, Illinois 60616
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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Random Acts of Legacy

CFA’s Brian Belak will be in conversation with director/writer/producer Ali Kazimi following the Chicago premiere of his film Random Acts of Legacy at the Chicago International Film Festival. The film unravels the story of a Chinese immigrant family living in Chicago told through the filmmaker’s discovery of a trove of 16mm home movies starting in the 1930s. The post-screening discussion will cover the significance of home movies as unique cultural records and the tactility of them as physical artifacts.

Random Acts of Legacy (Ali Kazimi, 2016, 77 min)
A rare and illuminating glimpse of midcentury American life, this touching documentary introduces us to a unique Chicago family. From the 1930s on, first-generation Chinese immigrant Silas Fung captured his family’s bourgeois life in copious 16mm home movies. The Fungs fervently embraced their adopted home, from fried-chicken picnics to an obsession with the 1933 World’s Fair. The American family, the film implies, fits no single image. (Description from Chicago International Film Festival)


AMC River East 21
322 E. Illinois St
Chicago, IL 60611



Let’s All Go to the Fair!

State & county fair season is in full swing and we thought it would be a fun exercise to gather some of our home movies (plus 1 short film) featuring…well, fairs! From amusement rides to paint by numbers to preserved fruits & vegetables, these films offer personal & pleasant glimpses into Midwest fair life of the ’60s and ’70s…enjoy!

1967 Butler County Fair (Hamilton, Ohio) via Robert Dockum Collection


1968 Butler County Fair (Hamilton, Ohio) via Robert Dockum Collection


1969 Indiana State Fair via Stacy Maugans Collection


and last (but certainly not least!) a charming short film about the 1978 Wisconsin State Fair by Harry Mantel



45 years ago….the Chicago Apollo 11 Parade

As Collections Manager at CFA, I love finding connections among our collections, or better yet, finding documentation of the same event spread across various collections. Whenever this happens I admittedly find myself daydreaming of filmmakers crossing paths…possibly chatting with each other, comparing cameras and stocks. 

In the context of our collections, having multiple films shot on the same day of the same subject is a fairly common phenomenon for big and notable public events. Examples of this include the ’33 Chicago World’s Fair, the tumultuous 1968 Democratic Convention, or more generally, rowdy Chicago parades. One of my favorite Chicago “same day” subjects is the Apollo 11 parade, which took place 45 years ago this month (August 13, 1969 to be exact) in downtown Chicago. Thousands gathered to get a glimpse of the first humans on the Moon aka Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, Jr. To celebrate this sapphire anniversary, here are stills and films of the parade found across genres and collections…plus one special guest appearance courtesy of Tom Palazzolo!

Our first example is a social-issue documentary by Dewitt Beall….

LORD THING (DeWitt Beall, 1970, 16mm.; found in CFA’s DeWitt Beall Collection)

This Thursday, CFA is delighted to premiere the 16mm restoration of LORD THING as part of the Gene Siskel Film Center’s 20th annual Black Harvest Film Festival. The film chronicles the genesis and transformation of the Conservative Vice Lords, one of Chicago’s oldest street gangs. In one particular scene, an “LSD” (Lords, Stones & Disciples) coalition marches on city hall during the Apollo 11 parade festivities. Along with LSD protests at various Chicago construction sites, the march took place to encourage the hiring of black youth for city sponsored construction projects. Unlike the other examples highlighted below, LORD THING doesn’t attempt at capturing the astronauts or parade as a whole, but rather keeps it lens tight on the LSD and their colorful berets.

Now from social-issue documentary to unedited B-Roll….

APOLLO 11 PARADE (Rhodes Patterson, 1969, 16mm.; found in CFA’s Rhodes Patterson Collection)

Chicagoan Rhodes Patterson wore many professional and artistic hats during his lifetime; he was a designer, cinematographer, photographer and writer. In the mid 1950s, Patterson started working for the Container Corporation of America (CCA), writing much of their advertising material, designing internal publications, and documenting various aspects of the corporation and its activities. The diverse subject matter and style of Patterson’s films reflect the interconnected communities of industrial and graphic design, commercial and industrial film production, fine art, and architecture in Chicago. Whether made “just for fun,” as documentation, or for commercial purposes, his films reflect his humor, interest in art and design, imagination and creativity. One unedited reel in his collection captures the Apollo 11 parade from various vantage points. Here it is streaming in full below:

+ my favorite shot of the film…a girl with her 8mm camera:

and now from B-Roll to home movie…

ASTRONAUTS PARADE 1969 (Carl Godman, 1969, 8mm.; found in CFA’s Carl L. Godman Collection)

CFA recently acquired the Carl L. Godman Home Movie Collection- a collection of films documenting the Godman family of Chicago and Evanston from the early 1960′s to mid 1970′s. It contains a whopping 95 reels of 8mm film, the majority of which were shot when 8mm Kodachrome was at its most saturated prime – the early to mid 1960′s.  Included among birthday, holiday and vacation films was a single reel documenting the family’s experience at the parade as well as attempts at capturing the famed three – Buzz, Neil and Michael. Stay tuned as we begin to publish streaming films of this exciting new home movie collection on our site. In the meantime, here are stills from the aforementioned reel appropriately titled “Astronauts Parade”:

and now from home movie to educational film…

THE METOOSHOW: “Where Does My Street Go?” (Gordon Weisenborn, c. 1969, 16mm.; found in CFA’s Jack Behrend Collection)

The MeTooShow was a Chicago produced educational program, focusing on children’s interactions and interpretations of the world around them. It was made by Chicago-born Gordon Weisenborn, a prolific director of educational and sponsored films (and creator of a CFA favorite, MURAL MIDWEST METROPOLIS). CFA is lucky to have a handful of Weisenborn titles in our Jack Behrend Collection, including two episodes of the Meetooshow. Unfortunately, though, both episodes are severely color faded. In the show’s  “Where Does My Street Go?” episode, footage of the city and its people are intercut with children at play within the classroom, providing real-world examples of their imaginative play. One of these city scenes features footage of our topic at hand, including shots of the astronauts and a streamer-lined LaSalle Street (pictured below with the show’s opening title card).

and now from educational film to experimental documentary…

YOUR ASTRONAUTS (Tom Palazzolo, 1970, 16mm.; courtesy of  Tom Palazzolo)

Chicago filmmaker (& legend) Tom Palazzolo generously offered us permission to stream his 1970 film YOUR ASTRONAUTS, which captures his distinct and witty perspective of the parade. During a recent phone conversation with Tom, he described the parade as “just one of those electric days.” He found it most intriguing that the majority of the crowd schlepped in from the burbs. To emphasize the strangeness of this suburban takeover, Tom added a soundtrack of cafeteria noise over footage of parade attendees (interpret as you will). Here it is in full courtesy of Tom:

+ one of my favorite shots from the film:


For the time being, that’s it for Apollo 11 Parade footage at CFA. We’ll continue to add to this post as we come across any additional footage. And this may be stating the obvious, but loads and loads of photographs and films (especially home movies) of the parade exist outside of our vault. I recommend checking out the Chicago Tribunes collection of photos here (the bunnies!).  


Early 8mm Films of the Chicago World’s Fair Arrive at CFA

This year, we were fortunate to acquire five more reels of home movies featuring the 1933 Chicago “Century of Progress” World’s Fair. They were shot by Russell V. Zahn (1901-1993) of Racine, Wisconsin and part of a larger collection of home movies donated by the family (you can read more about our Zahn Home Movie Collection here).

Previously, we only had two 16mm reels documenting the fair, one in our Ferd Isserman Collection and another in our David Gray Collection. The Isserman film is and reads very much like a home movie, while the Gray film *appears* to be a silent commercially produced film spliced together with home movie footage. I almost prefer the home movie footage over the commercially produced films about the fair. Each home movie gives a unique on-the-ground (and sometimes overhead!) perspective, shaky camera and all. They often highlight family members & friends and even include quiet downtime moments or breaks from the hustle and bustle, giving us 21st century viewers a more personal experience of the fair.

What’s particularly unique about these five newly donated reels is that they were shot on 8mm, a celluloid format that entered the market in 1932 (just to point out the obvious, only a year before these were shot!). More on the 8mm format via Kodak:

“By 1932, with America in the throes of the Great Depression, a new format, the “Cine Kodak Eight”, was introduced. Utilizing a special 16mm film which had double the number of perforations on both sides, the filmmaker would run the film through the camera in one direction, then reload and expose the other side of the film, the way an audio cassette is used today…. After development, the laboratory would slit the film lengthwise down the center, and splice one end to the other, yielding fifty feet of finished 8 mm movies. The success of 8mm film was almost immediate, and within about fifteen years, 16 mm film became almost exclusively a format of the professional filmmaker.”

These five reels (now streaming on our site and below via CFA’s Youtube channel) are the oldest 8mm films we have and they happen to document one of our favorite subjects in all its troubled splendor. At this time, it’s unclear what order the reels were shot, but we have labeled them Reels 1-5 in order for us to differentiate the titles among reels (all were titled simply “1933 Chicago World’s Fair,” but each contains unique footage). Enjoy!






“Small gauge film is not larger than life, it’s part of life.”

This Wednesday, March 26th, we’re celebrating Home Movie Day in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. Per usual, we’re inviting the community to bring their celluloid home movies (16mm, 8mm and/or Super 8mm) to have them projected in front of a live audience. Don’t have any films? Don’t fret! We also have a program of CFA home movies in store (more on that soon).

This is a very collaborative event all around. We were invited by The Post Family to help create and co-host the event. They’re a Chicago art collective with their own printmaking studio, office, and gallery space, and they’ve courageously taken over Comfort Station programming for the entire month of March (you can peek at their remaining events here). We’re also teaming up with Northwest Chicago Film Society, who will offer their wisdom & expertise by projecting these treasured celluloid films for all to see, and Logan Square International Film Series (Comfort Films), who continue to help spread the word. The Post Family has also enlisted the help of Synesthetic (Angel Elmore : piano, Joe Vajarsky : tenor saxophone, Norman Long : field recordings, Dan Godston : trumpet & Lou Ciccoteli : drums) to accompany any or all films.

JoAnn Elam in “Boyers & Rhinos,” an 8mm film from 1981

We’re using this community-fueled event as a good excuse to crack open our JoAnn Elam Collection, or more specifically, to showcase rarely screened 8mm home movies from the collection.

Just in case, some quick background:  JoAnn Elam (1949-2009) is a central figure in the history of Chicago’s experimental film community. Her short experimental and documentary films capture the spirit and ethos of a politically active, feminist, and socially conscious artist. She also happened to be a Logan Square resident, often filming her neighbors, community events, gardens, co-workers & friends with her 8mm Carena Zoomex camera.

JoAnn always thought of her films as home movies and validated them as such. These feelings were upheld in JoAnn’s “manifestette,” which she co-wrote with fellow filmmaker & friend, Chuck Kleinhans (Northwestern University, Jump Cut), for a joint show:

Small gauge film (regular 8 and Super 8 ) is low cost, technically accessible, and appropriate for small scale viewing.

Because it’s cheap and you can shoot a lot of film, filming can be flexible and spontaneous. Because the equipment is light and unobtrusive, the filming relationship can be immediate and personal.

The appropriate viewing situation is a small space with a small number of people. Therefore it invites films made for or with specific audiences. Often the filmmaker and/or people filmed are present at a screening. The filming and viewing events can be considered as part of the editing process. Editing decisions can be made before, during, and after filming and can incorporate feedback from an audience. Connections can be made between production and consumption, filmmaker and audience and subject matter.

Small gauge film is not larger than life, it’s part of life.

JoAnn Elam
Chuck Kleinhans

“Boyers & Rhinos,” 1981

The intimate Comfort Station Logan Square provides an “appropriate viewing situation” as well as a geographically meaningful space to screen JoAnn’s 8mm films. This Wednesday’s program isn’t a retrospective of JoAnn’s work, but rather a showcase of the Logan Square-centric home movies found in her collection. The selected films include scenes of Palmer Square Art Fairs, back porch lounging, a double exposed bbq and energetic black kittens. One reel, simply titled “Belden & Kimball,” documents smaller neighborhood moments – potted plants, parallel parking and youthful sidewalk shenanigans.

To compliment JoAnn’s films, we’ll also be screening very Chicago home movies from our other collections (primarily, the Rhodes Patterson Collection). These 16mm reels were all shot during or around the same time as JoAnn’s, but go beyond the neighborhood of Logan Square. Highlights include a shaky helicopter ride around the loop, a crowded lunch break at Grant Park, a trip down late 1970′s Maxwell Street Market and a panorama of Great America in 1977.

Join us from 7-9PM to celebrate home movies, small gauge cinema, Logan Square and JoAnn Elam with YOUR home movies and the following program:

-Loop Christmas (Rhodes Patterson, circa 1969, 16mm., Color, Silent, 5 min.)
-Blizzard of ’79 (JoAnn Elam, 1979, 8mm., Color, Silent, 4.5 min.)
-Helicopter Chicago Loop (Rhodes Patterson, 1973, 16mm., Color, Silent, 6 min.)
-Belden & Kimball (JoAnn Elam, circa 1977, 8mm., Color, Silent, 3 min.)
-Grant Park Frisbee (Rhodes Patterson, 1971, 16mm., Color, Silent, 4.5 min.)
-Palmer Square (JoAnn Elam, circa 1976, 8mm., Color, Silent, 13 min.)
-Apollo 11 Chicago Parade (Rhodes Patterson, 1969, 16mm., Color, Silent, 8 min.)
-Julia & Kittens (JoAnn Elam, circa 1979, 8mm., B&W, Silent, 2.5 min)
-Great America 1977 (Rhodes Patterson, 1977, 16mm., Color, Silent, 6 min.)
-Boyers & Rhinos (JoAnn Elam, circa 1981, 8mm., Color, Silent, 5 min.)
-Walls & Helen – Chicago’s Maxwell Street Market (Glick-Berolzheimer Collection, 1978, 16mm., B&W, Silent, 5 min.)
-Palmer Square Art Fair ‘85 (JoAnn Elam, 1985, 8mm., Color, Silent, 7 min.)
More here and here


Chicago Home Movie Day 2013 (everyone’s invited!)

CFA and Northwest Chicago Film Society have lots in store for you at this year’s home movie day, which takes place Saturday, October 19th at the accommodating Chicago History Museum. This international event (started 11 year ago by the Center for Home Movies) provides a unique opportunity for those with 16mm., 8mm, and/or Super 8mm home movies to have their films inspected and projected by local archivists and skilled projectionists.

We also have lots of entertainment for those without films to share: Home Movie Day Bingo (win prizes!), popcorn (mmmm), live accompaniment by local pianist David Drazin PLUS a selection of curated home movies from two culturally rich Chicago neighborhoods – Bronzeville and Ravenswood Manor. Why these two neighborhoods? Well, community orginzations from these two neighborhood approached CFA separately about having their own neighborhood home movie days in 2014 (Ravenswood Manor turns 100 next year, btw!!). We thought we could get a head start by featuring these two communities at our 2013 city-wide event. Of course, all Chicagoans (and their home movies!) are encouraged to attend and participate in Home Movie Day, but here’s an idea of what you’ll see in this year’s 2PM curated program:

Representing Bronzeville: The home movies of Olympic Champion & politician, Ralph Metcalfe!

Once called “the worlds fastest human,” two-time track & field Olympian Ralph Metcalfe nabbed glory in both Los Angeles in 1932 and in Berlin in 1936. While a skilled competitor in his own right, Metcalfe is likely best remembered for his part in the gold medal-winning 4×100 relay team that competed in Berlin. Following military service and a career in the private sector, Metcalfe started his political career by representing Chicago’s Third Ward on the city council in 1949. The Democrat took office in the Senate in 1971, and represented Illinois there until his death in 1978.

We are very excited to share personal home movies from the Ralph Metcalfe Collection at this year’s home movie day! Expect to see 1957 scenes from inside Chicago’s Third Ward Office, mid-century track & field events, Queen Elizabeth II’s 1959 visit to Chicago and a 1961 bake sale held at Howalton Day School, the first African American private school in Chicago. Ralph’s son, who is working tirelessly to preserve and promote his father’s legacy, will be on hand at Home Movie Day to narrate his family’s home movies.

Representing Ravenswood Manor: teenage antics shot on Super 8 sound film!

Back in the early 1970′s, a gaggle of Ravenswood Manor teens documented their wild neighborhood antics and shot chaotic short films on their Super 8mm cameras. Go back in time to an era of Yes & Pink Floyd t-shirts(!), wood-panelled basements, Chicago River explosions and unsupervised pyrotechnics.

and as a special treat, newly acquired CFA home movies of the 1933 Chicago’s World’s Fair!

CFA just acquired a collection of  home movies from the Zahn Family of Racine, Wisconsin. Included in this donation were 5 (yes, 5!) 8mm home movies shot at the 1933-1934 Chicago World’s Fair (aka the Century of Progress International Exposition). At this year’s Home Movie Day, we will project our favorite World’s Fair reels from the Zahn Collection (teaser: animatronic King Kong!!!). The 8mm film format came about in 1932, so this is an extremely rare chance to watch some of the earliest 8mm out there …

Home Movie Day 2013 is from 11AM-3PM, with the curated program beginning at 2PM. Folks with celluloid home movies should feel free to mozy on over anytime between 11AM-2PM to have their films inspected and, if in good shape, projected. For more info on the event, click over to our HMD 2013 events page. Not in Chicago? Check out the *official* and growing list of Home Movie Day locations here (via The Center for Home Movies). Happy Home Movie Day to all!



Discovering Kodacolor at CFA

Kodacolor box found in the Chicago Academy of Sciences’ collection

While processing the Chicago Academy of Sciences’ (Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum) collection, I came across an unfamiliar stock among some 1930s-40s home movies. Found on metal 100’ and 50’ spools sans box, the edge markings read “Kodacolor Safety Film” and dated from 1936. What struck me immediately was that not only were these “Kodacolor” films black and white, but displayed different physical properties than Kodak’s B&W reversal stock produced at the same time. Under a loupe, the film appeared to have a large, pixel-like grain akin to standard definition video. Tilting the film over a light source revealed a shift in density similar to a Fresnel lens. Not typical black and white reversal, that’s for sure.

I hopped on the computer and did some research on Kodacolor stock. While Kodak has used the Kodacolor trademark for a few products, the lesser-known 16mm Kodacolor was an early lenticular color stock. Introduced in 1926, Kodacolor was a means of giving amateur filmmakers access to color pictures before Kodachrome became commercially successful.

The concept of Kodacolor’s lenticular system involved a special filter that separated light into red-green-blue as it entered the camera lens. The stock itself was panchromatic black & white, which meant it registered red, green, and blue light as opposed to orthochomatic’s only blue-green sensitivity (hence red-lit darkrooms for processing orthochromatic film). The film itself layered the emulsion away from the lens, behind a complex base composed of tiny lenses for splitting the light coming into the camera lens— think of television’s miniscule RGB components working to form a whole picture. The black & white film would then be projected through a RGB filter that would split the light back onto the screen, projecting a full-color image.

The Kodacolor filter split white light into red, green, and blue wavelengths

Unfortunately, Kodacolor was plagued with inconveniences. The extremely slow film (modern day 0.5 ISO!) could only be shot in bright daylight to compensate for the light loss in both the camera’s filter and the projector’s filter. It goes without saying that the need for both filters was also cumbersome. Soon, Kodachrome’s subtractive color system proved more accessible (and assumingly more cost-effective), dominating the amateur motion picture market. Roughly ten years after its introduction, Kodacolor ceased manufacture.

At the moment, we have no means of viewing the Kodacolor film at the archives in its intended color. A 1928 home movie in CFA’s Susan H. and Charles P. Schwartz Collection shows the defined grain of the lenticular stock when viewed without the Kodacolor filter.

In comparison, check out these videos of George Eastman unveiling Kodacolor (in Kodacolor no less):

and a 1934 home movie demonstrating the transformation from black & white to a full color spectrum:


More on Kodacolor here.


-Lauren Alberque