South Side Home Movie Project produces new film series with Chicago musicians, gives new life to film archive

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hundreds of hours of archival home movies documenting Black life in Chicago during the 20th century sit inside of a film vault at The University of Chicago. But you can watch every second of those film reels from home.

When film historian Jacqueline Stewart founded the South Side Home Movie Project 15 years ago, her goal was to preserve, digitize and showcase these films. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project found a creative new way to present the films to a broad audience.

"Part of our mission is to re-exhibit these films, to bring them from a basement... and to actually redistribute them so that we can hold these images and these memories in our working minds today," said archivist and project manager Justin Williams.

Parrtnering with UChicago's art incubator, Arts + Public Life, the archive started a new series called Spinning Home Movies.

Each 30-minute episode of the series is created by a local Chicago DJ or musician, who fuses an original soundtrack and soundscape with segments of the film archive. Episodes stream live for free on Facebook.

The summer series began in early July with a 30-minute episode created by Chicago's own Jamila Woods.

Cellist Seth Parker Woods created the second summer program, which can be seen on Arts + Public Life's Facebook page

"As I started toiling through more and more of the archive, and more and more moments, and replaying the same frames over and over, ideas started to really come to me," Woods said. "From that, the music for the most part started to take its own shape."

Live and past episodes of Spinning Home Movies stream for free on the South Side Home Movie Project's Facebook page. And the entire archive is available for viewing through a searchable database.

Williams said the archive is always expanding and urged South Siders to search their homes for 8mm and 16mm film reels.

"Now that you're at home more than we usually are, take some time to go into that basement, that attic, that storage place and just see if you have any of these films because they are important," Williams said.

"We want to preserve them and create new life for them."
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