Drifting (2010)

A Film by Malic Amalya 

16mm to be screeNEd with a live soundtrack

18 minutes


Shot on an optical printer, damaged frames from 8mm home movies have been re-photographed onto 16mm film stock.  By exposing the photographic anomalies of film, Drifting allows the audience to savor the photographic physicality of the media, while also asking them to consider how framing mediates their viewing experience and understanding of images.

In 2006, I worked transferring silent 8mm home movies to digital video. The films I worked with came from across the United States, spanning from the 1940s through the 80s, with the majority from the 60s and 70s. Much of the footage focused on the family, including weddings, children’s birthdays, vacations, and holiday traditions. Watching a decade unfold in the course of a few hours, I felt immense affection for the families and care for their memories wound around 3-inch reels.

My job included digitally color correcting each scene and physically splicing out celluloid anomalies, including light leaks, jittering images, and burn holes. As I cut out these so-called imperfections, I began to wonder what stories were left out of the frame and how technology, cultural norms, and structural inequalities impacted whose lives were not preserved in celluloid.

The vast majority of film that I transferred depicted white, middle class, heterosexual family structures who predominately celebrated Christian holidays. Watching them smiling and waving to the camera or holding their hands over their faces, I could not decipher family dynamics, detect which families were truly happy and which were hiding behind facades, or identify when families were struggling with hardships. Hospital visits and funerals, despite being as consistent as marriage and new babies, were not filmed. Queer family members were invisible, religious and cultural practices outside of Christian hegemony were not represented, and people of color were largely absent.

Drifting is a 16mm optically printed film that includes all the film frames that I spliced out of the original 8mm reels at the transfer house. I describe Drifting as “both an homage to and a polemic on nostalgia for Americana” because the film encompasses both my love for the individuals depicted within the film frames and my sorrow and critique for who was not valued, by each family and by capitalism, to be preserved across time and medium.