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Home movie salute is splice of local life

Roll it.

Home movies you will NOT see at today's Home Movie Day at the Patterson arts center in Baltimore:

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John Kerry's home movies, as seen in A Remarkable Promise, the nominee's campaign film that aired at the Democratic National Convention.

Arnold and Jesse Friedman jailed on molestation charges, as seen in the family's home movies featured in the documentary, Capturing the Friedmans.

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Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, as seen in home movies featured in a recent documentary about the heavy metal band Metallica.

Saddam Hussein's bad boys, as seen in that family's home movies, which were aired by 60 Minutes II.

Film lovers might wonder what possible fun Home Movie Day could be without Uday Hussein's winning personality captured on film or Arnold and Jesse performing a song-and-dance number before the Friedman men are hauled off. Wonder no more. Think local, think interesting, think law-abiding.

Home movies you will see at today's Home Movie Day:

H.L. Mencken (circa 1930s) dancing in a field, as seen in the home movies of an Annapolis photographer named Rudolph Torovsky.

Seafaring cowboys, captured in rare clips, delivering Maryland cattle to meat-starved Europe post-World War II.

Sunday-best-dressed boosters carrying banners on the field of Memorial Stadium during the 1962 Colts-Rams game.

"A lot of birthday parties," says Kristen Anchor, director of Creative Alliance MovieMakers. But maybe they will be creative birthday parties.

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The Creative Alliance - a nonprofit organization inhabiting the Patterson in East Baltimore - this afternoon will sponsor Baltimore's Home Movie Day along with Colorlab, a film preservation lab in Rockville. While promoting film preservation, Home Movie Day offers anyone a chance to show their 8 mm, Super 8 mm or 16 mm artifacts.

"So rifle through your closets, call up Grandma, and search out your best family [or flea market] home movies!" exhorts Creative Alliance's Web site. "These movies," Anchor says, "are accidental historical documents. They say things about fashion, home design, even class and race."

Home Movie Day was founded last year by a group of film archivists concerned about the fate of home movies shot during the 20th century. With folks rushing to convert their home movies to videotape and DVDs, the archivists set out to debunk the idea that digital transfers are the only way to preserve home movies. Their message is that with proper handling, the original films can outlast digital versions. Their medium is Home Movie Day - now complete with its own Web site, official song and merchandise that includes T-shirts, coffee mugs and thongs.

Last year's inaugural Baltimore event had spotty attendance at the American Visionary Art Museum. This year, organizers hope more people will drop by if for no other reason than to watch movies such as the two Rob Schoeberlein will screen. He's director of special collections at the Maryland State Archives, which houses the footage.

The first film is of Mencken's Saturday Night Club, featuring its founding member "solo dancing" in a field, as other club members also frolic about. Alcohol was in attendance. The second film comes from two Baltimore men, Chester Banachowski and Joe Wilkinson, not exactly household names. Making home movies was their hobby and East Baltimore their setting.

Their 1962-1966 home movies depict scenes from family picnics on the Shore, an eighth-grade graduation, a 4-year-old dancing "The Twist," and Aunt Ida's prize roses and her parakeet - "including its cage decorated for Christmas," as Schoeberlein notes.

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If festive parakeets weren't enough, the film offers panoramic crowd shots at Memorial Stadium in 1962, as boosters mug for the camera. Among those filmed was Eugene "Reds" Hubbe, who died this year at 72. "That was Reds down there, Sunday after Sunday across a dozen autumns, circling the field and leading Baltimore Colts ovations like a man conducting an ocean," as Sun columnist Michael Olesker eulogized in February. Reds is on film, too. And so is Aunt Ida's parakeet.

For some, preserving home movies has become a passion project. Skizz Cyzyk, programming manager for the Maryland Film Festival, has "buckets and buckets" of 8 mm and 16 mm home movies he plans to watch and save. He had a friend who worked for a cleaning company that removed belongings from the homes of deceased elderly people (removing belongings from live people is illegal). Braving that vinegar smell peculiar to deteriorating celluloid, Cyzyk has peeked at a few of the movies.

"It's a glimpse into the past to see what people found important in their lives," he says. "You also hope to see secrets from someone else's life." It is a bit voyeuristic, but at least it's consensual in most cases.

Enough with the amateurs. Eric Krasner is the man, the Home Movie Man. The 43-year-old Frederick resident appeared in My Father's Camera, a Peabody Award-winning film to be shown tonight at the Patterson. Krasner boasts an enormous private collection of home movies. His Web site, 16mmfilms.com, is a warehouse of home movies and forum topics such as: "Pre-Mature Lamp Failure in the Bell & Howell 1568 using the Gemini Lamp."

On Friday and Saturday nights, Krasner projects home movies from his office at North Market and Patrick streets in Frederick. By day from his graphics studio, he scans home movies to make vintage posters and, eh, politically incorrect postcards. "I am the Pecker of home movies," he says, referring to John Waters' film about a Hampden photographer who becomes famous in New York. Krasner has sent Waters postcards signed "A Pecker in Frederick." No reply yet, but the two men probably should meet.

Today at the Patterson, Krasner will screen Celluloid College, a 1947 how-to movie promoting steady camera work, good pans and the importance of using a tripod. He'll also show a movie he lovingly calls I Love You When You Sing - a 1940s oddity featuring a family not altogether in harmony. It also features something called Sound.

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So, what can we learn about watching old home movies beyond the fact people then also liked to drink, dance in fields, holler at football games and sing off-key around the piano? Take it away Eric Krasner, Home Movie Man:

"Life seems simpler back then, more people smiled, and everybody wore hats."

Home movies

What: Home Movie Day - Everyday Stars: Your Home Movies

When: Today 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Night screenings, including My Father's Camera, begin at 8.

Where: Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Ave.

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Tickets: Day events free. Night screenings are $8 for nonmembers; $6 for Creative Alliance members.

Information: 410-276-1651 or www.creativealliance.org


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