Originally published in yFile: York University’s News.
The Regent Park Film Festival (RPFF) Home Made Visible (HMV) project, in partnership with York University Libraries and Charles Street Video, was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation. The award was presented on Feb. 20.
The two-year project highlighted the personal histories of Indigenous, Black and people of colour (IBPOC) communities in Canadian public memory through engagement with archives, research, artistic creations and public programming. HMV aimed to preserve these histories, celebrate the joy captured in home movies, and explore how archives have the power to shape who we become and how we relate to one another.
“So much of the stories that are told about Indigenous and visible minorities [in archives] are about adversity, and those are important stories to tell,” said Ananya Ohri (HMV artistic director and former RPFF executive director). “What is also important is the strength, the flare, the play, the joy that makes up who we are, and home movies are a great way to remember that.”
Funded by the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program, HMV commissioned seven films made by IBPOC artists, organized a tour of 51 exhibitions, workshops, screenings and installations across Canada. The project also involved 36 families donating nearly 300 home movie clips to the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections for research, access and preservation in perpetuity.
The collection spans six decades documenting the everyday life of 25 IBPOC communities and features family weddings, community picnics, holiday celebrations, cultural traditions, numerous birthdays, school performances, snowstorms and vacations around the world. An inventory and description of the collection is available on the archives’ descriptive database.
York University has several other connections to the project. Ohri, an alumni of the MA in Cinema and Media Studies program, was inspired by Professor Ali Kazimi’s documentary Random Acts of Legacy which explores the home movies of a Chinese-American family. Alumni were also selected as HMV’s commissioned artists: Jennifer Dysart who received the York University Master’s Thesis Award in 2014 for her documentary Kewekapawetan: Return After the Flood and Aeyliya Husain who obtained a MFA in film production.
Current student and undergraduate in the English and professional writing program Alexandra Stella Isaac donated her family’s home movie of a school Christmas concert. She believes “[the project] great to allow families the opportunity to revisit old footage, explore their history and share that. A lot of people don’t think of Black people in Canada just existing. It’s a great way to change the Canadian narrative.”
Charles Street Video
Charles Street Video is a non-profit production organization established in 1981 to help support media artists. It provides affordable access to equipment and post-production editing facilities for creating videos, films, installations and other media art forms. It regularly offers workshops, training sessions and residencies. Its ethos is largely focused on encouraging an artisan, “do-it-yourself” professionalism.
Regent Park Film Festival
The Regent Park Film Festival is Toronto’s longest running free-of-charge community film festival. The festival is dedicated to showcasing local and international independent works relevant to people from all walks of life, with a focus on inviting those from low income and public housing communities. Chandra Siddan, a filmmaker and graduate of York University’s Faculty of Education, launched the first festival in 2003.