A film premiering on Maine Public Television next month presents a mesmerizing, meditative window into Maine’s past, compiled from thousands of hours of home movies archived at Northeast Historic Film in Bucksport.
“Maine’s Home Movies,” an hourlong film produced and directed by Sian Evans, Josh Povec and Northeast Historic Film director David Weiss, will broadcast on Maine Public on Jan. 2 and 4. The film is the culmination of nearly five years of collaboration between filmmakers Evans and Povec and with the staff at the Bucksport film preservation group, in the hopes of bringing some of its massive archives of amateur films to a broader audience.
“It was important to us to let people in Maine know more about who we are. We’re archivists. We keep our heads down and do the work,” said Weiss, who co-founded Northeast Historic Film in 1986 with Karan Sheldon. “We haven’t done anything like this since the ’90s.”
Northeast Historic Film, based out of the Alamo Theatre in Bucksport, has for more than 30 years collected, restored, and archived film and video related to the people of Northern New England. It maintains millions of feet of historic film and videotape in its conservation facility, and continues to accept donations of old home movies from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
“Maine’s Home Movies” is culled from that archive and is broken into a number of chapters, each featuring home-shot movies from Mainers, and each showcasing a different theme, topic or place, such as logging camps, working waterfronts, animals, swimming, picnicking and boatbuilding. There are also more general scenes of people simply looking at the camera, waving goodbye, eating or dancing.
Most of the movies were shot in the 1930s and ’40s, though the earliest one in the film is from 1916, and the latest is from 1961. The digitally restored footage in the film was shot in a number of towns, ranging from Lubec to Kennebunkport, and features Mainers from an array of economic backgrounds and lifestyles.
“It was important to us to make sure we showed an array of people and not focus too much on one type of of Mainer,” Evans said. “It’s supposed to show Maine through the eyes of Mainers. It’s everyday people who picked up their camera and started filming. They weren’t doing it to sell something — they were doing it because they wanted to see the people and the places they love on film.”
Aside from a brief introduction, the film has no narration, and features carefully edited sound effects and music, including theme music composed and performed by longtime Maine composer Paul Sullivan. The wordlessness gives the film an evocative quality — as if you’re peeking through time, seeing your grandparents, family members and neighbors as young, vivacious, smiling people.
“I think what really struck me in making this film is that even though so many things have changed — we don’t ride horses anymore; we don’t harvest ice for the icebox — there are so many things that have not changed,” Evans said. “Children are still children. People still look at the camera the same way. Mainers are still so attached to places, and that sense of place hasn’t really changed a bit.”
“Maine’s Home Movies” will air at 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 2, and at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 4, on Maine Public Television. After it airs, it will be available to watch on demand on Vimeo, and DVD copies will be made available through Northeast Historic Film later in the year. For more information, visit oldfilmhunter.org.