- The Amateur City:Digital Platforms and Tools for Research and Dissemination of Films Representing the Italian Urban Landscape
Geodatabases are tools that can help viewers to reread landscapes through media, especially when applied to distinct collections, such as in home movies. In Italy, archival activities and projects concerned with home movies and amateur cinema are relatively recent, mostly carried out by the Archivio Nazionale del Film di Famiglia (Italian Amateur Film Archive), founded in 2002 in Bologna. The archive is managed by the Home Movies Association, a group of film archivists, historians, restorers, and curators. The team often works together with other scholars and professionals from different fields toward the dissemination of the archive's material.1
The mission of the archive is to recover amateur film material from the twentieth century, which increasingly is acknowledged as a significant cultural heritage. This archival work necessarily includes the description, classification, publication, and valorization of private and family memories through a multidisciplinary approach involving experts in cultural heritage, databases, and management and storage of multimedia files. Audiovisual records produced by individuals are part of a wider collective memory; through this perspective, home movies and amateur films acquire a new "public" status and, at the same time, are recycled within new filmic texts and media and disseminated through innovative methodologies. In addition to providing direct access to these amateur moving images to scholars, filmmakers, and students in digital formats, the Italian Amateur Film Archive is developing tools to diffuse (and open) amateur materials to a wide and varied audience. This is facilitated by the database of the project Una città per gli archivi, by publishing film collections on the web portal archIVI,2 and by using an interactive platform to explore the stories of families through their private film archives, Vite filmate.3 In these and other cases, new media and digital technologies allow users to present and rework amateur footage in a variety of ways. By means of exhibitions, installations, screen-based live performances, and local projects involving film, the heritage of amateur movies is recirculated within the community to which the films belong.4
Geodatabase tools can help viewers reread the diverse views of filmed landscapes, especially the urban ones. The findings are the result of a four-year research project conducted across film archives holding amateur material on past urban landscapes, specifically the cities of Bologna and Reggio Emilia. I will concentrate on the issue central to my work, as researcher and curator, of better understanding how new media technology helps to connect images with the places where they were shot in new and unconventional ways. We analyzed and resituated the movies in a new digital environment. Clips originally in 8mm, Super 8mm, 16mm, and 9.5mm formats representing visual fragments of the city or single shots located in urban settings were identified and selected for digitization. Once "remediated," edited, and geolocalized, amateur footage may be embedded into apps, platforms, and installations that allow users and visitors to use them as their guide into (historical) maps of the city.
Endeavors including the Play the City RE project (2015)5 and on-site installations and videos produced for exhibitions such as Cinematic Bologna (2012–13)6 transformed amateur footage into geographical experiences. They were based on the reuse of amateur film materials collected in Bologna and Reggio Emilia and provide users or visitors with a "time machine" showing changes in those landscapes over time. They also document how these urban transformations have been perceived by amateur filmmakers and citizens. While anyone may explore the urban locations where the amateur films originally were shot, our research work shifts the focus from media archaeology to something that we could dub media stratigraphy, wherein the archival footage could be used not only to take a sentimental journey through the individual gaze of past inhabitants but also as an interpretative and operative device for the [End Page 111] analysis of urban development. As Penz and Lu stated, "crucially, the processes involved in cinematic urban archaeology exhume, unlock and preserve memories. And, as an applied concept, it may have far-reaching implications for planning and urban regeneration purposes as well as for heritage...