Cuevas, Efrén, “Change of Scale: Home Movies as Microhistory in Documentary Films”, in Laura Rascaroli, Gwenda Young and Barry Monahan (eds.), Amateur Filmmaking: the Home Movie, the Archive, the Web, Bloomsbury, New York and London, 2014, pp. 139-151
An increasing number of documentary filmmakers are using home movies to create films that can be termed as “historical,” insofar as they are using the domestic footage to provide portrayals of past times and societies. But those are not typical documentaries, in the sense that they do not follow the grand historical events, but the quotidian events of different families, as home movies usually do. This way of “making History” shows a striking parallel with the historiographical approaches defending a “History from below,” like the microhistorical proposals of Carlo Ginzburg or the Alltagsgeschichte –a History of the quotidian– of Alf Lüdtke.
In my chapter I analyze how these documentaries dialogue with those historiographical approaches, offering an alternative historical chronicle thanks to the “change of scale” provided by home movies, while also exploring new ways of making documentaries speak about History.
Within that practice, I would focus on two venues. First, the collective chronicles where the filmmaker resorts to a wide gamut of home movies, not just related to a single family. This is the case of films like "Something Strong Within" (about the Japanese Americans during the 40s), or "Tchastnye Khroniki. Monolog" (covering the life of Russian people from the 60s to the 80s). The other practice focuses on a single family as the central topic of the documentary. The best known case are the films of Peter Forgacs, but there are many other examples, specially coming from an autobiographical position, like "For My Children" (about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) or "I for India."