University acquires Southern culture film collection
More than 250 films and videotapes that capture practices and customs in the South, from snake handling to eating grits, have found a new home at the University of South Carolina.
The films and tapes, which will become part of the Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC), consist of independent films made from 1970 – 2005 and were housed at the S.C. Arts Commission until lack of funding and space forced the commission to find suitable space elsewhere.
“I immediately saw it as an ideal counterpoint to MIRC’s rich holdings of regional home movies and local television news,” said Mark Cooper, MIRC’s interim director. “I knew we had to find a way to preserve the material as a source of inspiration for future generations of media makers.”
The collection includes “It’s Grits,” by Stan Woodward, which documents the common thread that connects all people of the South across social, economic, political and racial boundaries. Its style of hand-held camera work was unheard of when it was released in 1980.
- “Hallelujah Film,” by Mark Henrikson, a four-minute reanimation of Eadweard Muybridge’s still-photo studies of anatomy synchronized to music of Handel’s Messiah;
- “People Who Take Up Serpents,” by Gretchen Robinson, a documentary about snake handlers;
- “Charleston Home Movie,” by Deanna Morse;
- “Maybe Next Week Sometime,” by David Boatwright; and
- “Alabama Departure” by Peter Bundy and Bryan Elsom.
“Many of the films are personal visions of the South,” said Susan Leonard, director of the commission’s Media Arts Center. “Some of the films were literally shot from the hip using a Bolex camera; others used handmade animation techniques such as rotoscoping.”
Cooper said he expects to have the collection completely cataloged by May 2011 and available to researchers.
The MIRC, a division of the university’s libraries, began in 1980 with the donation of the Fox Movietone News Collection and is one of the largest public film archives in the United States. MIRC was able to accommodate the films because of its recent cold-storage facilities supported by USC’s College of Arts and Sciences.