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Spotlight: Chicago Film Archives

Chicago Film Archives (CFA) is a regional archive that reflects Chicago and Midwest history through conservation, promotion and exhibition of moving image materials. The archive was originally established in 2003 to preserve and catalogue over five thousand 16mm films donated by the Chicago Public Library. CFAs holdings expanded when they began to collect amateur, home movies and professional films from people in Chicago and other regions of Illinois.

Over 1500 films are available to stream on CFA’s Collections Portal, including numerous amateur films. Like the AMDB, Chicago Film Archives distinguishes amateur works from home movies as “home-made” films created by hobbyists, scholars and travelers who honed their editing and cinematography skills in a variety of different genres.

Below are a small selection of amateur films which are all in the AMDB and available to view online via Chicago Film Archives.

Nightsong (Don B. Klugman, 1965)

Nightsong is “a portrait of the Chicago Near-North nightlife scene in the mid-1960s, centering on the struggles and romantic desires of an African American singer played by long-forgotten folk sensation, Willie Wright.” The film is one of the three critically acclaimed and widely distributed experimental films that make up the CFA’s Don Klugman Collection 1964-1986.

Abstract Patterns (Sol Falon, 1969)

Abstract Patterns is a colorful, two minute experimental film featuring mid-century paintings from Wassily Kadinsky, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and Piet Mondrian. Abstract Patterns won an Honorable Mention in 1969 by the Photographic Society of America as part of their Ten Best competition.

Obey Your Air Raid Warden (Robert Davis, ca. 1944)

This amusing short film from the Robert and Theresa Davis Collection encourages Americans to follow rules set by the air raid warden in the event of an air raid. Three bespectacled men in suits sing the catchy instructions while nonchalantly smoking cigarettes and swaying to the beat.

The 45 (Margaret Conneely, 1961)

According to CFA, The 45 “plays out at an amateur level Jean-Luc Godard’s dictum that all a film needs for a plot is a woman and a gun”. The 1961 film was directed by respected amateur Margaret Conneely and preserved with support from the Women’s Film Preservation Fund. Conneely’s works and others are held by Chicago Film Archive as part of the Margaret Conneely Collection, 1902-2007.

To learn more about Chicago Film Archives and their amateur film collection visit their website at www.chicagofilmarchives.org.