In my Sociology of Family course Home Economics students produce 10-30 second home movies about any part of their immediate or extended family or community to capture two very specific things: First, the real life tropes common to this kind of documentary-making, (i.e., home as a happy place, home as a time of celebration); and then second, the very small truths about family life which are usually not documented on video or film, (i.e., loneliness, secrets, fights). And the result, which you can see in this collection of these little films posted here, are not, just simply, an excellent exercise in practicing visual ethnography or documentary making. They offer students, (as well as me, their professor), the very rare chance of catching a glimpse of where, exactly, each one of them comes from and returns to, outside of the classroom where we meet every week.
This project was inspired by Alan Berliner's 1986 documentary Family Album, a clip from which is included below.
Berliner's film was profiled on a 2002 episode of the audio documentary program This American Life, which also featured excellent essays about the sociology of home movie making by Jonathon Goldstein, Susan Burton and David Sedaris. For a purely audio example of the small truths about family life technology can capture, see also, This American Life, Episode 82, Haunted, Act 1, featuring the work of Lynette Lyman.
*For another post by Audrey Sprenger about making videos in sociology classes, click here.