Spotlight: Marc Lemoine's "Sad Heart," Made From eBay Home Movies

By David Schonauer   Tuesday June 27, 2017

Nostalgia is a tricky thing.

It can be a simple yearning for the past, or a piece of the past, but it isn’t merely a memory. Memories are something else. The word nostalgia is derived in part from an ancient Greek word for “homecoming” and another for “pain” or “ache.” Put them together and what you have is the painful memory a place, a home, that you cannot return to. Despite the pain, or perhaps because of it, nostalgia is seductive and can be dangerous, leading us to focus on certain memories — which may or may not be reliable in themselves — while overlooking others. And it’s entirely personal. “I don’t like nostalgia, unless it’s my own,” said musician Lou Reed.

Nostalgia is the poignancy at the heart of photographer Marc Lemoine’s short film Sad Heart of Mine, which we feature today. A New York City-based photographer who has branched out into motion art, Lemoine is a selected winner of the American Photography 33 competition, and he contacted us recently to tell us about the short, which premiered this year at the Independent Days Film Festival in Germany. Lemoine’s original idea was to create a film about nostalgia using stock footage. But when the costs of acquiring stock grew too high, he turned to another source — eBay, where he found old home-movie footage that he set to the music of post-rock band Caspian, whose single  gives the film its title.

Lemoine bought over 500 hours of home-movie footage, sight unseen, when he began his project — scenes of family vacations, birthdays, living-room talent shows, county fairs and teenage rites of passage forming a portrait of American life from an unspecified time in the past.

It took Lemoine over six months to edit the clips together into something resembling a narrative — “a story,” he notes, “that unfolds in front of you like a family reunion you weren’t invited to.”

“Since the footage is ‘home movies’ taken from vacations or parties or holidays there is an overwhelming sensation of family, friends, joy, and happiness,” he says. “If you are lucky these things are at your fingertips but we get too busy and distracted and forget what is important, our values and priorities get out of whack. It is almost forcing you to feel and remember that there is still good in the world and sometimes it’s just as simple as dancing by yourself or giving a loved one a hug.”

Ironically, it is the anonymity of the family footage that allows viewers to connect emotionally with the film, Lemoine notes. It’s a brief interlude with a “pure nostalgia” unmarred by our own actually memories.


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