The Authenticity of a Home Movie

By Amanda Vining, Regular ContributorSeptember 22, 2015

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival (AGLIFF) in my hometown of Austin, Texas. I identify as an ally of the LGBTQAI (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Asexual Intersex) community, and through the numerous films I viewed as a part of the film festival, I expanded my knowledge of recent social and political events and was able to view the experiences of the community in a new way. One film in particular really touched me. Directed by Stu Maddux, the film is called Reel in the Closet and is a compilation of home movies of members of the LGBTQAI community, ranging from the 1930’s until the recent Supreme Court case earlier this summer.


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The home movie clips shown in Reel in the Closet depict both prominent historical figures, such as Harvey Milk who became the first openly gay public official in California and people whose names and identities are unknown. The videos are of people at parties, dancing, celebrating traditions, and spending time with loved ones. A thesis of the film is that even though most of the historical discussion of LGBTQAI rights is conveyed in a negative light, members of the community have been able to lead happy, positive, and productive lives. Clips from social clubs dating back to the 1950’s show the enthusiasm of being in a community environment, and footage from the 1960’s and 1970’s provides an understanding of how strong the support of allies has been throughout modern history. This is not to discredit other events portrayed in the film, such as heated political debates and the death of Harvey Milk; however, the positivity shown in the majority of the clips opened my eyes to examine the larger picture of the experience of the LGBTQAI community.

Even when the greater public was acting in oppressive and discriminatory ways, the private lives of members of the community could be quite radiant.

Serendipitously, I chose to sit in an empty seat in the back corner of the theater only to realize that I was seated directly next to the director of the film. With such close proximity, I was able to chat with Stu Maddux for a few minutes before the previews began. I asked him about his inspiration for making the film and how he was able to obtain so many remarkable homemade videos. He told me that he has always found home movies to be magical and that he was intrigued by the private moments that were captured in the few clips he had seen prior to making the film, so he set out to search historical archives for footage that had been donated. He also spoke about the power of connectivity and how many of the clips he used came from people hearing about his project through word-of-mouth and reaching out with their own home movies, or the home movies of loved ones who had passed on. Mr. Maddux mentioned that, even though the film has been made, he would like to continue the project and expand the collection of LGBTQAI home movies and invites anyone who has any footage to reach out through the film’s website and contribute to the ongoing conversation.

I agree with Mr. Maddux. Home movies are magical, and they provide a unique look into moments from the past that can never be found in a history book. Whether they are your own, a relative’s, or a stranger’s, home movies are worth watching. Like my experience at AGLIFF, you never know what you might learn from watching a home movie.

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Do you make home movies? How has a personal video or home movie impacted you? Tell us below!

About Amanda

AMANDA_VINING_writer_bio.jpgAmanda lives in Austin, Texas, where she strives every day to be as BRAVE and BeautyFULL as she can be. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a self-designed degree in Children’s Rights, and Duke University with a certificate in Nonprofit Management. In her spare time, Amanda can be found scouring Pinterest for her latest craft project, drinking coconut mochas in her favorite coffee shop, and creating content for the sexual violence prevention organization and blog, Talk About Rape ( 


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