San Francisco-based archivist, filmmaker and educator Rick Prelinger returns with a program of Detroit-based films — educational, industrial and home movies — made between 1920 through the mid-’70s. This is a sequel of sorts to the three “Lost Landscapes of Detroit” programs he did between 2010 and 2012, where he showed the mostly silent clips and enlisted audiences to yell out when they recognized specific locations or hints that could help date the films. He also asked audience members to let him make copies of home movies or other films they might have. The result is this new program he created especially for the Freep Film Festival. “Yesterday and Tomorrow in Detroit,” features some works from past programs (including a priceless reel of a man’s walk past Grand River businesses in the early 1950s) and many new finds, including several home movies from Motown neighborhoods, and a City of Detroit-made short about the city’s renaissance, circa 1968.
It’s no surprise that Prelinger is so fascinated with Detroit. After all, many of the films in his Prelinger Archives were produced here, many by the auto companies and the employees that had well-paying jobs to afford good home movie equipment. “I want to get us out of the trap of talking about what’s lost,” he says. “Watching these viivid images in a group and talking about them as they unspool is a powerful stimulus for discussion about Detroit’s future.”
About the director: Rick Prelinger is a San Francisco-based archivist, writer, educator, and filmmaker. He is the founder of the Prelinger Archives, a collection of 60,000 advertising, educational, industrial and amateur films which was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2002.
After the film: After the film, Prelinger will be present for an audience Q-n-A moderated by Detroit Film Theatre director Elliot Wilhelm.