Help Us Find Families of Lost Home Movies, Part 2

The original reel was bought at an estate sale, which then passed hands through several hands before landing at CAAM. It features a Chinese family’s birthday party for a family elder (1940s or 1950s).

UPDATE May 5/22/2017: LOST AND FOUND! The footage mentioned below has been reunited with its family. Thanks to everyone who helped us share the mystery footage. Read about how it happened here.

We recently put a call out to the public to help us find the family of the lost home movie footage, donated to CAAM’s Memories to Light: Asian American Home Movies project. That footage, we believe, is of a Japanese American family from Northern California circa 1939.

Another home movie in our archive with an unidentified family features a Chinese family’s birthday party for a family elder (1940s or 1950s). The footage is entirely in black and white and shows many of the family members in attendance. The family is made up of people of all ages, with the women wearing cheongsams (qi paos) and the men wearing Western suits. The family elder wears a dark suit and is frequently shown holding a framed golden peach, a symbol of longevity.

This reel came to CAAM and Memories to Light after passing through many different hands. The original reel was bought at an estate sale, which then passed hands to Kathleen Maguire at The Exploratorium, who gave it to Natalia Fidelholtz at StoryCorps, who gave it to us. It was quite the journey, but many unclaimed and unidentified home movie reels circulate in similar fashions.

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To really understand the footage, and to understand their process of obtaining such footage, I also spoke with Natalia Fidelholtz and Kathleen Maguire about how they came across the footage. Maguire informed me that an acquaintance had purchased a few reels of film from an estate sale and gave them to her to use at The Exploratorium for Home Movie Day (For more information about Holiday Home Movie Day, go here). This film of the unidentified Chinese family was being used as an “example film” for Fidelholtz to demonstrate a film inspection. After looking closely at the footage, they both came to the conclusion that the footage should be donated to the Memories to Light project at CAAM.

“I immediately put the film in a safe place so we wouldn’t scratch it any more, and asked Kathleen if I could take it to the Home Movie Day event that was taking place at the Oakland Home Movie Day event hosted at the Asian Cultural Center,” Fidelholtz said. “The film was badly shrunk, so we were only able to see a less than a minute of the content, but we could tell it was from before the 1940s, and a birthday celebration of someone important from a Chinese family. It was very exciting!”

Jasmine Lee Ehrhardt

If you recognize any of the people in either of these films, let us know! Email us at

If you or your family would like to digitize and archive your home movies, please fill out an application form here. If you have unidentified footage in your possession, let us know and we’d be happy to work with you to digitize and identify it. We’re always looking for more films to add to the archive.

JOIN US for Holiday Home Movie Day Saturday, December 6 in Oakland, CA.


December 6, 2014
Temescal Arts Center
511 48th street, Oakland, CA 94609

This holiday season share the gift of home movie memories! Warm up by the light of the projectors! Bring your family and friends to Home Movie Day, an annual event that is celebrated all over the world to share and learn how to preserve your home movies.

Co-organized with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Pamela Vadakan and Antonella Bonfanti, we will have an open screening of *your* small gauge home movies on the big screen, followed by a holiday party and montage of Asian American holiday home movie treasures from CAAM’s “Memories to Light” collection. The event features musical act Mano Dio Gracias and Jesse Micek of The Wildlife and is free for the public.

2pm-3pm Film check in
3pm-5pm Open screening – see your home movie on the big screen!
5pm-6pm Holiday drinks & treats
6pm Center for Asian American Media presents Asian American holiday home movies from the Memories to Light collection

Submit your films early! We are accepting submissions at the CAAM offices in San Francisco or UC Berkeley Library in the East Bay, Monday through Thursday, 11am-5pm. Email Davin Agatep ( for SF drop-offs and Pamela Vadakan ( for East Bay drop-offs.

On December 6th, bring your films to the Temescal Arts Center between 2pm and 3pm.

All submissions will get the white glove treatment and be inspected by film archivists to make sure it is safe to project. Films are first come, first screened and may be limited to one reel per person.

No home movie will be turned away. Bring your family films or home movies you might have found in a thrift store. We love surprises!

RSVP here.