The duo behind the Found Footage Film Festival, Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher, have spent over a decade touring the U.S. in search of the outlandish and hysterical footage hidden away on old VHS tapes. With Cherished Gems, which premiered at the Sydney Underground Film Festival, they deliver the best clips, spanning decades and nearly every facet of American life, from overwrought work safety films to small town news bloopers.
Each clip is self-contained, edited down from its original running time to an easily digestible and utterly hilarious montage. Some are a variety of clips united by a single theme — homemade exercise videos — while others present a highlight reel from a longer tape, such as a showcase of Harvey Sid Fisher’s songs about zodiac signs.
One of the best aspects of Cherished Gems is that it felt more like a live show than a film viewing. Before and after each clip, Nick and Joe were sure to add some backstory: how they came across it, why on earth that footage may have been created, and their occasional run-ins with the clips’ creators.
My favorite example was their presentation of old Public Access videos, namely the Chicago dance show Chic-a-go-go. The central conceit of Chic-a-go-go, apparently, is that it’s a weekly dance show open to the general public. The clip’s humor comes from how haphazard everything seems: dancers are of all ages, from toddlers to the elderly, and all skill levels, dancing off-beat to the music. Nick and Joe recount being so intrigued that they themselves decided to show up and appear on Chic-a-go-go. Watching them appear in ridiculous costumes and dancing enthusiastically gives the entire premise a heightened sense of reality. It’s outlandish and bizarre and yet not too far removed from our own lives.
Between Nick and Joe’s ongoing Mystery-Science-Theater-3000-esque commentary and the audience’s collective reaction to whatever oddity was on screen, the film felt like a truly shared experience.
Katie is an American studying in Sydney when she’s not on the hunt for coffee or cool events around town. Find her on Instagram @katiemacdougall97.
Visit www.foundfootagefest.com for more outlandish clips and tour dates.