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Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions

1998
Author:

Michelle Citron

Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions

A powerful and personal exploration of the line between truth and fiction, by a celebrated filmmaker.

In this sharply observed and visually rich book, Michelle Citron, one of the most influential independent woman filmmakers of our time, explores the life that surrounds an artist’s work, its inner surprises, and the necessary fictions that shape it. Using essay, memoir, fiction, and images drawn from her family’s home movies, Citron creates a series of moving narratives. The book concludes with the scripts of two of Citron’s best-known films, Daughter Rite and What You Take For Granted.

I found Home Movies so enthralling I started to read it again the minute I reached the last page. It's so richly textured, with treasures of wit and writing and insight and revelation, I wanted to make sure I had gathered them all in. The book is going to be essential reading for anyone interested in the psychological, social, and cultural development of an artist. It is a highly significant and totally winning contribution to women's autobiographical writing at the edge of fiction.

Kim Chernin, author of In My Mother’s House

Two decades ago, a father gave his daughter shoeboxes stuffed with old home movies. The daughter, a filmmaker, appropriated these family images, folding them into a film about mothers and daughters. The film, in turn, infiltrated the life of the family, creating a crack through which seeped the sexual secrets of three generations of women. In this sharply observed and visually rich book, Michelle Citron, one of the most influential independent woman filmmakers of our time, explores the life that surrounds an artist’s work, its inner surprises, and the necessary fictions that shape it.

Using essay, memoir, fiction, and images drawn from her family’s home movies, Citron creates a series of moving narratives (even literally—one chapter is also a flip book). She tells the story of her vital and fraught relationships with her strong-willed mother and grandmother; her transformative, near-fatal illness; life with the woman who has been her partner for twenty years; and her slow realization of the sexual abuse that marked her childhood. The book concludes with the scripts of two of Citron’s best-known films, Daughter Rite and What You Take for Granted, works that resonate with and extend the themes of this book.

Citron uses a series of leitmotivs that surface, disappear, and resurface: class, sexuality, incest, power, the transcendence of art, the role of the filmmaker, the ethics of autobiographical work. Hers is an account of an artist’s growth and development. But here are also the lacerations of class mobility, the life-shaping power of the unspeakable, and the exquisite web of family ties. Throughout, she tests “the sly, fictitious nature of memoir against fiction’s hard nugget of truth,” creating a book that both reveals and challenges this important genre.

Awards

Society for Cinema Studies’s Kovacs Book Award honorable mention winner

Kraszna-Krausz Moving Image Book Awards special commendation winner

Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender Outstanding Book Award winner

Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions

Michelle Citron is an award-winning independent filmmaker who has received grants from the NEA and NEH. She is a professor in the Department of Radio/Television/Film at Northwestern University, where she is also director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts.

Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions

A fresh, often fascinating hybrid, as much fiction as autobiography, that forces the reader to choose what and how to believe. Citron’s clarity and unflinching honesty are bracing: What kind of real contact between people is possible through art, in particular through the medium of film? Ideally, she answers, we create ‘necessary fictions’ that ‘serve the truth even if they can’t definitely pin down the truth.’ More often than not succeeding in its struggle to make something useful out of a painful and tangled past, this book turns Citron’s theory into a means for living.

Publishers Weekly

I found Home Movies so enthralling I started to read it again the minute I reached the last page. It's so richly textured, with treasures of wit and writing and insight and revelation, I wanted to make sure I had gathered them all in. The book is going to be essential reading for anyone interested in the psychological, social, and cultural development of an artist. It is a highly significant and totally winning contribution to women's autobiographical writing at the edge of fiction.

Kim Chernin, author of In My Mother’s House

Michelle Citron, an award-winning filmmaker, has written a uniquely powerful book called Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions. In this brave memoir she narrates her reconstruction of her life upon coming to grips with childhood incidents of incest at the hands of her grandfather. As is fitting, her book is both narratively and cinematically oriented as she pairs her spare, honest prose with stills from some of her own childhood home movies. The result is nothing short of an agonized and illuminating cross-genre deconstruction of childhood myth and fantasy, representation, and objectivity.

The Georgia Review

Citron’s quirky, idiosyncratic book is a personal account of her childhood and life as a filmmaker—and far more. Citron’s work is many things: a reflection on home movies and the stories they reveal and conceal; a meditation on how incest alters a family’s story and the impossibility of adequately or accurately conveying the experience of incest; an exploration of what it means to retell one’s life and what is lost (or found) in the process. Citron challenges her readers to question how their own personal memories are created and how autobiography as a genre is constituted.

Choice

In this profound and revelatory book, Michelle Citron combines the distinctive imagery of her pioneering feminist films with an innovative narrative form to reinvent storytelling as a way of understanding identity. Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions is wise, eloquent, and best of all, a pleasure to read.

Yvonne Rainer, filmmaker of MURDER and murder

Citron's exploration of her own past traumas and their relationship to the present-to her art and to her identities—is powerful and lucid. It is refreshing to read a work that is reflective and self-reflective at the same time—a work that explores personal history as well as the discourses that occlude, illuminate, and complicate knowledge of that history.

Judith Mayne, Ohio State University

Citron’s writing style is graceful, introspective, and accessible. Home Movies and Other Necessary Fictions is itself a document of a process of self-revelation that is ongoing. It is a mark of the quality of Citron’s work that this process does not come to seem cloying or narcissistic, or therapeutic in a merely personal sense. She uses her own psychic journey as an exemplary tale, a narrative of self-invention that testifies to injustice and addresses it.

Feminist Studies