Jonathan Melville: New found respect for VHS tapes

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“In a way, these amateur videos are a lot more truthful representation of who we are as a people than the greatest films of the last 75 years.”

Nick Prueher, co-founder of the cult US website and live show, Found Footage Festival, is explaining why he believes cheesy VHS tapes of exercise videos and corporate training films are worth celebrating.

“People forget how revolutionary VHS was. For the first time, you could bring video into your home and record things off TV. It was easy, affordable, and it was everywhere. That opened the floodgates to a bunch of mom-and-pop producers who wanted to find the next big thing, so you ended up with a glut of weird, esoteric things committed to videotape. It was lightning in a bottle.”

The Found Footage Festival is heading to the Cameo Cinema, with Nick and co-founder Joe Picket hosting. It’s a chance to get reacquainted with the format through videos about caring for your pet ferret and a drunken spring break holiday in 1985.

Why does Nick think we’re still so fond of VHS?

“For a lot of people VHS has a strong nostalgic pull,” he says. “In the same way that record collectors appreciate all the hisses and pops and imperfections of vinyl, we like all the tracking problems, washed-out colours and general clunkiness of VHS.

“As more and more content moves to streaming and online methods of distribution, we clamour to have a tangible piece of media that you can hold in your hand.”


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