In spite of all the shoulder pads, hair spray, and neon clothes, the 1980s were a bastion of earnestness.
That is the main point that comes across in the Found Footage Festival, a roving film fest that collects unintentionally hilarious videos culled from basements and dusty discount bins across the world, and puts them on the big screen.
“There was such a wide-eyed innocence and naivety back then,” said Nick Prueher, co-founder of the festival. “People record themselves now and there is much more control and self-awareness about it. They know it could be seen all over the world. We cannot go back to those simpler times.”
This is the 10th anniversary of the Found Film Festival, which Prueher and his partner Joe Pickett founded after years spent amassing VHS tapes.
The two started collecting the tapes when they were bored teenagers living in a small town in Wisconsin. Prueher and Pickett would dive through thrift-store troves and then invite friends over to watch the strange finds. The pair soon realized there was a big audience out there for vintage videos.
“It was revelatory that people found this stuff as funny as we did,” said Prueher.
Today, the pair has accrued a collection of more than 6,000 VHS tapes which they keep in their apartments and a storage unit in Long Island City. Of course, they transfer the tapes to digital video before they travel the world with them.
Some of their favorite clips from their collection include a middle-aged woman leading a face-workout, a 1997 instructional video on cybersex, and a roundtable on whelping.
“They say things like ‘by now you should know that your b---- is pregnant’ and ‘shave your b---- down’ all with a straight face,” said Prueher. “Our show really has not matured at all in the past 10 years.”
The duo have a particular soft spot for a series of regional Home Shopping Network videos from Wisconsin featuring a pair of guys named John and Johnny. The festival screened videos of John and Johnny for years, and one day John got in touch with them. So, for the 10th anniversary tour, Prueher and Pickett flew the pair in for a reunion — and filmed it, of course.
“There will not be a dry eye in the house,” said Prueher.
Found Footage Festival at the BAM Rose Cinemas [30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100, www.bam.org]. April 25 at 7:30 pm. $10 members, $15 non-members.