Report on the 25th Anniversary Screening of "A Country Auction" and preliminary filming for "A Country Auction Revisited
In 2003 Celo Leitzel, Paul Leitzel's son, contacted me to ask if I would come to a 20th anniversary screening of A Country Auction at St. John's Lutheran church in Richfield where we had premiered the film. I, of course, agreed. When we arrived for the screening the church was filled. Many, even most, of the people in attendance had ben to the sale and some even brought small items they had purchased there. It was a glorious evening that ethnographers dream about with people who have been the subject of your research give you feedback and a real sense about what impact the film had on their lives. In retrospect, I was really annoyed at myself for not filming the event. I guess I did not realize what the response would be.
Several years alter I told my former student, Milton Machuca about the missing opportunity. He pointed out that the 25th anniversary was almost here. He asked couldn't we hold the same event for this anniversary and plan in advance to make a film. At first I was uncertain about whether or not the folks in Richfield would be interested in another public screening. I was glad Milton persisted. We sought the funds to undertake the screening and filming for Pitzer College where Milton is on the faculty and from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council who had partially funded the original auction film. Both groups gave us the funding we requested. We decided to schedule the screening on Saturday, March 15 as this was the beginning of Milton's spring break and he could stay for a week to conduct interviews and gather other materials for the film. We contacted the other three co-producers of the Auction film and asked them to come to Juniata County to be interviewed and to participate in the screening. All of them agreed. I contacted St. John's Lutheran and obtained the date we wanted. I announced in the newspapers and elsewhere that I was trying to locate people who had been at the original sale. A number of people called or emailed. I started setting up interviews and then the web site that you are now looking at.
Aibel and Musello expressed some anxiety that the work happened too long ago and they had forgotten more than they remembered. We met for dinner on Friday, March 14th. An evening's worth of conversation and it was clear out collective memories were intact. Saturday before the screening, the four producers were interviewed with amazing results. I now realized that what we had done was exceptional and overlooked by viewers. Over the weekend I came to a new appreciation of our accomplishment.
We next went to St Johns Lutheran. I had the usual anxiety that no one would show up. But 30 minutes before the screening there was around 50 people in the church and when we started we had an audience of more than one hundred! Our 25th anniversary screening was a mirror of the 20th anniversary screening. The audience was largely elderly and the majority had been to the sale. I saw the film become transformed. Like the custom of purchasing an item at a sale as a way to member someone, the film became a memory object for those remember people who were at the sale but who had died since.
Some Snapshots of the 25th Anniversary Screening on Match 15, 2008
- A Country Auction Revisited poster.
- Auctioneer Bob Leitzel and Wife
- 2nd Cameraman, David Neil
- Lowell Leitzel and Laureen Leitzel Baldwin, Celo's Children
- The current owners of the Leitzel Store, Darleen Kerstetter Savercool and Marguerite Kerstetter.
- Lura Leitzel Sollenberger, Paul Leitzel's daughter
- Ben Levin, Chris Musello, Bob Aibel, and Jay Ruby - Producers of the Auction Film.
Sunday morning we continued the interview with the four producers. Again the interaction between us continued my confirmation that A Country Auction film was an important moment in the development of an anthropological cinema. With the "Auction Film Revisited" we had a chance to make people aware of our accomplishment. I know this sounds egotistical but I firmly believe it is so and hope that this web site and film will provide readers/viewers with sufficient evidence for them to agree with me.
On Sunday afternoon, March 16th, Milton and I started our interviews by the end of the week we had about 20 hours of tape which Milton took back to Pitzer College to edit.
This update was written on 13 April 13, 2008. Stay tuned for more...