Home: A Documentary About Four Families (Parts I-III)

Through eloquent portrayals of four different life experiences—birth, aging, marriage, and the death of a parent—HOME explores the changing social dynamic of American families during the 20th century as many life events and roles begin to shift from homes to institutions. The tape opens with the birth of a baby, not in the sterile atmosphere of a hospital, but in a home-like clinic staffed by midwives. The second portrait focuses on a widow growing old in a nursing home, who is disappointed because her adult children have no time or room for her in their homes. The third celebrates the marriage of two divorcees that hope a traditional wedding will fortify their union. The final sequence portrays a young man who gives up his job to care for his terminally-ill mother in her home. He sums up a major theme of HOME: “she has never turned her back on anybody, so why should I?” Co-produced by the Television Laboratory of WNET and aired on public television in 1979. Critic Tom Shales of THE WASHINGTON POST said, “HOME has immediacy and impact possible with no other medium but television, and an inquisitive compassion that turns cold video images warm and real." Originally shot in ¾” Color and B & W Video. See the final sequence, HOME Part 4 at https://mediaburn.org/video/home-pt-2-of-2/

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00:13Copy video clip URL WNET Intro

00:38Copy video clip URL “Home: A Documentary About Four Families.” Young mother Irene Berner introduces her elementary-aged daughter Naomi to her newborn baby sister Jesse.

00:49Copy video clip URL The other subjects are briefly introduced: an elderly white woman, a younger black couple getting married, a younger bearded white husband. “For our parents and grandparents.”

01:12Copy video clip URL Introductory text onscreen: “This program will explore the meaning of home and family for four different families at important moments in their lives: a birth, growing old, a marriage, and the death of a parent. In the past the family performed many roles now taken over by institutions. The home was usually the setting for childbirth, for illness, for marriage, and for dying. Today most of these events are fundamentally changed, taking place outside the home and presided over by professionals. The four families presented here are struggling to define the shape of these events for themselves; some accept the forms society now offers; some look back to older ones: and some attempt to improvise new ones.”

01:51Copy video clip URL “Part I: A Birth.” An introduction establishes that Americans have almost entirely given birth in hospitals since the 1950s and introduces Irene and Barry Berner, a married couple who will plan to have their next child in a natural childbearing center. The couple joking discuss possible names at the dining room table. 

03:53Copy video clip URL The Berners contrast the cold, impersonal atmosphere of the hospital with that of a natural birth center, which they visit for a pre-natal check-up. 

06:54Copy video clip URL Irene giving birth, with Barry at her side and the midwives attending to them. Irene and Barry hold their new daughter. Shot in black-and-white. “Oh I’m not pregnant anymore!” Irene exclaims as she recovers.

10:51Copy video clip URL Two hours after the birth, Naomi meets her baby sister for the first time. Irene changes Jesse’s diapers for the first time. They leave the Childbearing Center 12 hours after giving birth. 

14:41Copy video clip URL “A Day Later:” Jesse’s grandparents visit.

15:50Copy video clip URL Barry remembers his trepidation dealing with Naomi when she was first born, but says that he now understands how important physical contact is with infants and that he is making a conscientious effort. He shares his emotional journey witnessing the birth of his daughter. The couple gets a cranky Naomi to go to bed and the two of them lie down together, with Jesse in Irene’s arms. 

19:26Copy video clip URL “Part II: Growing Old.” An introduction establishes that the elderly increasingly live at institutions rather than at home with younger family. Lena Gardiner is a 94-year-old widow whose family moved her to a nearby facility so that she can receive 24-hour nursing care. Her son Frederick visits often and her daughter, who lives in Florida, visits frequently during the summer. Lena reminisces about her life before injuries and age made ordinary tasks difficult and eats a meal with friends in the dining room. 

23:29Copy video clip URL Lena reflects on her life in the nursing home, and gets her hair done. 

26:56Copy video clip URL Lena talks about growing up and getting married. 

28:24Copy video clip URL Lena’s son Frederick, who is himself in his 60s or 70s, visits his mother and reads a letter from his sister. Then she continues talking to the interviewer about her marriage. She waits for her daughter to arrive for a visit.

32:05Copy video clip URL Lena’s daughter Jane and Jane’s husband arrive and catch up with Lena. Jane discusses the ways in which the nursing home is good for her mother and brings her to the home’s coffee shop and to a restaurant for Lena’s 95th birthday. 

35:58Copy video clip URL Jane reflects on her own future as she and her husband grow old. 

36:51Copy video clip URL Lena observes her neighbor, who spends most of her time watching television. The neighbor seems to be in distress.

38:46Copy video clip URL The nursing home’s monthly birthday party, for all residents with birthdays that month. 

41:10Copy video clip URL “Part III: A Marriage”: An introduction discusses the growing trend of couples living together without marrying. Dolores Seay and Lee Marshall, an African-American couple from Long Island have decided to marry. The video introduces them as they obtain their marriage license. 

42:53Copy video clip URL Dolores and Lee spend time at home with Dolores’ children from a previous marriage, Darren and Donny. Dolores discusses the differences between her first marriage, which was “a pretty bad one,” and her upcoming marriage to Lee. 

47:15Copy video clip URL The family attends church on Sunday. Dolores sings in the choir. 

49:02Copy video clip URL Dolores visits her parents house 

50:30Copy video clip URL Dolors reflects on regrets from her first wedding ceremony while trying on wedding dresses. Her boys talk idly about the wedding while watching TV at home. 

52:20Copy video clip URL Lee talks about his relationship with “D” and his role in their family, both to the camera and to his friends. 

54:51Copy video clip URL Preparations for the wedding at relatives’ houses. 

56:18Copy video clip URL The wedding.

60:17Copy video clip URL The couple cuts the cake at the reception. Dolores throws the bouquet and Lee throughs the garter. They dance the first dance to Brainstorm’s “This Must Be Heaven.” 





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