As I approached middle age I found myself reflecting on a lot of my life. It’s only 40 years but the first 20 feel like so long ago, and at the same time just like yesterday. Luckily I saved a lot of mementos over the years (You’ve seen my ticket stubs) but I’ve still had to look for things long gone to history. That’s why 306 Hollywood seemed like a documentary made for me.
Brother and sister filmmakers Elan and Jonathan Bogarin had been filming their grandmother for 10 years from 2001 to 2011. When she passed away, they decided to go through her house to archive mementos of her life. She happens to live at 306 Hollywood Avenue. Despite the name of the street it’s not a history of showbiz. It’s just life.
This film makes a strong case for the value of preserving individual history. It’s occurred to me that I may be doing little more than preserving nostalgia, but in my heart I know it’s bigger than that. 306 Hollywood shows how the artifacts of an individual’s life tell a story of history, often of the people marginalized by the big picture historical events.
There are some creative techniques to illustrate different finds. Models show what grandma’s dresses could’ve looked like on women of the era. They’re made up to look ‘40s and ‘50s. They catalog household junk to put it in the same context as major archaeological digs.
Along the way they interview scholars to put this pursuit in context. An archaeologist relates it to how we understand societies from artifacts. I think we shouldn’t wait until they’re centuries gone to understand what led to the world we have now. A historian also articulated how archivists choose what to preserve. It’s a good case for doing it yourself just in case. I also appreciated the physicist’s angle on how pieces of a person still exist in a different form.
Sometimes 306 Hollywood can devolve into watching another family’s home movies. A ten minute section that plays out in real time does not inform as much as the film seems to think. It could’ve been edited to a minute of time lapse.
I definitely feel like I know the Bogarin family after 90 minutes. The right selection of moments can do that. When one is as powerful as their mother talking about the night grandma died, it’s an intimate look at a specific family that proves how universal anyone’s history can be.