Today almost everyone has the ability to document every moment of their lives thanks to technology. However, be it in the 1950s or the present day, there has always been a debate about whether or not visually documenting an experience can somehow remove that person from a given moment or, on the contrary, solidify their very presence in a memory.
In a profoundly intimate documentary, filmmaker Martha Gregory set out to investigate how the growth of visual media has altered a person’s need for memories using her grandfather’s old 16mm footage and recorded retrospective as her guide. Three Red Sweaters is a film about visual media, family history, and ultimately how important it is to leave a little piece of yourself behind for your loved ones, once you pass on.
Rich colors, outdated clothing, and smiling family members, who appear both shy and seduced by the idea of being filmed, give Three Red Sweaters the aesthetic of years past. Nostalgia in its most beautiful form, Martha’s “granddaddy”, Charles F. Lowrey, left behind a wealth of archival footage shot on 16mm film in the 1950s, 60s and 70s that she used as the backdrop of her project. As Martha invites us to take a trip down memory lane into someone else’s family history – her own – only then can we begin to realize how the human experience is connected by visual memories and how much that means to our sense of self.
Martha and Charles have the connection of grandchild and grandfather; a patience that comes from understanding that with age comes wisdom. Their conversations are reflective, thoughtful, and absolutely endearing. As the film comes to a close and we begin to understand how the very making of this film played a part in her own memories, Charles becomes a part of the very archive he began building decades ago.
Three Red Sweaters won Best Documentary at Aspen Shortsfest, Critics Award at Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, and received the Jacob Burns Creative Culture Award at the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival.