Rick Prelinger & Péter Forgács at the CJM

Rick Prelinger is the archivist and filmmaker whose Lost Landscapes of San Francisco events reflect not just on “the city that’s gone,” as he has said, but also “the city we’d like to live in.” He has a kindred spirit in Budapest-based filmmaker Péter Forgács, who likewise understands the deep value of raiding our cultural cupboards for freeform proto-selfie mementos of more innocent times. Forgács’ Letters to Afar is a haunting mosaic of pre-Holocaust home movies from Poland, and his ongoing Private Hungary series builds inquisitive experimental narratives out of diaristic found footage from the 1930s through the 1960s — a not undramatic period, it’s fair to say, of Hungarian history. Like Prelinger, Forgács turns ostensibly quotidian banalities to poetic and essayistic purposes — illuminating, for instance, the philosopher István Bibó’s assertion that “the greatest threat to the rule of law is not the people outside it, but those uncertain and distorted situations in which it becomes bad, contradictory, and hypocritical.” It’s a wonder that we made it through the last century at all, and there’s no telling how this one will end — except with lots of footage. Filmmakers Rick Prelinger and Péter Forgács speak at 6:30pm Thursday, February 26, 2015, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.