Apr 21, 2014

Juilan Ross report on Orphans 9 now online at Desistfilm's web•log.

The manifesto for the online magazine Desistfilm says its creators are interested in film that "surpasses the frontiers of convention, that promotes a vision of what cinema gives to our lives, how it changes us, how it questions us, how it confronts us." 


In addition to a quarterly magazine format, Desistfilm hosts a Web log.  It's multilingual. ("El blog de desistfilm es parte de un proyecto mayor: la revista digital desistfilm.")

From Amsterdam, Julian Ross publishes this well-illustrated report on the 9th Orphan Film Symposium.


          Frame scanned from 16mm print of On the Way to India Consciousness, I Reached China (Henry Francia, 1968). Courtesy of the filmmaker's estate, as well as Benedict Olgado, the National Film Archives of the Philippines, Bill Brand, BB Optics, Pacific Film Archive.


Apr 19, 2014

3 days, 4 nights, 70 speakers, 80 movies, 200 attendees from 30 nations.

Orphans 9. EYE. Amsterdam.

3 days, 4 nights, 70 speakers, 80 movies, 200 attendees from 30 nations.
Some slides contributed by attendees to the public Flickr pool, Orphan Film Symposium:  www.flickr.com/groups/orphanfilmsymposium.

Many of the best are from Kramer O'Neil (Paris) and Thomas C. Christensen (Copenhagen). 


Apr 12, 2014

Charles Musser's Union Films' INDUSTRY'S DISINHERITED

Another presentation from the 9th Orphan Film Symposium finds a well-illustrated home online.

Charles Musser offers revised and extended remarks based on his Amsterdam presentation of April 2. It's about the 1949 Union Films production called

Apr 11, 2014

"a lively, friendly, and very dedicated bunch of film preservationists, restorers, archivists, scholars and artists . . . "

Matt Soar shares some images, and thoughts on his experience at the 9th Orphan Film Symposium.


Certainly his Lost Leaders project offered a nice accidental graphical interface with O' 9.

He might not be alone in thinking it, but he is the first I've read to wax poetic about one of the amateur films that Andrés Levinson of the Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires presented at the symposium. Perros en paracaidas (1963), as it is now called, indeed shows us dogs parachuting into Antarctica. Or, la Antártida, as those closest to the continent call it. Soar describes one sequence and offers:

"It might well be the most beautiful few frames of film I’ve ever seen."

Here are other images from Matt Soar's Lost Leaders presentation. 




Apr 8, 2014

"it is undeniably the legacy of Hoos Blotkamp at work here."

Here is a humbling but touching reminder of all the work that has come before us, regarding what we now call orphan films, their preservation and re-presentation to the world.

Today EYE published notice of the passing of one of its foundational figures.

Hoos Blotkamp, former director of the Dutch Film Museum, died last Thursday in The Hague where she lived. She had been ill for some time. Blotkamp, a former senior official at the Ministry of Welfare, Public Health and Culture (WVC), succeeded Film Museum director Jan de Vaal in 1987. Under Blotkamp’s guidance, the slumbering film archive in the Vondelpark was ‘kissed awake’, in the words of Dutch writer Annemieke Hendriks. The number of screenings increased spectacularly, while funds were also found for preservation and restoration activities. Blotkamp left the Film Museum – EYE’s predecessor – in 2000. She lived to the age of seventy.
Included were remarks by filmmaker Peter Delpeut, who was also a deputy director and programmer for the Netherlands Filmmuseum from 1988 to 1995. It was during that time that Delpeut made the landmark found footage film Lyrisch Nitraat / Lyrical Nitrate (1991). The production's use of both beautifully preserved and beautifully decayed film prints was a new phenomenon.

Watching a 35mm projection in a large theater (the Ima Hogg Auditorium, yes, really!) while at the University of Texas at Austin, I was captivated but also a little perplexed. Although I knew nearly nothing about film preservation and archiving during these graduate school days, my viewing led to one of my earliest publications (a review of Lyrical Nitrate for The Motion Picture Guide: 1992 Annual). I was most struck by the lengthy passage from a stencil-colored crucifixion scene from a Pathé life of Christ film, dated ca. 1906. Nearly twenty years later, Bill Morrison presented a found fragment from another life of Christ film, also Pathé, also stencil-colored. He spoke as the last presenter at the 2010 Orphan Film Symposium, introducing this short fragment showing not the crucifixion but the Ascension, with the rising body of Christ uncannily obscured by smeary clouds of decay.

Lyrical Nitrate (left)  meets  Just Ancient Loops

That screening ended at the stroke of midnight. A poetic moment.

Bill Morrison's artistic career has unfolded and blossomed in time simultaneously with the Orphan Film Symposium. His Ascension fragment became part of Just Ancient Loops (2012), with live performance by cellist Maya Beiser at "Orphans Midwest" in 2013. His acclaimed Decasia (2002) had an Orphans projection too. His 2003 short The Mesmerist with its bubbling patterns of decay in a nitrate print of The Bells (1926, with Lionel Barrymore) premiered at an Orphans screening at the Margaret Mead Film Festival. In the audience was an NYU visual anthropology grad student, Emily Cohen, who was inspired to write a lengthy piece in American Anthropology. She called it (unbeknownst to us) "The Orphanista Manifesto."

And so it was with great delight that I by chance was present when Bill Morrison and Peter Delpeut met for the first time.  At last week's Orphans 9 in Amsterdam, they met by happenstance in the lobby of EYE during one of our lunch breaks.

Morrison / Decasia  meets  Delpeut / Lyrical Nitrate 
outside the EYE gift shop, April 2, 2014.
3264 × 2448 JPEG, BiMo iPhone 5c, color profile sRGB IEC61966-2.1, exposure time 1/20th sec.
Both of these films are momento mori ('remember that you will die'). And so it is sadly fitting that Delpeut today wrote "Remembering Hoos Blotkamp." He described her as someone
for whom thinking and acting were two sides of the same coin. Under her directorate, the Film Museum’s archive grew into the most innovative institution in the world. To her, archiving and preserving of films automatically involved collecting and presenting them. It was a philosophy which she had acquired working in a museum and as a trained art historian, but for the film world in the late 1980s it was an entirely new approach. 
Her spirit is still present in the archive, as was all too obvious recently at the opening of the international Orphans conference at EYE:  technological know-how, subject-matter expertise and resolve, and above all, creative ways of presentation still characterize the work of the present staff – I am touched by this, especially at this time, because it is undeniably the legacy of Hoos Blotkamp at work here. “Let’s get on with it, people," she would always end the meetings she chaired.
I too am touched. And greatly humbled by such work and such colleagues.

We are sometimes cognizant of André Bazin's argument that the desire to capture people on film is the human attempt to stave off the reality of death. Yet we are also, in the best moments of movie watching, aware that a collective cinematic experience can be a great celebration of the vibrancy of life. We are animated. Animated by the pulsating Polish "non camera" newsreels of the great Antonisz and the raw footage of Egyptian whirling dervishes performing for a newsreel camera a century ago.

USC MIRC Fox Movietone News Collection                         Filmoteka Narodowa 


Perhaps we should give the last word on this to the late filmmaker Helen Hill. In a too-fitting serendipitous moment, she began her 20-second animation The Low-down on Love (1997-98) with this answer to the narrator's question "Looking for a different way to say 'I love you'?"


It's the little things.

In fact, some one inspired by an early Orphan Film Symposium published a poem about "Small Good Things."

Here you can watch 23 minutes from Dutch TV, showing a live broadcast, April 8, 2014, from EYE's film archive.

It's an unusually long time to have a privileged look at film archivists showing their wares. The occasion that prompted it was EYE's rediscovery of the film Love, Life, and Laughter (1923), which had been on the BFI's "Most Wanted" list of 75 films presumed lost. (Here's BFI's very well illustrated description of the film from BFI from before the new finding.) Archivist Bin Li found it only days ago, and we were fortune that EYE digitized a clip, so we could screen it at the very very end of Orphans 9. A total surprise ending.

We see and hear Frank Roumen, Head of Collections, talking about the rediscovery, and Annike Kross showing the nitrate print and its Dutch intertitles to the TV reporter from her flatbed.

We also see some of the other workstations within the archive. Preservationist Jan Scholten shows some of the scanning technology.

But what caught an orphanista's eye was the final seconds, in which we see an unidentified archivist wearing an Orphans 9 T-shirt!

The NYU-EYE logo on the back of the black T is clearly visible as the end credits roll.

Who is she??


April 9 UPDATE:
She is Suzan Crommelin!  


Apr 6, 2014

A shamelessly NYU-centric account of the 2014 symposium.


From the evening of March 30 straight through the evening of April 2, NYU Tisch / Cinema Studies co-hosted nearly nonstop screenings and presentations in the already landmark building known simply as EYE, the home of our host, EYE Film Institute Netherlands.

The 9th Orphan Film Symposium featured more than 70 presenters, nearly as many movies, and more than 200 attendees, who came from 30+ nations. The numbers give some idea of how intense and, yes, exhausting the event was. Yet "Orphans 9" yielded innumerable moments of excitement, serendipity, and rediscovery. Thanks to our generous EYE hosts and spirited colleagues, the symposium also sparked interstitial connections and new partnerships we will continue to hear about in the months ahead.

Even with the highly international cast and, for the first time, a European location, NYU Cinema Studies was well represented by a couple dozen faces. Faculty members Antonia Lant (below, right), Mona Jimenez, Dan Streible, and (via Skype) Howard Besser were on the presenting end of things, as was adjunct faculty and film preservation guru Bill Brand.


NYU Cinema Studies alumni Juana Suárez, Walter Forsberg, Benny Olgado (aka Bono), Charles Musser, and Paula Félix-Didier also gave presentations, as did our PhD candidate Maria Vinogradova. MIAP students Pamela Vizner and Athena Holbrook each moderated a session. Other alumni attending: Natalia Fidelholtz (Storycorps) and Kathleen Maguire (Exploratorium). Current graduate student symposiasts: Catherine Park and MIAP's Lorena Ramírez-López, Emily Nabasny, Genevieve Havemeyer, Jasmyn Castro, Julia Kim, and Blake McDowell (who produced this video trailer, screened throughout the symposium).

Filmmaker and NYU Tisch Film-TV adjunct David Bagnall also produced a trailer, and designed our logo. And Lukas Brasiskis (Vilnius Academy of Arts) traveled to Amsterdam from Lithuania; he will be joining our PhD program this fall.

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Read and see more about Orphans 9 (The Future of Obsolescence) in social media spaces other than this one.