Oct 19, 2014

Tickets to 4 sessions of THE REAL INDIES: A CLOSE LOOK AT ORPHAN FILMS, Oct. 31 & Nov. 1

Here's a condensed guide to the events that make up The Real Indies: A Close Look at Orphan Films, as presented by AMPAS, NYU, and the Orphan Film Symposium, October 31 and November 1. 

Location:  * The Academy Theater *  111 E. 59th St., New York, NY 

There are 4 sessions, each of which is ticketed at a mere $5. Advanced tickets can be purchased online at Oscars.org. (Each session pass must be purchased separately. There's no single pass you can purchase to the whole thing.)  Here are the links to each ticket site.

Friday night
Oct. 31, 7:30 pm  Spider Baby (1964/68) NYC premiere of the restored print
with director Jack Hill in person + trailers of Hill films + emcee William Lustig

Nov. 1, 10:00 am
 Pioneering Women: Films by and about. . .


  • Rediscovered films of Aloha Wanderwell Baker (1920s-30s)  30 min.
  • Make Out (Newsreel collective, 1970) 5 min.
  • Panel discussion of women in/and film preservation.
  • The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter (Connie Field, 1980) 65 min. 
  • Q&A with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Connie Field

Nov. 1, 2:00 pm  Altered Reality: "A Coney Island of the avant-garde"
9 films -- by Standish Lawder, Les Blank, Bill Brand, Esther Shatavsky, and -- in person --  Frank & Caroline Mouris, Jeanne Liotta, Lisa Crafts, Charlie Ahearn, and Bill Morrison (with live music by Todd Reynolds) 

Nov. 1, 6:00 pm  Visions of New York 
The Five Boroughs in 15 films from nine decades. (A three-hour+ session, with a short intermission before the all-35mm finale.)

* * * * *
The Academy Theater is within the facility known as Lighthouse International, which has an entrance labeled The Sol and Lillian Goldman Building.  It's between Lexington & Park Avenues.

Oct 11, 2014

THE ACADEMY PRESENTS "The Real Indies: A Close Look at Orphan Films" (II)

Did you know the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a theater in New York? And that it's hosting a sequel to "The Real Indies," the 2013 special event organized in Hollywood by the Academy, NYU, and the Orphan Film Symposium?

Below is today's press release from AMPAS. 

Omitted are the names of the Academy Film Archive presenters Heather Linville and Jeff Masino, and the unassuming behind-the-scenes co-programmer Roger Mancusi, who is both an NYU Cinema Studies master's student and event staffer at the Academy's New York Programs office. Mancusi's work on this began last spring as part of his work in the NYU course Curating Moving Images. May Haduong, who organized the 2013 Real Indies / Orphan Film event in Hollywood, also worked extensively on this new edition. 

Presenters will also include Lauren Tilton, a Yale PhD candidate in American Studies, who has been researching Community Film Workshops Council of the 1960s and 70s; Brian Meacham, archivist at the Yale Film Study Center who previously helped preserve films at the Academy Film Archive; and Sandra Schulberg, president of IndieCollect, a nonprofit organization formed to advocate for the preservation of American independent films. Susan Lazarus of New York Women in Film and Television's Women's Film Preservation Fund will join a discussion with Antonia Lant, professor and chair of cinema studies at NYU, about the preservation and history of women filmmakers.

in New York

New York Premiere of the Academy Film Archive’s Restoration of Jack Hill’s SPIDER BABY

Filmmaker William Lustig to Host Opening Night

New York, NY (October 9, 2014) - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the New York University Orphan Film Symposium will present this year’s installment of “The Real Indies: A Close Look At Orphan Films,” a two-day screening series on Friday, October 31, and Saturday, November 1, at the Academy Theater in New York City. The series serves as an opportunity to re-discover and re-appreciate orphan films – rarely seen, previously neglected cinematic works deserving preservation and revival. This eclectic showcase will open on Friday at 7:30 p.m. with the New York premiere of the newly restored 35mm print of the cult horror-comedy classic Spider Baby, written and directed by Jack Hill. Filmmaker William Lustig, known for his low budget indie horror films, will be in attendance opening night to introduce Hill and Spider Baby, as well moderate a conversation with Hill afterwards.

Filmed in 1964 but not released theatrically until 1968, Spider Baby marked director Hill’s solo debut. Cheekily subtitled “The Maddest Story Ever Told,” it follows three orphaned siblings suffering from a rare genetic disorder that causes them to regress, the narrator warns us, “to a pre-human condition of savagery and cannibalism.” Prior to the screening, a trailer reel from the Packard Humanities Institute Collection will highlight six other films written and directed by Jack Hill, including House of Evil (1968), Coffy (1973), and Switchblade Sisters (1975). Hill will introduce the film and participate in an onstage discussion following the debut of Spider Baby.

Saturday’s program will offer a full day of rediscovered and recently preserved orphan films, starting at 10:00a.m. Twenty speakers will treat attendees to an array of cinematic creations, more than twenty films, ranging from a minute to an hour in length. The films are organized into three sessions:

• Pioneering Women (10:00AM – 1:00PM) – Films by and about women: Aloha Wanderwell Baker’s world travels in the 1920s and 30s, the acclaimed 1980 documentary The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter, and the feminist Make Out (1970) from the radical Newsreel collective.

• Experimental Views (2:00PM – 4:00PM) – Nine expressive and personal experimental films that challenge the way we see the world: the late Standish Lawder’s Necrology (1970), Frank and Caroline Mouris’ hyperkinetic Coney (1975), Les Blank’s Running Around Like a Chicken with Its Head Cut Off (1960), Charlie Ahearn's Mass Guide (1977), Bill Morrison’s Outerborough (2005), and four handcrafted works, Esther Shatavsky’s collage Bedtime Story (1981), Lisa Crafts’ post-apocalyptic Glass Gardens (1982), Jeanne Liotta’s “erratic erotic” Blue Moon (1988), and Bill Brand's Organic Afghan (1969 -- screening in public for the first time).

• Visions of New York (6:00PM – 10:00PM) - The Five Boroughs filmed across nine decades: Actors’ Fund Field Day at the Polo Grounds (1910); footage of the New York Giants 1917 World Series and an anarchist attack on Wall Street (1920); newsreel outtakes NYC Street Scenes and Noises (1929); Magic Carpet of Movietone Presents ‘Broadway by Day’ (1932); Oscar nominees Brooklyn, U.S.A. (1947) and 3rd Ave. El (Carson Davidson, 1955); Noel Black’s children’s telefilm Reflections (1967); Con Edison’s The Proud New Yorkers (1971); a trio from the Young Filmmakers Foundation, Life in New York (1969), Black Faces (1971), and Coney Island (1973); the 1974 featurette, The Making of Pelham One Two Three along with Ed Koch introducing a 1994 Film Forum screening of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three; and the Oscar-winning claymation Sundae in New York (Jimmy Picker, 1983).

Distinguished orphan film advocates, including some of the filmmakers themselves, will introduce and provide insights into these unique cinematic works. Joining Jack Hill will be Oscar-winning animators Jimmy Picker, Frank Mouris, and Caroline Mouris; Oscar-nominated documentarian Connie Field; veterans of the Young Filmmakers Foundation, Luis Vale, Steven Siegel, and Phil Buehler; and independent NYC artists Lisa Crafts, Jeanne Liotta, Charlie Ahearn, and Bill Morrison; Associate Curator in MoMA’s Film Department Ron Magliozzi; Director of Repertory Programming at Film Forum Bruce Goldstein; Archivist for the Reserve Film and Video Collection of the New York Public Library (Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center) Elena Rossi-Snook and archivists from Anthology Film Archives Andrew Lampert and John Klacsmann; and newly-minted archivists from NYU's master's program in Moving Image Archiving and Preservation, Emily Nabasny and Pamela Vizner.

“The Academy is excited to partner with the NYU Orphan Film Symposium and showcase the work of the Academy Film Archive. This program presents a great opportunity for these lost treasures to return to the big screen,” said Patrick Harrison, the Academy’s Director of New York Programs and Membership.

“NYU Cinema Studies is thrilled to partner again with the Academy, an organization that shares the Orphan Film Symposium’s mission to save, screen, and study an inspiring variety of films,” said Dan Streible, director of the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program at New York University.

“The Real Indies” celebrates the preservation work of those organizations providing its content: the Academy Film Archive, Anthology Film Archives, the Museum of Modern Art, the New York Public Library, New York Women in Film and Television, Film Forum, IndieCollect, the Library of Congress, the University of South Carolina Moving Image Research Collections, the Smithsonian Institution’s Human Studies Film Archives, and Library and Archives Canada.

Tickets for Friday’s opening night screening of Spider Baby are $5. Doors open at 6:30PM. Individual tickets for Saturday’s series will be priced at $5 per session. Doors open at 9:30AM. Tickets for the event can purchased online at oscars.org and at the Academy box office on October 31st and November 1st.

The Academy Theater is located at 111 East 59th Street in New York City.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the world’s preeminent movie-related organization, with a membership of more than 6,000 of the most accomplished men and women working in cinema. In addition to the annual Academy Awards—in which the members vote to select the nominees and winners — the Academy presents a diverse year-round slate of public programs, exhibitions and events; acts as a neutral advocate in the advancement of motion picture technology; and, through its Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Film Archive, collects, preserves, restores and provides access to movies and items related to their history. Through these and other activities the Academy serves students, historians, the entertainment industry and people everywhere who love movies.

Since its inception in 1999, the Orphan Film Symposium has become an international summit for those who study, preserve, and use neglected films. Its biennial gathering of archivists, scholars, students, media artists, curators, collectors, and technical experts showcases recent preservation work, archival research, and new media productions. NYU’s Department of Cinema Studies adopted the symposium in 2006, with Dan Streible, associate professor, directing its year-round activities. The tenth Orphan Film Symposium convenes at the Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in 2016. www.nyu.edu/orphanfilm

The Tisch School of the Arts is dedicated to supporting, nurturing and molding the individual voice behind each artist and student. The school offers professional training degree programs in a wide variety of disciplines encompassing acting, archiving, art and public policy, cinema studies, dance, design, drama, game design, performance studies, film and television, cinema studies, photography and imaging, dramatic writing, musical theatre writing, recorded music, and interactive telecommunications.


FRANK PR | 646.861.0843
Lina Plath | Lina@frankpublicity.com
Clare Anne Darragh | Clareanne@frankpublicity.com

Sep 19, 2014

Now See Hear! Phonofilm on the radio.

The Library of Congress now has a blog associated with its National Audio-Visual Conservation Center: "Now See Hear!" Today's post to the LOC blog is something I worked on with Head of the Moving Image Section, Mike Mashon, and another person whose work I love, James Irsay, best known from his years of radio programming at WBAI-FM in New York. A treat to get to share the space with such a learned, generous wit (who I've never met). 


Our post of September 18, 2014, bears the title "78 RPM Records, Internet Radio, Phonofilms, and a Blog: Now That’s Media Convergence!" Its subject is the media career of a once popular but now obscure musical entertainer, Charles Ross Taggart.

It was a curious set of circumstances that led to this curatorial encounter. 
Later I will post a longer historical piece -- to appear here at the Orphan Film Symposium blog -- about this short sound film that I heard tell of on the radio: 'The Old Country Fiddler' at the Singing School (De Forest Phonofilms, 1923).  There's a surprising postscript to this story, but too long to recount just now. 

Please have a look and listen to "Now See Hear!"   


p.s. The song Taggart sings in the film is "Cousin Jedediah," written in 1863. He sings, as he tells us, only the first verse and chorus. Lyrics to all four verses can be found at the Public Domain Music website (pdmusic.org). 

Oh! Jacob, get the cows home and put them in the pen, For the cousins are coming to see us all again, The dowdy's in the pan, and the turkey's on the fire, And we all must get ready for cousin Jedediah.  
CHORUS Cousin Jedediah, There's Hezekiah, And Asariah, And Aunt Sophia, And Jedediah, All coming here to tea, Oh! wont we have a jolly time, Oh! wont we have a jolly time, Jerusha put the kettle on, We'll all take tea.

Images from the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection,
Sheridan Libraries Special Collections, Johns Hopkins University.

And "Morning Irsay" airs live from 10:00 am to 12 noon, Fridays, on WBAI-FM and WBAI.org. (NB: Recordings of the program are streamable, but only archived for two weeks before disappearing!)


Sep 13, 2014

After Orphans, a Thanhouser tour of Overamstel

It's hard to think of anyone more wholeheartedly dedicated to orphan film rescue and restoration than Ned Thanhouser, a regular symposium attendee and this year a presenter, with the newly preserved 1915 comedy short Clarence Cheats at Croquet (now online). 

The nonprofit Thanhouser Company Film Preservation enterprise has tracked down some 225 of the more than 1,000 films produced by his grandparents' company between 1909 and 1917. A dozen DVD releases later, next month he will debut his documentary The Thanhouser Studio and the Birth of American Cinema at the Giornate del Cinema Muto, in Pordenone, Italy.

Following that, in December, we'll see the release of a double DVD set of the Thanhouser films held by EYE Netherlands Film Institute. Meanwhile, Ned offers this preview of one of the bonus features. The documentary begins, generously, with a nod to Orphans 9 in Amsterdam, as it takes us inside EYE's noted archive. Guest starring silent film curator Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi and restorationist Annike Kross.

Read more at Thanhouser.org, which includes full access to the encyclopedic history by Q. David Bowers

And the Orphan Film Symposium thanks Ned for giving attendees of the Amsterdam edition complimentary copies of the Dickens disc, with the three-reeler David Copperfield (1911) and the two-reel Nicholas Nickleby (1912), with music by Philip  Carli. 

Aug 26, 2014

MIAP Directorship

(Memo just went out. I will continue to organize the Orphan Film Symposium, but now wear a new hat.)

* * * * * 

Greetings to all NYU MIAP alumni, students, faculty, instructors, staff, and friends of the show.

I wanted to pass along the official news. In September I will become director of the NYU master's program in Moving Image Archiving and Preservation.

Our team remains in place. Howard Besser and I are switching hats, as he will continue to serve as Associate Director, as will Mona Jimenez. And MVP Alicia Kubes enters her 13th year as Assistant Director, coordinating, well, most everything. The Department of Cinema Studies has also hired Kathy Short as Archive Administrative Aide, working alongside Alicia and Film Study Center Manager & Archivist Ann Harris.

We also have a new department chair, with Professor Antonia Lant succeeding Richard Allen. AND our school has a new dean, with Allyson Green succeeding Mary Schmidt Campbell. Lots of change afoot.

It's a big challenge, directing this extraordinary thing we call MEE-APP. I ask your help in continuing to make MIAP the best program of its kind. In twelve years as director, Howard led the building of a pioneering graduate degree program. We are fortunate that he will continue to teach, strategize, and advocate for us. (Thank you, Howard.)

Professors Bob Sklar and Howard Besser, 2003.
(That's Mona Jimenez, center.)
NYU Tisch School of the Arts welcome for new MIAP director.
We now build the Robert Sklar Memorial Scholarship endowment.

We also know that MIAP has a truly remarkable network of alumni. You're our biggest asset. Even before I joined the MIAP and Cinema Studies faculty in 2006, I was deeply impressed by the students and alumni I had encountered. Now it's down right inspirational to see how you are collectively leading this professional field -- and doing so with a generosity of spirit. You help one another, mentor students, and serve the community in creative ways. Thank you.

With our great team of instructors and another strong cohort of students, we have another banner year ahead. I look forward to working together as MIAP begins a second decade. I'm proud to be associated with this program. 


Dan Streible

* * * * *

Aug 18, 2014

A pleasing mosaic.

Today's Google image search for "What is an orphan film?"

A pleasing mosaic.

Match the name to the face (or body)?

  1. Chris Banuelos (Media Archivist, Time Warner Cable Sports / MIAP class of 2013)
  2. Howard Besser (author of Introduction to Imaging, 1995) 
  3. Joe Bowie (the voice of Ro-Revus)
  4. Monique M. Corzilius ("Peace Little Girl [Daisy], 1964)
  5. Sergei Eisenstein (filmmaker; recipient of the first Stalin Prize, 1941)
  6. Skip Elsheimer (A/V Geeks)
  7. Dr. Paul Gailiunas, MD (singer/songwriter/filmmaker)
  8. Hadi Gharabaghi's PPT slide (2012)
  9. Helen Hill (filmmaker, Scratch and Crow, 1995)
  10. Jodie Mack (Dust Stacks of Mom, 2013)
  11. Rick Prelinger (Associate Professor of Film and Digital Media, UC Santa Cruz)
  12. Elaine Summers people (Making Rainbows, 2009) 
  13. Unidentified person in bear suit in unidentified film (19??)

Aug 16, 2014

"Saving Orphan Films: A South Carolina Symposium" (1999)

The text below is essentially as it appeared in the December 1999 edition of International Documentary magazine. The publication doesn't appear in any Web or database searches I've done. The IDA is alive and well, however the International Documentary Association's members-only archive of magazines only goes back to 2001. Hence, I take the liberty of republishing it here and embedding links to transcripts of six of the original talks. 

Recommended citation: Dan Streible, "Saving Orphan Films: A South Carolina Symposium," International Documentary, December 1999, 18-22.


        The [National Film Preservation] Foundation's primary mission is to save orphan films, films without owners able to pay for their preservation. The films most at-risk are newsreels, silent films, experimental works, films out of copyright protection, significant amateur footage, documentaries, and features made outside the commercial mainstream. Orphan films are the living record of the twentieth century.
-- from Title II of the National Film Preservation Act of 1996

Saving Orphan Films: A South Carolina Symposium
Dan Streible

The ephemeral quality of motion-picture film has received considerable attention in recent years. Few media consumers today have not seen a report on the alarming number of films lost to history because of nitrate decay or on the efforts of restoration experts to save a Hollywood classic whose colors have faded to a shocking pink. With the historical retrospection brought on by the millennium, an audience well beyond the corps of professionals in film preservation has taken interest in the status of the moving image as the documentary record of the twentieth century. Fortunately, this has amounted to more than nostalgic and self-congratulatory listings of the 100 best Hollywood movies ever made. In fact, film preservation has reached a new period of meaningful application, with institutions learning not only how to save moving images but how to give historians, scholars, and filmmakers access to them.

This creative spirit was in evidence during the recent symposium, "Orphans of the Storm: Saving 'Orphan Films' in the Digital Age," hosted by the University of South Carolina. The gathering was unique for two reasons. First, the conference focused on the new governing metaphor in preservation, the so-called "orphan film," meaning that Hollywood features were de-centered for a change. Second, the symposium brought together several overlapping groups, each of whom has a strong interest in cinema as artifact, but who seldom get a chance to converge in an organized way. This was the most exciting and successful part of the orphan film project: witnessing the camaraderie, serendipity, and productive dialogue emerge as archivists, curators, producers, collectors, programmers, conservators, historians, academics, technical experts, librarians, students, museum administrators, writers, documentarians, and experimental filmmakers met for three days of intensive interaction. By all accounts, the alchemy worked. Bound by the common desire to save and use all manner of motion pictures that have been neglected by their parent culture, this eclectic group found a common language with which to talk about orphan films.

To understand how "Orphans of the Storm" happened, one needs a bit of background about the development of film preservation as a profession and project. Points of origin might include two coincidental events from 1938-39: the founding in Paris of FIAF, the International Federation of Film Archives, which remains the central organizing force for major archives; and, at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., Howard Walls [and colleagues'] initial salvaging of thousands of rolls of pre-1912 motion pictures that had been printed on paper for copyright deposit. The conversion of these early "paper print" films to 35mm safety stock continues to this day, but their preservation and circulation since the 1950s helped spark widespread interest in the earliest generation of cinema. Seen with eyes trained by Hollywood productions, these short fragments from a forgotten past seem as often mysterious or opaque as they do documentary. No better example of their inspirational qualities can be found than in The Film of Her (1996), a poetic rendering of Walls's rediscovery of the paper rolls. Filmmaker Bill Morrison constructed this beautiful work out of fragments [largely] from the Paper Print Collection. His presentation of the film at the final "Orphans of the Storm" panel confirmed for many of us how much preservationists, historians, and artists have in common: an appreciation for the cinematic image, both found and constructed; a desire to know the past; a zeal to protect images and the past they represent and document.

This jump cut from the 1930s to the 1990s parallels a leap forward in the preservation world itself. In the last ten years, film preservation has matured as a profession and, in the United States, as a national project. As Gregory Lukow of the UCLA Film and Television Archive pointed out in his address on day one of the symposium, the first federal legislation to deal with film preservation appeared in 1988. Other National Film Preservation Acts followed in 1992 and 96. The first act mandated that the Librarian of Congress create a National Film Registry, identifying works of lasting value that merit special preservation initiative (not that the Congress funded any way to accomplish this). A National Film Preservation Board was created to advise the Library. And, at last, in 1996, the Congress chartered a private-sector Foundation to raise money and coordinate efforts to save endangered films. Within two years, the NFPF became a major agency in the preservation movement. In 1999, it received (from the White House's "Save America's Treasures" project) a million-dollar endowment to preserve silent-era films.

Two other major signs of growth in the nineties were the creation of graduate schools of film preservation and the formation of a professional association. In the past year, both the George Eastman House and UCLA have begun the country's first masters-level programs to train specialists. The 1990 founding of the Association of Moving Image Archivists added what was arguably the most important momentum to preservation activity. AMIA has had almost exponential growth in its membership, bringing together a network of hundreds of video and film professionals.

The orphan film symposium was born at the University of South Carolina -- home to a Newsfilm Library that includes 11 million feet of Fox Movietone newsreel outtakes -- but it was nurtured by AMIA. At the organization's 1998 meeting, key people and institutions excitedly endorsed the idea of a conference devoted to the orphan phenomenon, films without owners or caretakers that are at the highest risk of disappearing. David Francis (who Paolo Cherchi Usai credited with introducing the term orphan film at a 1993 Congressional hearing) leant his support as head of the Library of Congress motion picture division, making it possible for South Carolina to host the Library's National Film Preservation Tour leading into the symposium. Representatives from the National Film Preservation Foundation became natural allies, since saving orphan films is a key part of their mission. Rick Prelinger immediately signed on to screen excerpts from his invaluable archive of "ephemeral films." Finally, a new AMIA group interested in bridging the gap between archivists and academic researchers helped extend the reach of the symposium into scholarly circles. They called for more interaction between the "keepers of the frame" and those who want to study it. They answered their own call. Members of this interest group, Paolo Cherchi Usai of Eastman House, Jan-Christopher Horak from Universal Studios, and film historian Eric Schaefer, became featured speakers at "Orphans of the Storm."

So it was that nearly a hundred individuals convened to hear forty experts talk about what can and should be done about orphan films. The symposium commenced with two panels most directly concerned with preservation per se, one addressing the technological frontiers of the issue (digital or traditional analog?), the other tackling a definition of the orphan rubric. "In the beginning," as Paolo Cherchi Usai reminded us in his keynote address, "all the films were orphans." Before the standardization of film distribution around 1908, motion pictures producers "sold their children," never expecting to see them returned to their "parent" company. Rather than debunk the metaphor as a melodramatic fundraising gimmick, Cherchi Usai hyperextended it. Diagramming how a first-generation "mother" negative produces multiple generations of prints, he clearly illustrated how a confusion of film copies gets created and perpetuated. Among the confounding factors, he highlighted the shifting entanglements of copyright law, warning of an impending disaster if the new standards of GATT [the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] are ever enforced. Films which have been in public domain for years could suddenly be reclaimed by descendants of long-dead filmmakers. The dutiful foster parents (archivists) would be powerless to prevent their orphaned prints from the clutches of their new legal guardians, who would exploit but not care for them. Gregory Lukow followed with an analysis of how the "politics of orphanage" have affected preservation policies. This governing metaphor, he argued, threatens to reinforce the division of labor between public and private institutions, leaving the underfunded public sector with the burden of caring for the entire "orphan library."

As for technological solutions to such big problems, the consensus of opinion was that digital formats are still no substitute for 35mm film. Tom Benjamin, a geologist [!] from Iron Mountain Film and Sound Archives demystified the cold storage process, giving a slide lecture on how films are stored in vast, Strangelove-like bunkers and repurposed mines. Robert Heiber, a leading restoration expert, provided a brilliant demonstration of how technicians must still creatively use both digital and traditional solutions to make the best available restorations and preservation prints. And Karen Lund's demonstration of how the LOC's National Digital Library uses the oldest of paper print motion pictures on its website brought the future and past together. To make the best available digital versions of an Edison film from 1899, for example, one must still have new 35mm prints struck.

The concluding two days of the symposium featured an eclectic mix of panels devoted to the many genres included under the orphan umbrella. We heard from specialists in newsreels, experimental cinema, African American history, silent cinema, exploitation movies, as well as television and video. It became clear as we heard about specific projects to preserve and disseminate neglected films that the line separating those who work to save the physical artifacts from those who work to explore cinema's historical contexts and meanings is impossible to define. The enterprises are finely interwoven. The practitioners understand this and were obviously glad to have the disciplinary borders dissolved.

The emblematic moments from the symposium, therefore, are not best reported with an account of the many superb individual presentations. Rather it was the unexpected interchanges. Robert Haller of Anthology Film Archives, to take just one example, screened Project Apollo (1968), a provocative experimental documentary by the late Ed Emshwiller. Working with the Emshwiller estate, Haller has been able to document the film's uses by its filmmaker, but had been interested to learn more about its existence as a project for the U.S. Information Agency (making it eligible only for overseas distribution until a change in the law in 1990). With National Archives veteran William T. Murphy on hand to respond in promptu to Haller's presentation, the symposium was treated to a new avenue of understanding about the 11,000 films made for the USIA, most of which are available in the federal archive. Far from being only a repository of government propaganda films, the collection also includes works by some of America's most innovative documentarians, who George Stevens Jr. commissioned when he directed the USIA film office.

Ultimately, it was this return to the moving image on the screen that animated the three days and four nights of dialogue. Even after hearing about the physical properties of celluloid and the pragmatics of preservation, one can still believe that film has an aura -- at least when properly re-animated. Rick Prelinger presented an amazing trio of "industrial musicals" and "heartland noir" from his archive of ephemeral films, while Joe Lauro of Historic Films curated an ingenious hour of early sound films that constituted a celebration of American music nearly lost to history. Nico de Klerk of the Netherlands Filmmuseum curated an entertaining collection of theatrical shorts from the 1930s that reminded us of how many genres and films have been neglected because they fall outside of the feature-length format.

The symposium was made complete by the filmmakers who -- like Bill Morrison did in The Film of Her -- take orphaned material and fashion it into new works of art. As is evident in their films, they too are archivists, historians, and preservationists. Carolyn Faber, a full-time archivist at the WPA Film Library, showed Iota (1998), for which she used an optical printer to transform a found home movie fragment into an abstract, impressionist canvas. From the field of documentary, Alan Berliner and Péter Forgács both presented short films which might be dubbed "experimental" and followed them with innovative documentary features which are both personal and historical. Berliner's early shorts, such as City Edition (1980), use his collection of found sounds and images to construct interesting and funny strings of montage. With The Family Album (1982) his work deepened in theme, weaving together anonymous home movies around family rituals of birth, marriage, death, and rebirth. But it was his recent masterpiece, Nobody's Business (1996), with which he ended. The film uses its found footage for comic counterpoint to the touching mix of Berliner's own 8mm home movies and original interviews shot with his father, who resists the documentary project at every turn. The work of Hungarian artist Péter Forgács made a fitting and elegiac conclusion to the symposium. Having established the Private Film and Photo Foundation in Budapest in the 1980s, Forgács has made a lasting contribution to film archiving, social history, and cinema aesthetics. He has amassed an important collection of home movies and amateur films shot in central and eastern Europe from the 1920s through the Cold War era. The "video opera" which ended the program, The Maelstrom (1997), is an hour-long episode from the series of "private" films he continues to produce. Providing enough historical context to make the original home movies legible, Forgács reanimates the footage with creative embellishments: freeze frames, ghostly dissolves, slow motion, and graphics. Ethereal, minimalist soundtracks bring out the ghosts in the images. The effect is both beautiful and devastating. These are the ultimate orphan films -- home movies of a family destined for Nazi death camps.

The orphan film symposium proved a rewarding exploration of the unmined riches that lay beyond [and sometimes in] the Hollywood vaults. The orphan rubric takes in a diversity of films and film experiences that require much further study. Further mutual excavations by archivists, filmmakers, scholars, and others in the preservation community is obviously in order. Toward that end, the University of South Carolina has committed to hosting another such symposium in the spring of 2001.

Dan Streible is assistant professor of film studies at the University of South Carolina and organizer of "Orphans of the Storm." Write to Streible@sc.edu, or visit http://www.sc.edu/filmsymposium.

Addendum 2014:

The December 1999 magazine's cover featured a version of this handsome photo of Les Blank, with the clever title for the feature story: "The Road Les Traveled."  (His visit to the third Orphan Film Symposium with the phenomenal documentary A Poem Is a Naked Person (1974) remains an indelible part of the symposium's programming history.)

The inside cover included a 35mm frame enlargement from the University of South Carolina Newsfilm Library's Fox Movietone News Collection, MVTN 0-282, Dedication of "Park Row".  Filmed on the Fox lot on January 27, 1928, the footage shows a Hollywood actor (Boris Charsky) impersonating Leon Trotsky -- although it is not all clear upon first viewing that it is a faux Trotsky. (A wee QuickTime excerpt can be seen here, with Tom Mix and an unidentified John Ford preceding the supposed Soviet visitor.) It was a publicity stunt promoting the forthcoming Fox feature The Red Dance, directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Dolores Del Rio as a peasant who has a romance with a grand duke (Charles Farrell) in the midst of the Bolshevik Revolution. 

A decade later the Fox Trotsky graced the cover of the AMIA journal, its Spring 2009 issue devoted to orphan films, with essays derived from the 2008 symposium at NYU. 

I've always been struck by the peculiarity of having a Russian-speaking Trotsky impersonator appear in a Fox newsreel (one of the early synchronous-sound Movietone News items). In that same year, Stalinist politics saw that the Trotsky character was being cut out of Sergei Eisenstein's October. (More specifically, Stalin himself went to Eisenstein's editing room on the day the film was to have a first test screening.) The June 26 New York Times review by Mordaunt Hall, in fact, noted of The Red Dance: "A number of the characters usually dodged in Russian film stories are pictured in this chronicle. There are occasional flashes of Rasputin and Trotzky [sic]." The actor Boris Charsky's character is called only "an agitator" in later screen credits. 

However, Rasputin is Rasputin (Demetrius Alexis). 

This production still appears at IMDB.com.
Ivan Linow as Ivan Petroff, the would-be Bolshevik, with Demetrius Alexis as you know who. 

Two thousand nine was also the year that the USC Newsfilm Library rebranded as MIRC -- Moving Image Research Collections. Among the major developments has been the 2012 creation of the MIRC-DVR (clever acronym for its Digital Video Repository). Although Dedication of "Park Row" is not yet online, another curious Trotsky-less Trotsky item is.

Leon Trotsky Expelled from France -- outtakes (April 18, 1932) streams here: http://mirc.sc.edu/islandora/object/usc%3A12988 

Leon Trotsky Expelled from France -- outtakes, http://mirc.sc.edu/islandora/object/usc%3A12988  
The star of the movie is clearly the German shepherd who greats newsreel photographers and gendarmes.  

The catalog description reads: "Russian revolutionist ordered to leave Foret de Fontainbleau located in Ker Monique villa. Scenes include dogs near the villa gate, a woman bringing a trunk to the gate, police delivering a letter that Barbizon police failed to deliver, and news reporters at the gate."  

But no Trotsky to be seen. Reminiscent of Bill Morrison's 12-minute piece, Release (2010), built out of the Movietone footage listed in the MIRC catalog as MVTN 5-527: "Al" Capone, Underworld Personality. Crowds mill about a Philadelphia penitentiary to catch a glimpse of Scarface. Cameras roll. A door opens. But no Al.

The catalog record for Leon Trotksy Expelled from France also lists Georges Mejat as one of the camera operators. Two years later, he and his brother were covering King Alexander of Yugoslavia's visit to France and actually captured the king's assassination on film.