Dec 31, 2009

a nice Phil Nugent shout-out

Excerpt from The Phil Nugent Experience blog, December 30, 2009:

Helen Hill Books into the Library of Congress

. . . Every year the Library of Congress selects twenty-five films deemed to be of "artistic, cultural, or historical interest" for permanent preservation, and this year's bounty includes Scratch and Crow, a 1995 student film by the late, great Helen Hill, who was a friend of mine and the best person I have ever known who I did not address as "Grandmother." 
. . . This is a happy day for everyone who's had something to do with keeping Helen's name and work alive, among them Helen's dashing brother Jake, her widower Paul Gailiunas, our invaluable mututal friend Jenny Davidson, Dan Streible and the sainted orphan film movement [!], and Peripheral Produce, which has made a DVD compilation of Helen's work, including Scratch and Crow and her masterpiece, Mouseholes, available. It may seem that the preservation of the creative work of someone who was taken from us too cruelly soon is an odd thing to clutch onto as a hopeful sign for the year to come, but at this point, I'll take what I can get.

Happy New Year!

NPR asks (again) "What is an orphan film?"

NPR's "On the Media," interviewed Daniel Egan about the National Film Registry -- and asks "What is an orphan film?"

Compare to seven years earlier.
NPR's "All Things Considered" item, "Orphan Film Fest."

a Banner Year for Orphan Films on the National Film Registry

Or, as Variety headlined it:
"Hip Mix of Pix Get Library Cards."

The announcement of the 2009 edition of the National Film Registry features one of the most interesting lists to come out of Washington in a long time.

Here's a biased sample of 10 of the 25 titles the Librarian of Congress identified as culturally significant.

The Exiles (1961) restored by UCLA Film and Television Archives, released by Milestone Films.

Heroes All (1920) The Red Cross made more than one hundred films between 1917 and 1921 -- now invaluable recordings of the era with footage from World War I and its aftermath. Wounded veterans at Walter Reed Hospital.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

       The universe, worlds beyond number, God's silver tapestry spread across the night. And in that moment, I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite. I had thought in terms of man's own limited dimension. I had presumed upon nature. That existence begins and ends in man's conception, not nature's. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears melted away. And in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. . . . I still exist!

The Jungle (1967) With the guidance of Harold Haskins, a group of African American teenage boys in Philadelphia made this hybrid documentary dramatization of their lives in the 12th and Oxford Street gang. Shot in an original, naïve style, this 22-minute film was recognized with festival awards, but never theatrically released. In 1968, Churchill Films distributed The Jungle for the 16mm educational market. The production led some of the gang members to complete their high school and college educations. A community-based 12thand Oxford Film Makers Corporation followed. (It's on YouTube -- at the moment.)

Quasi at the Quackadero (1975) Sally Cruikshank’s wildly imaginative tale of odd creatures visiting a psychedelic amusement park careens creatively from strange to wacky. A popular midnight movie during the 70s, it's a trippy "head film" of the same vintage as El Topo, Eraserhead, and Sesame Street. Available on DVD-R from Sally herself at

The Revenge of Pancho Villa (1930-36) This extraordinary compilation film was made by itinerant border exhibitors. The El Paso-based Padilla family saved dozens of silent films – fact and fiction, American and other – related to Pancho Villa, then stitched them together with original bilingual intertitles. As they revised the print over several years they also added their own filming of an amateur cast recreating the assassination of Villa. Evidence of a vital film legacy in the Mexican-American community during the 1910s-30s, this film from the University of Texas El Paso collection, was restored by the (late) AFI with the Cineteca di Bologna.

There's also an in-depth Orphan Film Symposium success story here, much of it narrativized brilliantly in Gregorio Rocha's documentary The Lost Reels of Pancho Villa (2003).

Scratch and Crow (1995) Helen Hill's CalArts MFA thesis film. Consistent with the short films she made from age 11 until her death at 36, this animated short work is filled with vivid color and a deft sense of humor. Yet it also touches the sublime, a poetic, spiritual homage to animals and the human soul. The apotheosis of chickens.
If I knew, / I would assure you we are all / Finally good chickens / And will rise together, / A noisy flock of round, / Dusty angels.
Available on the recent DVD compilation, The House of Sweet Magic: Films by Helen Hill, distributed by

Stark Love (1927) Filmed on location in North Carolina's Smoky Mountains, director Karl Brown used local amateur actors. Bradley Reeves of the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound reports the movie has played to full houses when revived in Knoxville and vicinity in recent years.

A Study in Reds (1932) An amateur film comedy by Miriam Bennett (daughter of photographer H. H. Bennett) shot in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. She spoofs women’s clubs and the Soviet menace. Listening to a tedious lecture, members of the Tuesday Club fall asleep and dream themselves laboring in an all-women collective.

Thriller (1983) A music "video" shot on film. You know the rest.

Dec 23, 2009

Framework 50

LATEST ISSUE: Framework 50 (Fall 2009)

Drake Stutesman (friend of the show) has an editorial in the new (and fiftieth) issue of Framework: Journal of Cinema and Media, one of those heroic publications still printed on paper. She makes a brief mention of orphan films and a longer mention of preservation.

She begins

Framework 50 reflects less on film than on its huge diaspora: film has left its old country (of being a film) and now appears in cut-up resemblances of itself, video art remakes, or computer PowerPoints, screened in restaurants (as wallpaper), on iPods, and in galleries.

and later continues

In today’s deluge of found footage, orphan films, hipster archives, DVD releases of weird, offbeat, cult, or porn films, of exploitation, genre, or Hollywood B-Z films, of esoteric foreign gems or shocking newsreels, of TV shows and experimental art classics, of remastered great cinema presented by big names such as Martin Scorsese (presents Val Lewton) or Terry Gilliam (presents Les enfants du paradis, FR, 1945), or the presentation of films in studio collections such as Paramount, Hammer House of Horror, Universal [friend of the show], or TCM [friend of the show], there is a danger of believing that “it all” -- from important to silly -- is being saved.

My fear is that the gatekeepers of these “save fests,” as crucial as they are, exclude films that represent uncomfortable groups:  . . .  a record that doesn’t suit a dominant view of “what the past was like.” That others will decide who represents another group and not that group itself is a serious problem for reality. In the last few years, I have co-chaired the Women’s Film Preservation Fund[friend of the show], a small fundraising New York body that gives grants to preserve films in which women have played a significant artistic role. We have restored some eighty movies, a few fairly esoteric, and it is easy to see how many “unknown” films could fall through the cracks if such organizations did not exist.

This is a frightening thought: what happens if many films disintegrate and no one knows in twenty years that they, and their points of view, even occurred? How will “history” be formulated?

These are the questions that participants in the Orphan Film Symposium ask -- while other participants also do the saving that allows all of us to see the esoterica that documents the history we almost forgot. May we never be a “save fest” that excludes "films that represent uncomfortable groups." Let us not get comfortable.

p.s. In this same issue of Framework, you can read the dossier on documentary re-enactment, edited by Jonathan Kahana (also friend of the show).

Nov 22, 2009

Ash & Mack Receive Helen Hill Awards; Mack & Ash Receive Helen Hill Awards

▲ ▲ ▲ ▲  ▲

For the second time, the NYU Orphan Film Symposium has conferred its Helen Hill Award on two filmmakers whose work embodies Helen's independent spirit and artistic legacy: Danielle Ash and Jodie Mack.

Danielle Ash is a Brooklyn-based media artist who received an MFA in Experimental Animation from CalArts (2008) and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1999).  She has worked extensively as a producer, editor, title designer, and animator, while pursuing her individual work. Visiting her web site ( you can read about and see samples of her films, which include a dozen animated shorts.

Maureen Furniss, CalArts professor of animation and founder of Animation Journal, writes:

Danielle Ash's films take a delightful, hand-made approach to celebrating life's everyday moments -- the dance of pigeons, the blossoming of love, and the sights and sounds that define the spaces we live in.
Danielle is a gifted artist who brings together skills as a designer, musician, performer, and technical innovator -- blending them with a handcrafted aesthetic that is truly original.

Her work includes performances and installations using toys, puppets, and automata.

She also plays the musical saw.

▲ ▲ ▲  ▲

Jodie Mack received her MFA in Film, Video, and New Media from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her recent work includes the animated musical, Yard Work Is Hard Work (2008) and Twilight Spirit (2009), a music video for Judson Claiborne. She teaches at DePaul University, the University of Illinois Chicago, and the Art Institute's Early College Program, as well as the California State Summer School for the Arts (where Helen once taught and where, Jodie reports, she coincidentally stays in Helen's old dorm room).

Jodie studied at the University of Florida, where Roger Beebe was one of her professors. He writes:
Jodie Mack’s amazing energy was totally transformative, in both my classroom and our community. The first year of FLEX (the Florida Experimental Film/Video Festival) was possible largely thanks to her tireless efforts. 
I can also see, in those first exercises she did as a student, the germs of the incredible work she's done since. Helen Hill’s film “cookbooklet” Recipes for Disaster was a huge inspiration for her (as for many students who pass through my classroom). More than any student I've ever seen, Jodie is adding new pages to that wonderful resource Helen compiled.  Jodie's films come from a marvelous, idiosyncratic world full of bright colors, perpetually renewed handcrafted technique, and endless wordplay and song.
Sample more Mack at

She is also "starting a choir to perform with abstract animations."

Mack & Ash will both present films at the Orphan Film Symposium, April 7-10, 2010, in New York.

▲ ▲ ▲ ▲  ▲  ▲▲ ▲ ▲ ▲ 
Thanks to Susan Courtney and Laura Kissel (University of South Carolina) for jurying the Helen Hill Award, and to Larry Hembree (the Nickelodeon Theatre in Columbia), for watching over the award funds. As ever, we extend our gratitude to Helen's family -- Paul, Poppy, Becky, Kevin, and Jake -- for letting "Orphans" be affiliated with the loving legacy of Helen Wingard Hill.  

Nov 21, 2009

special journal issue THE MOVING IMAGE

Here it is. The special issue of The Moving Image, a peer-reviewed journal in which archival issues meet historical, theoretical, and critical analysis.

If you're not a member of AMIA (meaning you don't get a journal subscription automatically) you can subscribe here:

Or you can get this issue for $15.  At 260 pages, this issue (vol. 9, no. 1) is book-length. The essays are expanded versions of presentations made at the 6th Orphan Film Symposium in 2008. The theme of the event was "The State," broadly considered.

Here's the table of contents:

The State of Orphan Films: Editor's Introduction
Dan Streible

Are All (Analog) Films “Orphans”? A Pre-digital Appraisal
Paolo Cherchi Usai

The Bureaucratic Activist: Federal Filmmakers and Social Change in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Tick Eradication Campaign
Jennifer Zwarich                          

Garras de oro (The Dawn of Justice--Alborada de justicia): The Intriguing Orphan of Colombian Silent Films
Juana Suárez & Ramiro Arbeláez

Extended Family Films: Home Movies in the State-Sponsored Archive
Julia J. Noordegraaf & Elvira Pouw

Carl Marzani & Union Films: Making Left-wing Documentaries during the Cold War, 1946-1953
Charles Musser

Nothing Could Be Finer? George Stoney’s Tar Heel Family and the Tar Heel State on Film
Devin Orgeron

Experiments in Propaganda: Reintroducing James Blue's Colombia Trilogy
Jennifer Horne

Carl Sanders and Albert Maysles: Georgia Politics Meets Direct Cinema, 1969-1970 
Craig Breaden

The Army, Newsreel, and The Army Film
Eric Breitbart

Old-Time Religion: Christian Experimentalism and Preaching to the “Unchurched”
Paul Cullum

Between Sign-Off Films and Test Patterns: Insight at UCLA
Mark Quigley
Tributes to Bill O’Farrell by Rosemary Bergeron & Sam Kula, Ken Weissman, Charles Tepperman, Nancy Watrous, and Karan Sheldon

Reviews by Zack Lischer-Katz, Kylah Magee, Mia Ferm, Hideaki Fujiki, Jennifer M. Bean, Joshua Yumibe, Leigh Goldstein

▲ ▲ ▲ ▲  ▲                                         
What is that cover image?  Everyone asks.
Answer: Dedication of 'Park Row' (MVTN 0-282), a curious newsreel fragment from the Fox Movietone News Collection at the University of South Carolina (now part of a USC unit called Moving Image Research Collections). That's a faux Trotsky at the mike, being played by Boris Charsky, whose brief Hollywood career included a role in Raoul Walsh's film The Red Dance. A good, old-fashioned publicity stunt, this piece with "Leon Trotsky of the Soviet Republic" was recorded January 27, 1928, on the Fox lot in Hollywood. The Red Dance was not in general release until December, although it had a New York premiere in June. Like most all "Movietoned" films of 1928, it had both silent prints and part-sound prints in circulation simultaneously.

The AFI Catalog indicates that a song was included on the soundtrack of The Red Dance:  "Someday, Somewhere (We'll Meet Again)," with music by Erno Rapée. A YouTuber posted his 78rpm record (Conquerer 7138, recorded Aug. 19, 1928) of "Someday, Somewhere" by a group called the Dixie Marimba Players -- since deleted. (But one must love one's arrangement featuring xylophone, Hawaiian guitar, and celeste, mustn't one?!)

You can even get the sheet music.


Nov 14, 2009

So-called Orphan Works in the news, again.

The, Nov. 13, reports
"Terms of Digital Book Deal With Google Revised."

On Friday, Google and groups representing publishers and authors filed a revised settlement in federal court.  The proposed agreement would set up a czarian "trustee" to oversee the redistribution of assets (licenses outside of Google, potential profits)  associated with orphan works previously digitized by the company.

Quoting the Times article:
    The revisions to the settlement primarily address the handling of so-called orphan works, the millions of books whose rights holders are unknown or cannot be found. The changes call for the appointment of an independent fiduciary, or trustee, who will be solely responsible for decisions regarding orphan works.  
     The trustee, with Congressional approval, can grant licenses to other companies who also want to sell these books, and will oversee the pool of unclaimed funds that they generate. If the money goes unclaimed for 10 years, according to the revised settlement, it will go to philanthropy and to an effort to locate rights holders. In the original settlement, unclaimed funds reverted to known rights holders after five years.

Most of those who objected to the first proposed settlement (including Microsoft, Yahoo,, and the Open Book Alliance) remain opposed to this second edition.

Nov 2, 2009

Meet MIRC; 中国电影资料馆

PRESS NOTICE for Oct 30, 2009

The University of South Carolina is expanding its archival film holdings with the newly created Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC).  Mark Cooper, Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies, serves as Interim Director of the unit, which is part of the University Libraries.

MIRC is the new home for the Chinese Film Collection, which includes more than 650 titles on 35mm and 16mm film in addition to 1,500 DVDs. The DVDs were donated by the Hanban, the international headquarters of the Confucius Institute, in cooperation with the Chinese National Film Archive and the Beijing Film Academy. The 35mm and 16mm films were donated by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Washington D.C. Titles include such landmark fiction film titles as Cai Chusheng and Zheng Junli's 1947 The Spring River Flows East, Xie Jin's 1964 Two Stage Sisters, and Zifeng Ling's 1982 Rickshaw Boy, as well as diverse documentaries from the late 1940s to the present.

The Chinese Film Collection joins MIRC's unique and historically invaluable Newsfilm Collections, curated by Dr. Greg Wilsbacher. These collections include the Fox Movietone News Collection as well as major collections of local television news. MIRC is also home to several important collections of home movies and science and nature films.

For more about Moving Image Research Collections (MIRC) at the University of South Carolina, visit:

Oct 17, 2009

Home Movie Day, yay.

Happy Home Movie Day!

In New York City, the event is at Anthology Film Archives, noon to 6pm, today (Saturday, October 17).

This is where the National Film Registry title OUR DAY (1938, Wallace Kelly) was first publicly screened by Martha Kelly in 2007.  A great film. But as John Waters says "There is no such thing as a bad home movie."

Sep 24, 2009

Orphan Works: flow charts

Andy Uhrich, currently a grad student in the NYU MIAP program, alerts us to this.

The SAA press release begins:

The Society of American Archivists (SAA) has issued “Orphan Works: Statement of Best Practices,” a 16-page report that provides what professional archivists consider the best methods to use when attempting to identify and locate copyright holders. The statement, which primarily focuses on unpublished materials because they are usually found in archives, is available on the association’s website as a PDF at
“Orphan works” is a term used to describe the situation in which the owner of a copyrighted work cannot be identified and located by someone who wishes to make use of the work in a manner that requires permission of the copyright owner.

Here's one of the charming flow charts.

Aug 20, 2009

Sept 16 films at SVA Theater grand opening

Here's the word from the SVA

School of the Visual Arts Celebrates the Opening and Dedication of the SVA Theatre
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
333 West 23 Street
New York City

Following top-to-bottom renovations that transformed a former first-run movie house into a state-of-the-art facility for artist talks, film screenings and other cultural events, the School of Visual Arts (SVA) will celebrate the opening of the SVA Theatre on Wednesday, September 16, 2009. The theater’s new design is the work of world-renowned designer Milton Glaser and features what may be the city’s largest kinetic sculpture atop the theater’s marquee.

Glaser, who is best known as the creator of the “I♥NY” logo and co-founder of New Yorkmagazine, based his design for the 18-feet-high structure on Tatlin’s Tower, the iconic monument to the Russian Revolution proposed by visionary architect Vladimir Tatlin in 1920 and now considered one of the great objects of Russian Constructivism. Glaser’s colorful homage consists of three metal cylinders that sit atop the marquee and rotate at hourly intervals like an abstract timepiece. Expanding on the theme of time, the marquee is ringed by a zipper sign that will display quotations about the passage of time by historic figures from Albert Einstein to Ronald Reagan.

The opening festivities pay tribute to Tatlin and the artistic movements of the early 20th century with a program of film masterworks by Yakov Protazanov, Dziga Vertov, H.G. Wells, Fernand Leger and Man Ray. The screenings will take place from 12 - 5pm; admission is free and open to the public. The SVA Theatre is located at 333 West 23 Street in New York City.

There will be a presentation, dedication ceremony--featuring the lighting of the marquee sculpture--and reception for invited guests from 7 - 9:30pm. Press seats are available at 212.592.2010.

Film Screenings
Times are approximate.

Things to Come (William Cameron Menzies, 1936; 100 minutes)
One of the earliest science fiction films dealing with the then-future world of the late of the 20th Century, featuring a script on which H.G. Wells collaborated and dazzling Constructivist design.

Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929; 68 minutes)
Directed by the most famous realist filmmaker of his era, a silent heavily influenced by Soviet montage which presents a remarkable picture of everyday life in the newly-created Soviet state.

Aelita: Queen of Mars (Yakov Protazanov, 1927; 100 minutes)
A landmark early silent Soviet science-fiction film made in the Constructivist style, which tells the story of a Russian scientist who travels to Mars and aids in a workers revolution on the “Red” planet.

A selection of shorts by Fernand Leger and Man Ray
During the silent era, France produced a remarkable body of short experimental films which mirrored artistic movements of the time. Many were made by the same artists who led those movements and in the same spirit as the Soviet Constructivist films.

The SVA Theatre is a state-of-the-art facility for the presentation of lectures, film screenings and performances at the School of Visual Arts, New York. In addition to class meetings and cultural programs organized by the College, the theater hosts myriad events produced by cultural organizations and community groups whose work is consistent with the College’s mission. The 20,000-square-foot space houses two separate auditoriums, one with 480 seats and the other with 265, that are equipped with the latest in lighting, sound and projection capabilities.

School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City is an established leader and innovator in the education of artists. From its inception in 1947, the faculty has been comprised of professionals working in the arts and art-related fields. SVA provides an environment that nurtures creativity, inventiveness and experimentation, enabling students to develop a strong sense of identity and a clear direction of purpose.

Media Contact: For more information, please contact Michael Grant, director of communication, at 212.592.2011 or e-mail

Aug 17, 2009

Inside the Visual Arts Theater

Here's a sneak peek at the SVA Theater (formerly the Chelsea West cinema and originally the RKO 23rd Street theater). Photos courtesy of Gene Stavis.

Inside the 280267-seat theater, with screen covered by curtain. Lots of performance space.

There's actually a "wet bar" in the lobby.

The SVA Theater lobby as seen from behind the bar.


A not-too-old image of 333 W. 23rd Street, when it was still the Chelsea West Clearview Cinema. The facade is being completely made over. The apartment towers in the background and the green space to the right are part of Penn South, a progressive, nonprofit housing cooperative.
(Screen shot taken from Google maps, street view.)

The site Cinema Treasures chronicles the theater's history. Turns out that the Clearview ceased operations there a month before the 2008 Orphan Film Symposium, the SVA Theater held its first screening four days after Orphans '08.

Aug 16, 2009

New York readopts

It's true. The 7th Orphan Film Symposium (April 7-10, 2010) will not be in fair Culpeper, Virginia, as originally announced. New York City is taking the baby back. It's an NYU production, but we will be using the School of Visual Arts Theater.

The Orphan Film Symposium marks its seventh biennial gathering of archivists, scholars, curators, collectors, and media artists devoted to saving, studying, and screening neglected moving images. NYU Cinema Studies is pleased to partner with the School of Visual Arts in Chelsea. All
sessions will take place in its new, state-of-the-art cinema space at 333 W. 23rd Street: the Visual Arts Theater.

Registration is limited to 280 seats.
30 hours of programming in 4 nights and 3 days
40 speakers and presenters

THEME of Orphans 7:

Moving Pictures Around the World

Following on the internationalism evident at the 2008 Orphan Film Symposium (at which 18 nations were represented), Orphans 7 focuses on transnational and global issues. How

have moving images circulated across national and other boundaries? How are neglected archival materials accessed and used across and within borders?

More than 40 presenters will address topics including: film repatriation; mobility and travel; regional and transnational cinemas
; issues of migration and global/local dynamics; heritage, cultural property, and developing nations; the World-Wide Web as de facto archive; the work of international associations in media preservation and access; and the many forms of neglected archival material that shed light on globalism or the transnational aspects of history and archiving. See and hear new works by media artists, including the recipient of the 2010 Helen Hill Award, given to innovative, independent filmmakers.

Proposals are still being accepted, though much of the content is already selected. The program will be posted here by October 1.

scheduled highlights
▲ NYU's two Audio-Visual Preservation Exchange projects, with newly preserved films from Ghana's Dept of Information Services and from the Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires
  • NFPF's repatriation of American silent films from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

  • • ▲ Paolo Cherchi Usai (Haghefilm Foundation) the history of film repatriation
  • Film ist. A Girl and a Gun (2009) Gustav Deutsch & Hanna Schimek, Vienna
  • ▲ NYU Library's rediscovery of With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1938), the first film by Henri Cartier-Bresson[!]
  • ▲ David Francis & Joss March on magic lanternry
  • ▲ Vanessa Toulmin (Univ of Sheffield) Edison films, 1894-95, repatriated from the UK
  • ▲ Bill Brand, Andrew Lampert, and Mark Toscano on experimental restorations
  • ▲ women amateur filmmakers in New Zealand/Aotearoa, India, China, Egypt, Algeria, Japan, the Philippines
  • ▲ new Fox Movietone newsreel preservation from the University of South Carolina's Moving Image Research Collections & Library of Congress
  • The Augustas (1957-58) an amateur film by Scott Nixon, presented by Mark G. Cooper and Heidi Rae Cooley (U of South Carolina)
  • Another Pilgrim (1968) Elaine Summer's sponsored film for the World Council of Churches
  • El Colégio Nacional de Buenos Aires (1923) filmed by Pablo Ducrós, later founder of the Museo del Cine
  • ▲ Stefan Drössler (Munich Filmmuseum) with Orson Welles Sketchbook (1955)
  • ▲ Sergei Kapterev on 2 rediscovered reels (from Gosfilmofon) of Mikhail Kalatozov’s Georgian documentary Their Kingdom (1928)
  • ▲ Nico de Klerk (Nederlands Filmmuseum) and Julia Noordegraaf (Univ of Amsterdam) city promotion films
  • ▲ Center for Home Movies preservations: Wallace Kelly's Kodachrome film of Mt. Rushmore, 1938; Helen Hill's New Orleans
  • ▲ Jiří Horníček, Národní Filmový Archiv films
  • ▲ Terri Francis (Yale) the Jamaica Film Unit's Parables, 1951-1957
  • Origin of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (Edison, 1909)
  • One Tenth of a Nation (1940) introduced by Carol Radovich (Rockefeller Archive Center) and Julie Hubbert (University of South Carolina)
  • ▲ restorations of 17.5mm films from Europe (Haghefilm, Nederlands Filmmuseum, & Martina Roepke) and the U.S. (Colorlab and Michael Rothschild)
  • ▲ much more . . .

  • Aug 15, 2009

    Orphans in Chelsea

    The 7th Orphan Film Symposium will not be at the Library of Congress; it will be at the new superb venue in Chelsea NYC -- the School of Visual Arts Theater, 333 W. 23rd St.

    Here's part of the exterior, with kinetic sculpture, designed by Milton Glaser.
    Officially opening on September 16, the former Chelsea West cinema has two auditoriums. The Orphan Film Symposium will be in the 280-seater, replete with 35/16mm variable speed projection and digital projection. Installation by James Bond, Full Aperture Systems.

    Thanks to film historian Gene Stavis, Director of the SVA Theater (and former American rep of Henri Langlois!), Orphans 7 has found a swell home for 2010.

    Jul 1, 2009

    A film preservation cake.

    The National Film Preservation Board convened in Los Angeles, June 25, 2009. Dr. James Hadley Billington III, the 13th Librarian of Congress, presided. In honor of his 80th birthday, this cake -- iced with the Saul Bass-designed National Film Registry logo -- made a surprise appearance.

    Jun 9, 2009

    Call for Presentations

    Alice Moscoso (NYU Libraries) & Andrés Insaurralde (Museo del Cine) research a 1923 documentary shot in Buenos Aires. Photo by Katy Martin.

    Gentle reader:  

    Just a gentle reminder that June is the month when many of the proposals to present at the April 2010 symposium roll in. Please consider submitting if you have an interesting orphan film to screen, new preservation to unveil, a provocative paper on some neglected moving image history, or your own new media creation featuring same.  Initial review of proposals begins in earnest at the end of June (though we still consider propositions made after). 

    In the last 48 hours alone, proposals arrived about 

    • a rediscovered Russian-Georgian silent film; 

    • a Rhodesian propaganda short from 1978; 

    • home movies shot at a women's college in China throughout the 1930s;  

    • 1923 amateur travel film of Japan, the Philippines, India, and Egypt; 

    • silent-era newsreel outtakes shot in Corsica and Formosa;

    • an MPPDA-funded compilation film about American history (as enacted in Hollywood period pieces);

    • a West African expedition documentary; 

    • an Uruguayan semi-professional hybrid trick photography movie; 

    • Jamaican-produced tourism films;

    • U.S. government films produced in Iran in the 1950s and 60s;

    • and of course riches from Argentina and Ghana.  

    I'm not making this up!  I imagined hearing about a diversity of orphan films documenting places around the world, taken from all kinds of vantage points and in many genres.  But I didn't realize how eclectic and revelatory these initial proposals would be (and I didn't mention all of them here).  

    To propose, e-mail a one-page abstract to  

    Provide a summation of the argument or points to be made. Describe any media to be projected (format, content, running time), its significance, and relevance to the theme ("Moving Pictures Around the World").  

    See for more about the symposium.

    Short screenings are more likely to be programmed than longer ones. Original formats more likely than lower-grade copies.   And the Orphan Film Symposium likes presentations that shake-up the conventional formats, i.e. the conference-paper-read-aloud, and the stand-alone screening sans explication.  

    The symposium also can arrange for preservation or reformatting of some material. Inquire.

    Even if you are not proposing or presenting, consider registering to attend.  Seating will be limited to 250, so early notice of registration is recommended.

    Jun 5, 2009

    faces of the Museo del Cine

    Katy Martin took this handsome photo of the Museo staff with the orphanistas estadounidenses. Although it was late autumn, the day was summer-warm. Hence the shine on some of the faces.

    Moving pictures from APEX Ghana

    The NYU Audio-Visual Preservation Exchange (APEX) that Professor Mona Jimenez launched last year began with partnerships in Ghana. While the Orphan Film Symposium group was in Buenos Aires, Mona was in Accra, with Kara Van Malssen (NYU Fellow; MIAP '06), Jennifer Blaylock (MIAP '10), Mick Newnham (NFSA Australia), and Ishumael Zinyengere (archivist for the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda). This was the second year in a row that Mona and Kara have gone to Ghana to give archival training workshops.

    The Ghana group has a similarly successful trip to report.

    KaraVan has posted her first batch of photographs.

    Beautiful images.

    Photo by Kara Van Malssen.

    Jun 2, 2009

    fotografías del museo

    Photo documentation of May 18, 2009, the orphanista tour of the Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires.

    Click to see all 132 slides.


    May 28, 2009

    Bill Brand's report from Uruguay

    On May 28, 2009 at 6:09 PM, Bill Brand wrote from MVD:

    Hi Dan, 

    Our visit here continues what we were doing in Buenos Aires.  We are advising on archives much more resource and information starved than the Museo del Cine.  Mostly, we're seeing personal home movie collections in 8mm & Super 8 but also 16mm.  At our workshop we demonstrated inspection, cleaning and repair -- of course without film cement or a tape splicer.

    The Uruguayan desire to preserve or recover their visual history is driven by the disruption of their historical memory from the dictatorship and by the fact of a fire in the national film archive that destroyed their largest moving image collection.  The people here are embarking on a project to try to retrieve, reconstruct and resume their archive.  This includes information and memory of Latin America's first and longest running experimental film festival starting in the late 1940s and continuing into the 60s or 70s before the dictatorship.

    Later in the afternoon Katy and I  presented a program of our films and videos at the Catholic University.  People in the audience were texting friends to come quickly and eventually they couldn't fit in the room.  There must have been over 75 people.  The interest was very intense and many of the questions were technical in nature.  In attendance were students, faculty, artists, curators, and people from the national film archives and  SODRE's Archivo Nacional de la Imagen. [SODRE = Servicio Oficial de Difusión Radiotelevision y Espectáculos]

    The demand for los archiveros sin fronteras is quite overwhelming!!!

    Here's a link to pictures from the workshop:

    Here are some jpgs from the show. (Fotos de Katy Martin)


    Bill Brand

    orphanistas en el Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires


    las orphanistas en el Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires (rough cut)

    May 18-22, 2009.
    17 orphanistas -- some from the Museo del Cinema staff, some from the visiting delegation (los archiveros sin fronteras) -- answering la pregunta "¿Cómo se llama?"


    May 24, 2009

    sábado @ MALBA

    Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires 

    As a special favor, Fernando Peña projected some rarities from private collections. The main attraction was a set of amateur films shot in 1930 by an aristocratic family in Buenos Aires. Fernando set up a 9.5mm projector in the booth and projected some of the footage onto the big screen.  (Certainly the largest 9.5mm image I've seen.)  

    Along with portraits of the filmmaker's wife and daughters, there were extensive scenes of a group of men golfing and a sequence of the landing and departure of a very large German zeppelin.  But the most significant footage was in scenes shot at the time of Argentina's first military coup. The filmmaker was obviously an admirer and intimate of the fascist junta. His camera gains close access to the car parading the victorious generals and takes informal portaits of soldiers happily greeting the filmmaker on the day of the coup.  We see a few Mussolinist full arm salutes.  

    The film has intertitles and even an animated closing title card (paint on glass spellling F-I-N), superimposed over a long shot of the Plaza del Mayo. An additional reel shows the victory parade, replete with heavy artillery on display, the following day.  

    Fernando told us that a local collector acquired these 9.5mm films among a larger lot of materials he purchased at an estate sale. All of the family members seen in the pictures, as well as the filmmaker-father, reportedly died in a single car crash six years after the films were taken. Hence, orphan films in a tragically literal sense.  

    Museo del Cine photos 1

    Just a handful of images to begin with.  These give a good indication of the richness of the collections within the Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires. 

    The door to one of several film storage rooms on the 2˚ piso del museo.

    Above, 2 frames from the print of the negative in the can below. Which turns out to be from 1923, not '17.

    Below: Found in the room full of projectors and cameras. A boxful of 9.5mm cartridges. The titles written on the leaders indicate most of the films are educational and industrial documentaries.

    A reminder of how very south Argentina lies.  

    Fotos documentales del Museo del Cine,
    de Katie Trainor and Dan Streible.

    May 21, 2009

    cine de huérfanos

    1˚ día

    We arrived at the Museo del Cine in the late morning. A slightly overcast but pleasant day. The museum is on the 2˚ floor of a building on a short street named for José Aarón Salmún Feijóo (a nineteen-year-old who, in 1945, was killed while taking food to university students protesting the government). 

    Some major reconstruction was going on in the front of the building and throughout the ground floor.  It was more amusing than odd to

     see the faces of the construction men bewildered by the sight of nine women (and me) lugging heavy suitcases and equipment across the torn-up walkway and up two flights of stairs. A security guard came to me at the end of the line and asked what was happening. "Trabajamos con la directora del Museo de Cine," I said. "¿Segundo piso?" he asked.  "Sí, señor." "OK."

    The electricity was off when we arrived. We made our way through some dark corridors into a sunlit office, where we began to unpack all of the supplies we muled in. Much of it was donated, some of it bought with project funding.  A few hundred 16mm and 35mm film cores (which we soon learned are called tacos here).  Hot splicers, splicing tape, white leader, split reels, synch blocks, a shrinkage gauge, marking pens, artist tape, film cleaning cloths, gloves (cotton and nitrile), work aprons, AD test strips, cans of molecular sieves, archival cans, three pairs of rewinds, and a bunch of small tools and supplies that the Museo's paper conservators needed. 

    Paula introduced us to members of the staff throughout the day.  They greeted us warmly (usually with a kiss on the cheek) and were happy to see the supplies arrive.  It must have been a bit strange for them to see such an entourage of film archivists descend upon the Museo, an institution that has been "temporarily" relocated in this warehouse-like building for four years. A few of our group speak some Spanish and a few of the staff speak English well. Our interaction works well, due largely to having three highly fluent translators, each with roots in Buenos Aires and much time in New York:  Paula, the museum director; her NYU classmate from 2004-06, Natalia Fidelholtz; and Daniela Bajar, who recently got her master's degree in Cinema Studies at NYU and has been active with the Orphan Film Symposium.  New graduate of the MIAP program Kimberly Tarr has been to Argentina before and speaks some Spanish. Alice Moscoso from NYU Libraries takes to the local castellano adeptly, with her fluency in Italian, French, and English.  Hopefully, the communication bridge is firm enough to make us not appear to be a bunch of invasive northerners.  

    The building is surprisingly large and the staff subdivided into several departments.  Paula spends the better part of the day taking us on a tour of all the spaces.  At each station we get information from the staff.  Much of the museum is simply storage space for the 65,000 or so cans of film. High shelves, mostly filled. Some of the subcollections are in cans that are quite rusty.  Most of the films need to be put on cores and transferred to better cans. Fortunately, at the far end of the building there is a large room with hundreds of slightly used 35mm cans. All appear to be from the local film laboratory, Cinecolor.  

    We learn of the primary collections owned by the museum. The personal collection of film critic Manuel Peña Rodriguez, who collected prints and negatives during the 1920s through the 60s, has become the famous part of the holdings. Paula, along with Fernando Peña, identified the thought-lost director's cut of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) last year. Just last week the Museo and the city's ministry of culture signed an agreement with the Murnau Foundation to have the German archive add the rediscovered footage (about 20 minutes) to its previously definitive restoration of the silent cinema landmark. For those interested in archival issues and/or film history, the rediscovery of a canonized and definitively German film in an archive in far-off Argentina -- an archive not previously part of the international conversation within the profession -- this event is a reminder of how much we do not know.  There is much unchartered territory in the archives, and in other places outside of libraries, archives, and museums. I think it's safe to say something like this: most films produced no longer exist; most extant films are not in film archives; most films held by archives are not yet preserved.  And we haven't even addressed video.

    Beyond the "Metropolis collection," the Museo del Cine has a few hundred cans donated by the U.S. Navy in the 1960s; a set of silent educational films produced by Gaumont, donated by the city's prestigious Colégio Nacional; animated films from an Argentinean company called Cinepa, dating from the 1950s and 60s; a run of Argentinean newsreels (1930-70s) and miscellaneous international newsreels; y muchas más. In our walk-through today we saw 8mm and Super8 films, a boxful of 9.5mm film cartridges, acres and acres of 16mm material, a 28mm projector, and 35mm feature films ranging from the conspicuously labeled Fuckland (a 2000 comedy set in the Falkland Islands after the unsuccessful war with the British to reclaim the Malvinas for Argentina in 1982) to eight complete Spanish-subtitled prints of Robert Altman's Prêt-à-Porter [?].  

    The museum also has a few thousand posters from throughout the twentieth century, along with stills, drawings, props, lobby displays, and an extensive set of movie costumes.  Oh, and a very exciting collection of camera, projectors and other motion picture equipment. The pink purse-sized Zeiss-Ikon 8mm projector was a popular attraction. In the back of the room on top of a shelf sat nothing less than Lumière cinemátographe No. 4 [!].  

    You get the idea. A vast set of interesting material, much of it unique and much of it unidentified. 
    What to do first?

    After a round of empanadas and coffees, we divided up into teams.  One group of three worked on the Gaumont educational film collection.  We started with a list of about 150 titles, typed in Spanish at the time of the 1988 donation. Were the film prints (all but one mudo) titled and intertitled in Spanish? French? both?  Alice Moscoso selected one of the interesting sounding titles, which the inventory refers to as La Enseñanza del Dibujo por el Cine (two reels, 35mm, safety print, ca. 1920s).  Putting the print on one of the few operational inspection stations, Alice found no Spanish text at all. The head title printed on the film is L'Enseignement du Dessin par le Cinema. Preceding this title card is a separate one:  La Methode de Monsieur Adrien Bruneau, Inspecteur de l'Enseignement Artistique de la Ville de Paris. Howard Besser did a quick Internet search or Adrien Bruneau and found that he was noted for teaching drawing using motion pictures, starting in the late teens. Perhaps this print is not unique. But it is in beautiful shape, from what we can tell so far.  Reddish tint, if I recall correctly.  Perhaps Gaumont, which is still in business of course, or a French archive has equal or better material of this work, perhaps not.  Even before that fact is established, however, historical research could tell us much about how these French-language films were used in the elite Colégio and for how long. 

    Two more observations gleaned from our very brief dip into this collection.  Listed on the inspection sheet are a pair of two-reel 35mm films that are not Gaumont productions.  Tomorrow we hope to see if the prints are in the collection and if so in what condition.  One is entitled Colégio Nacional Buenos Aires -- Año 1917 and the other Colégio Nacional Buenos Aires, Año 1923.  The staff tell us that these were filmed in those years by Pablo Ducros Hicken -- the collector of cameras for whom the Museo del Cine is named. I am waiting with anticipation to see the films of the high school shot in 1917 and '23.  

    An object lesson in archival practice for unexperienced hands like mine follows.  Wanting to see if any of the Gaumont films might have been given Spanish titles for the Spanish-speaking markets, Howard thought it worth pulling the handful of titles on the inventory list that appear to have been shot in Argentina itself. One of those is listed as El Gaucho.  No doubt a revealing, ninety-year-old cine-sketch of the Argentine cowboy-type, no?  When the keeper of the films, Felipe Costa, brought out can no. 99, the label on the can read not El Gaucho but "El Cauchout."  The film print itself bears the French head-title La Production du Caoutchouc en Indochine [The Production of Rubber in Indochina]. Lesson learned:  What's in the catalog or finding aid is not necessarily what's on the container; and what's on the container may or may not be what's on the film/s inside. 

    The other teams today started in on the navy collection, an animation collection from the company Cinepa, and a photo conversation project. 

    Lot of photos being taken.  More soon.