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. 

May 16, 2009

Archivists on a Mission to Save Orphan Films at the Museo del Cine, Buenos Aires

Text from an NYU press release describing what the Orphan Film Project will be up to for the next two weeks.  May 23-29 also includes attending the International Federal of Film Archives (FIAF) events in Buenos Aires.

temporary location of the Museo del Cine collections. 

A team of film archivists from the United States under the direction of New York University’s Dan Streible, associate professor in the Department of Cinema Studies at the Tisch School of the Arts and associate director of the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program (MIAP), will travel to Buenos Aires this month to help the Museo del Cine preserve its orphan films.  A small, under-funded city institution, the Museo holds a large and important collection of rare motion pictures, many in urgent need of preservation.

The all-volunteer team of 12 includes preservationists from the Museum of Modern Art, Harvard Film Archive, the University of Chicago, BB Optics film lab, as well as NYU faculty, staff, and students.  Co-organizers of the project are NYU alumnae Paula Félix-Didier (MIAP ’06), director of the Museo del Cine, and Natalia Fidelholtz (MIAP ’06).

The Museo del Cine collection is vast and comprises more than 65,000 reels of 16mm film alone.  The films come from all over the Americas and Europe, produced as early as 1910 and as late as the 1960s. In 2008, Félix-Didier made international headlines when she uncovered a silent-era masterpiece long presumed lost—the "director’s cut" of the German film Metropolis (1927).  She and her staff are finding other “lost” films from early Hollywood and elsewhere as the collection gets inspected. 

“We’re on an archivists-without-borders mission and our group is a kind of dream team for a film archive,” said Streible.  The team will spend two weeks (May 17-30) in Buenos Aires and devote its time to the meticulous work of archiving. Films will be inventoried, inspected, repaired, identified, catalogued, and rehoused, with the most valuable finds prepared for laboratory preservation. All work will be done in collaboration with the museum’s staff of five, who will also receive training with supplies and equipment they have previously lacked.

The Buenos Aires project is part of NYU’s Audio-Visual Preservation Exchange (APEX), which was established by Mona Jimenez, associate arts professor in the Department of Cinema Studies and associate director of MIAP, in 2008 to conduct a similar outreach in Accra, Ghana.  Jimenez is currently in Accra again, conducting archival training workshops for local broadcasters, filmmakers, and cultural organizations.  Joining her are Kara Van Malssen (NYU Libraries / MIAP '06), Ishumael Zinyengere (audiovisual archivist for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Tanzania), Jennifer Blaylock (MIAP '10), and Mick Newnham (senior researcher at the National Film and Sound Archive, Australia).

The results of both the Ghana and Argentina initiatives to preserve neglected but significant moving image works will be  showcased at the 7th Orphan Film Symposium, April 7-10, 2010, at the Library of Congress, National Audio-Visual Conservation Center.

Streible organizes this international gathering of orphanistas (archivists, artists, and academics), all of whom work to save, screen, and study a wide variety of at-risk films.  Any film that has suffered neglect and falls outside of the commercial mainstream can be designated an “orphan.” For more on the symposium visit

The Buenos Aires project has received generous support from Kodak, Urbanski Film, Tuscan Corp., Colorlab, Cineric, as well as NYU Libraries, Harvard Film Archive, University of Chicago Film Study Center, the John Anson Kittredge Educational Fund, and professional archivists donating their time, labor, and expertise.


NYU participants 

Dan Streible, Orphan Film Symposium Director

Howard Besser, professor in Cinema Studies; MIAP Director

Bill Brand, adjunct professor in Cinema Studies; owner of BB Optics

Alice Moscoso, audio-visual preservationist, NYU Libraries

Kimberly Tarr, MIAP ’09


NYU alumni participants

Daniela Bajar, Cinema Studies M.A. ’08

Sarah Resnick, MIAP ’07

Natalia Fidelholtz, MIAP ’06

Paula Félix-Didier, Museo del Cine, Directora, and MIAP ’06


Other participants

Liz Coffey, Harvard Film Archive, Conservator

Katie Trainor, Museum of Modern Art, Film Collections Manager

Carolyn Faber, Chicago archivist/consultant

Julia Gibbs, University of Chicago Film Study Center

Katy Martin, visual artist/curator


Consulting on-site

Haden Guest, Harvard Film Archive, Director 

Paolo Cherchi Usai, Haghefilm Foundation

Stefan Drößler, Munich Film Museum, Director

Mark Toscano, Academy Film Archive, Preservationist


# # #

May 9, 2009

Deadline for proposals

Q:  When is the deadline for submitting proposals for the 2010 Orphan Film Symposium?

A:  While there is no absolute drop-dead deadline, June 15, 2009 is the date when review of proposals begins.  Proposals received after June 15 will certainly get due consideration; but your odds improve if you submit early.  

Send 1-page proposals to

The 7th Orphan Film Symposium 
"Moving Pictures Around the World"
April 7-10, 2010 
at the 
Library of Congress 
National Audio-Visual Conservation Center
Culpeper, Virginia

Following on the internationalism evident at the 2008 Orphan Film Symposium (at which 18 nations were represented), Orphans 7 will focus 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?

We seek proposals for presentations on topics including: film repatriation; regional and transnational cinemas (e.g., the Global South, the West, Bollywood, Nollywood, Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian); issues of migration, mobility, and global/local dynamics; international co-productions; intellectual property and copyright debates; foreign markets and multi-language releases; heritage, cultural property, and developing nations; diasporic cinemas; border cultures; World-Wide Web as de facto archive; DVD regions; film festivals; the World Cinema Foundation; the work of international associations in media preservation and access; and any neglected historical or archival material that sheds light on globalism or the transnational aspects of history and archiving. 

New works by media artists using archival material are also sought.

Orphans West: That's a Wrap.

Adam Hyman, director of Filmforum, welcomed Angelino orphanistas.

So, thanks to the Los Angeles Filmforum and the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre, the Orphan Film Symposium had a West Coast premiere, or sneak preview.  "Orphans West" we called it.  It was a delightful interregnum in this odd-numbered year, between Orphans 6 and 7.

The folks photographed here selected films from each of the past six symposiums [symposia? you tell me].

Stephanie Sapienza, also of L.A. Filmforum, put the show together.  (John Marlow, left, came from the San Francisco Cinematheque.)

Hadrian Belove, don of the Cinefamily, presided during the weekend. Seen here outside the Silent Movie Theatre.