May 8, 2011

David Bordwell on orphan films, a movement, a cult movie

The generous and esteemed scholar David Bordwell keeps a blog. A rich one. Today he gives a kind shout-out to the Orphan Film movement. And Madison News Reel has been recognized for the cult film it deserves to be.

If you’re in Los Angeles this week, why not visit the celebration of Orphan Films playing at UCLA 13 and 14 May? While I was in New York in February, I met NYU’s Dan Streible, moving spirit of the Orphan Films movement. Dan and his colleagues work with archives, collectors, and filmmakers to save films that fall through the cracks, digging up everything from home movies to news clips and experimental cinema. Dan curated a program of orphans at our local festival earlier this spring. At UCLA he will be a guest for screenings and discussions of many orphan titles, including the mysterious Madison Newsreel (Madison, Maine alas, not Wisconsin). Go here for Sean Savage’s discussion of the orphan oddity that has become a cult movie, and here for background on Northeast Historic Film, which found the footage.
“World’s Youngest Acrobat” (Hearst Metrotone/ Fox Movietone 1929). From the DVD Orphans 7: A Film Symposium.

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Eight-month-old Clyde John Ruhland, hoisted by his father, at home in Buffalo, New York.
MVTN 4-171A  World’s Youngest Acrobat (Nov. 8, 1929)  2 mins.
MVTN 4-171B  World’s Youngest Acrobat, outtakes  5 mins.  
University of South Carolina, Moving Image Research Collection, Fox Movietone News Collection.