Apr 4, 2012

The Science and Art of Obstetrics, Part 1

The 8th Orphan Film Symposium: Made to Persuade
The Science and Art of Obstetrics, Part 1 (1931)

 The subject of the eighth biennial Orphan Film Symposium emerged from several projects already underway at the time of the seventh. Advertising films were the focus of a project involving the University of Amsterdam's Preservation & Presentation of the Moving Image master's program, the European Association of Film Archives, and the Nederlands Filmmuseum (now EYE). The University of South Carolina was reshaping its vast archive of films into Moving Image Research Collections, calling attention to important works alongside its vaultfuls of Fox newsfilm, such as Roman Vishniac science films and a recent acquisition of nearly a thousand films from the People's Republic of China. Interest in persuasion has been evident in recent media studies, including the new anthology Learning with Lights Off: Educational Films in the United States, itself derived from Orphans 6, Science, Industry, and Education. Cinema Studies at New York University has produced new scholarship around the many historical forms of nonfiction television and film that have rhetorically battled for ideological sway -- public affairs programs, army films, government campaigns, Chinese documentaries, and others. The Moving Image Archiving and Preservation master's program (MIAP) is notably infused with an activist-archivist ethos.
            Looking at these issues with regards to orphan films, this symposium asks what neglected productions have influenced thought, opinion, and perception (or tried to)?  The call for presentations generated more response than ever before. Dozens of excellent proposals had to be turned away. Nevertheless, with the fragmentary nature of orphans, some 100 items are on the program, presented by nearly as many speakers.  
            The presentation of Orphans 8 is made possible by Museum of the Moving Image, which invited the symposium into its newly renovated home. As film projection becomes increasingly rare, we salute the Museum's dedication to projecting 16, 35, and even 70mm films alongside the latest digital formats. With its impressive online exhibit of U.S. presidential campaign commercials, The Living Room Candidate, Moving Image is an apt partner for Made to Persuade.
            The Orphan Film Symposium is now one part of a collaborative year-round research and preservation initiative we can call the Orphan Film Project. An international network of individuals and institutions participate. Thanks to NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and the Department of Cinema Studies events can be mounted, projects integrated into curriculum, and collaborations established. With NYU Libraries, we are now able to produce DVD collections of orphan films shared by partner archives.
            Since the previous symposium, Orphan Film events have taken place in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Madison, and Mexico City. Plans are afoot for the Midwest and Europe.