Mar 22, 2014

The Future of Obsolescence: The Year of the Horse

Here's a look at the cover of the 16-page program that those attending next week's Orphan Film Symposium in Amsterdam will hold in their hands.

A Buffalo Soldier and His Horse. Fort Huachaca, Arizona, 1925.
Courtesy of USC Moving Image Research Collections

The image is based on an edge-to-edge frame scan that Greg Wilsbacher and team at MIRC were kind enough to custom make for the Orphans 9 program. We were looking for an image that was iconic and beautiful, and that connoted note only "film" but also obsolescence. So this fit the bill. And it hails from the University of South Carolina's Moving Image Research Collections, which gives it continuity with the symposium's history (1999-2006).

It's a frame from the silent film called A Frontier Post, produced by Fox Film Corp. in 1925 -- but never released. MIRC has done a full-fledged 35mm restoration, assembling the surviving original elements found in its renowned Fox Movietone News Collection. Greg Wilsbacher presented the debut screening at Indiana University's "Orphans Midwest" symposium last September. A nonfiction short subject (running about twelve and half minutes), the film presents a day in the life of the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, aka the storied "buffalo soldiers." Not only is the story of the film's production, survival, and restoration an instructive one for historians and preservationists, A Frontier Post is remarkable counter to the vast majority of Hollywood films depicting African Americans.

Although Wilsbacher will not be present to give the kind of talk he gave at the Bloomington premiere, film historian Jacqueline Stewart will offer an introduction to the Amsterdam screening. She has the challenge of making a segue from A Frontier Post to the more problematic but amazing rediscovered footage of an unreleased Bert Williams film, ca. 1913. Ron Magliozzi and Peter Williamson of the Museum of Modern Art will unveil the reels (rushes from the Biograph collection). Stephen Horne will provide piano accompaniment for both.

And it's not too late to register for the 9th Orphan Film Symposium, March 30 through April 2, 2014. All at EYE.

p.s. Thanks to David Bagnall for the digital enhancement and cloning of the image to get it ready for the booklet.