Mar 25, 2018

Orphans at MoMI, 2012 / 2018

Looking Back: Orphans 8
Made to Persuade (2012)

Notes by Frannie Trempe

In anticipation of the 11th Orphan Film Symposium to be held at Museum of the Moving Image, this post looks back at the last time the biennial event took place at the venue in Queens, New York.

Six years ago, the museum served as home for Orphans 8. As with all iterations of the symposium, Orphans 8 showcased a wide array of rediscovered and once-neglected archival treasures—presented both on celluloid and digital projection. Academics, archivists, students, filmmakers, and other moving image enthusiasts from around the world gathered for four days of screenings, presentations, discussions, and meals—all spent together to foster the unique Orphans ethos regular attendees have come to expect and cherish.

In keeping with the United States presidential election of 2012, the symposium’s theme of “Made to Persuade” set the week’s tone, with a rich four-day program featuring campaign films, propaganda pieces, activism-driven works, and several creative applications of the notion of persuasion. While the election served as an appropriate backdrop for the theme, many Orphans 8 screenings were international in scope. Highlights included Cine Móvil (1976), documentation of an effort to bring films to remote areas throughout Mexico in a fully-equipped RV from Mexico’s Cineteca Nacional, as well as the advertising films of Dutch animator Joop Geesink, presented by Leenke Ripmeester (EYE Filmmuseum) and Julia Noordegraaf (University of Amsterdam).

For the symposium, Colorlab sponsored preservation for the Mexican film, which appeared on the Orphans 8 DVD, and which Cineteca Nacional added to its YouTube channel in 2016.

In another rare screening, five newly-preserved films by groundbreaking computer artist Lillian Schwartz were shown in 16mm at Orphans 8. Schwartz herself attended and spoke in conversation with NYU-MIAP alumnus Walter Forsberg, as part of a program on films made at AT&T/Bell Labs during the 1970s. Forsberg also spoke about computer animation pioneers of the 1960s. (For 2018, collector John Froats continues the conversation about computer-rendered 16mm films from Bell Labs and shares a found fragment of A. Michael Noll’s Patterns from 1964-65).

The Museum of the Moving Image expanded and renovated its space in Astoria only a year prior to Orphans 8, creating an additional layer of excitement for the 2012 event. In the six years since, MoMI has only further cemented its reputation as a powerhouse within the crowded New York City film landscape, both through its exhibitions and year-round curated screenings.

Independent filmmakers Jo Dery and Jeanne Liotta were honored with the Helen Hill Award, honoring the legacy of the New Orleans-based filmmaker and animator. Liotta and Dery each contributed a T-shirt design for the symposium drawn from their work.

Since 2012, Dery has continued to create inventive multimedia installations and comics, including a piece titled Still and Still Moving exhibited by Mono No Aware’s at their gallery space in Brooklyn. Liotta has created experimental shorts on both 35mm and 16mm since 2012, as well as multiple newspaper collages, installations, and one projection project about climate change commissioned for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Science on a Sphere platform. This year’s Helen Hill Award recipient continues the tradition of experimental film at the symposium; Nazlı Dinçel will be honored and a selection of her 16mm works screened.

This year’s symposium will see some presenters returning from 2012, including Jacqueline Stewart, Allyson Nadia Field, and Danielle Ash, as well as panels moderated by former Orphans presenters including Jeanne Liotta, Dwight Swanson, and Charles Musser. Just as “Made to Persuade” did six years ago, Orphans 11 will feature a presentation from Museum of the Moving Image curator Barbara Miller, who will showcase a MoMI collection of vintage posters for X-rated movies.

If the success of Orphans 8 (and the numerous Orphans-branded events since 2012) is any indication, the symposium’s return to Museum of the Moving Image from April 11-14 promises to be unmissable. The 2018 theme of “Love” is a fitting follow-up for the Orphan Film Symposium’s return to New York City --- after all, love and persuasion have more in common than not!

Audio recordings of many of the talks given in 2012 can be downloaded from the Orphans 8 website or the Internet Archive's Orphan Film Symposium Collection

 Full program listing and registration information for the 2018 symposium are here

To request copies of the Orphans 2012 DVD, Made to Persuade, write to orphanfilmsymposium[@] The DVD booklet is downloadable here