Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Get To Know the Seventh Orphan Film Symposium

Posted By and on Wed, Apr 7, 2010 at 11:26 AM

Iraq_Tape_in_Wind.jpg
The Seventh Orphan Film Symposium runs from today through Saturday at the SVA Theatre; the Symposium, a presentation of NYU's Department of Cinema Studies, is a "gathering of archivists, scholars, preservationists, curators, collectors, and media artists devoted to saving, studying, and screening neglected moving images." We've asked Cinema Studies students to tell us a little about the orphan films they've taken in, and will present as part of the program...

Who Are You, and What Are You Showing?
Walter Forsberg. I'm showing select portions of some home Super 8 movies, which were shot in Iraq in the fall of 2003. (Principally because they include images of a destructed Iraqi Film & Television Ministry—complete with flapping story-high videotape streamers!)

How Did You Discover, and then Prepare, Your Film(s)?
I shot them. Also, the generous John Gledhill (of Toronto's BIT WORKs) was nice enough to do individual frame scans of them, for Orphans.

Why Should I, the Theoretical Discerning Viewer, Be Excited to Watch It?
Because I smuggled the film out of the country in my underwear.

pilgrim_collage.jpg
Who Are You, and What Are You Showing?
Filmmaker and archivist Sandra Gibson, introducing the film Another Pilgrim (1968; pictured) by Rev. Al Carmine and Elaine Summers.

How Did You Discover, and then Prepare, Your Film(s)?
The film was discovered a few years ago at Elaine Summers’ Studio. Orphan Film Symposium director Dan Streible worked with Elaine, the NYU Moving Image Archiving Preservation Program, Bill Brand, the New York Public Library and the National Film Preservation Foundation to realize this project.

Why Should I, the Theoretical Discerning Viewer, Be Excited to Watch It?
To discern if the following review from the time of the film's release still holds:

“…an underground flick replete with scenes of pot-smoking derelicts, shaggy folk singers and a minister who—in anguish at the chaos and cacophony of life in the cities—strips to the buff atop his pulpit.”

Elaine Summers, who will be present at the screening, lives and works in New York City where she teaches Kinetic Awareness and continues to develop new dance pieces, including an internet-based project called Skytime. She is currently establishing her Archives and will be publishing her Improvisational Dance Score Book. She is the founder of Experimental Intermedia Foundation, which is active in the field of experimental music.

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Who Are You, and What Are You Showing?
Jonah Volk. Along with two of my classmates, Stefan Elnabli and Walter Forsberg, I produced a DVD that will be distributed at this year's Orphan Film Symposium.

How Did You Discover, and then Prepare, Your Film(s)?
We wanted to include content from each of the three special collections at NYU's Bobst Library and from the University of South Carolina, the previous Orphans host. We contacted the curators at each collection for suggestion, and then selected those titles that seemed the most interesting to us, ending up with a list of eleven works. We sought out the best possible video copies (including brand new film-to-video transfers done pro bono by Colorlab for nine of them), then digitized the videos and authored the DVD.

Why Should I, the Theoretical Discerning Viewer, Be Excited to Watch It?
Included on this DVD are a number of titles that should be exciting to any fan of orphan films: With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain, the recently rediscovered first film of Henri Cartier-Bresson; footage of Patti Smith, Richard Hell, and Talking Heads performing in 1978; home movies shot at the 1936 Berlin Olympics; the cult classic Ro-Revus Talks About Worms, and more. The DVD also has extensive contextual materials about each film, including essays, commentary tracks, and preservation notes.

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Who Are You, and What Are You Showing?
Stefan Elnabli. I'll be showing an excerpt of footage produced by Portable Channel Inc., a community video center formed in 1972 that offered equipment access and video training workshops, and also produced a series of videos that were broadcast on television, most notably Homemade TV.

How Did You Discover, and then Prepare, Your Film(s)?
In the Fall of 2009, my MIAP colleagues and I journeyed to Rochester’s Visual Studies Workshop, which houses archival collections of film, video, photography, and other arts media. We collaborated with students of the Selznick School of Film Preservation to assess open reel videotapes from the Portable Channel collection. We arranged for the preservation of six of the reels by the Standby Program, resulting in 10-bit uncompressed video files, as well as access copies.

Why Should I, the Theoretical Discerning Viewer, Be Excited to Watch It?
The excerpt that I will be screening features in-studio dialogue at Portable Channel about community video, and coverage of the Rochester community in the mid-70s, including a senior citizen’s birthday bash and a candid view of events at a Haiti Afro-American cultural center. Portable Channel proved that video could empower a community to forge its own identity through independent media.

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Who Are You, and What Are You Showing?
Jenn Blaylock. I will be giving a paper based on my master’s thesis entitled, “Reproducing History: Colonial Discourses and Digital Silences in African Audiovisual Archives” as a part of the Audiovisual Preservation Exchange (APEX) in Africa panel.

How Did You Become Involved in Your Project?
APEX began as an NYU MIAP program in 2008. We traveled to Ghana to provide audiovisual training to archivists and librarians. The project was successful and continued into 2009. I became involved last summer when I spent two months in Ghana working to preserve Ghana’s film and video collections.

Why Should I, the Theoretical Discerning Audience Member, Be Excited for It?
I’ll be discussing the ethical and political issues involved in digitizing African audiovisual cultural heritage through internationally funded preservation projects, which often prioritize international over local access and extract audiovisual artifacts from their cultural-historical contexts. As a result, significant data within the archive is excluded from historical research, impacting the way African history is written and understood. In some instances, current audiovisual digitization projects are analogous to the colonial development projects promoted in the very films that are in need of preservation. I will make this comparison through an analysis of British colonial agricultural films.

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Who Are You, and What Are You Showing?
Joseph Gallucci. I’m showing clips from the Nicaraguan Television & Latin American Video Archives. (Fellow classmates Jenn Blaylock, Siobhan Hagan, and Jonah Volk also worked on this project.)

How Did You Discover, and then Prepare, Your Film(s)?
The tapes came to us from Xchange TV, a NYC-based group of independent producers that facilitated the exchange of media between the U.S. and Central America during forced American military intervention in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Working with The MediaPreserve, we transferred the original recordings, which are on now-obsolete 3/4" U-matic tapes, onto more stable digital file formats.

Why Should I, the Theoretical Discerning Viewer, Be Excited to Watch It?
The videos were produced by and for Nicaraguans, and present a rare glimpse of life under Sandinista rule in the 1980s. Media producers in Nicaragua, facing blockades on trade with the United States, were often forced to recycle tape stock, meaning that the tapes in Xchange TV's possession (many of which were subtitled or overdubbed in English for American distribution) may well be the only extant copies of these programs. While many serious issues are directly addressed, such as women’s rights and agrarian reform, there are some humorous moments as well, including a traveling revolutionary game show that featured arm wrestling matches, dance contests for kids and musical entertainment.

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Who Are You, and What Are You Showing?
Andy Uhrich. I’m showing the film portion of A Pictorial Story of Hiawatha, a 1904 illustrated lecture by Katherine Ertz-Bowden and Charles Leonard Bowden. I am co-presenting with Nancy Watrous, director of Chicago Film Archives, and Judith Miller, special collections librarian at Valparaiso University.

How Did You Discover, and then Prepare, Your Film(s)?
The films have been stored at Valparaiso University in Indiana for decades. The preservation of the films is a collaboration between Valparaiso, Chicago Film Archives and Colorlab, who agreed to restore the films—no mean technical feat as half the films were severely damaged. The rest of us performed the historical research and the reconstruction of the order of the slides and films.

Why Should I, the Theoretical Discerning Viewer, Be Excited to Watch It?
This hasn’t been seen in 100 years. The film was shot in Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron and show a performance of a live version of Longfellow's Hiawatha story acted by local Ojibwe. The rest of the lecture included hand-colored stereopticon slides.

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