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7th Orphan Film Symposium DVD Produced at NYU Libraries

NYU is set to host the 7th Orphan Film Symposium from April 7-10 at the School of Visual Arts’ newly revamped cinema in Chelsea (333 W. 23rd Street). The biennial symposium–known by those in-the-know simply as, “Orphans”–brings together a broad spectrum of scholars, filmmakers, preservationists, programmers and general film nerds. Over the course of four days and nights, an impressive spread of new, restored, and rediscovered films and videos (with a side of Dionysian discourse) will grace the SVA’s state-of-the-art theater screens.
What is an orphan film? As described on the 2005 Orphan Film Symposium flyer, it’s a motion picture abandoned by its owner or caretaker. More generally, the term refers to all manner of films outside of the commercial mainstream: public domain materials, home movies, outtakes, unreleased films, industrial and educational movies, independent documentaries, ethnographic films, newsreels, censored material, underground works, experimental pieces, silent-era productions, stock footage, found footage, medical films, kinescopes, small- and unusual-gauge films, amateur productions, surveillance footage, test reels, government films, advertisements, sponsored films, student works, and sundry other ephemeral pieces of celluloid (or paper or glass or tape or . . . ).

This still was taken from the 1926 film PASSAIC TEXTILE STRIKE. The fifth reel of which was thought to be “lost,” until it turned up in the Communist Party USA collection at the Tamiment Library and Wagner Archives of NYU in 2006. Using the only copy of reel 5 in existence, new preservation elements were painstakingly made by the Library of Congress and Colorlab. Courtesy of George Willeman, Library of Congress.
In celebration of this year’s symposium and as an added audio-visual treat for all symposium guests and attendees, NYU Libraries and its Special Collections divisions are partnering with Orphans to produce a DVD highlighting some of the most obscure, strange, unbelievable and triumphant material. This material comes from NYU and the University of South Carolina Moving Image Research Collections (former stomping grounds of both Orphans ringleader Professor Dan Streible, and the symposium, itself). The DVD is designed to also be used by NYU Libraries in the future, as a showcase of the diversity of their special collections, the needs of some of the material, and the preservation work done by the BGPC Department Media Lab and partnering institutions.
Some of the material contained on the DVD was screened at past Orphans symposia. However, there is newly included material, such as recently uncovered footage of: 1978 performances by Patti Smith, Richard Hell, Talking Heads and The Dictators at what is believed to be a short-lived satellite music venue, “CBGB II”; scenes of the gold-medal-winning men’s 4 x 100 meter relay team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics; and, an early film by legendary French photographer, Henri-Cartier Bresson, made during the Spanish Civil War.
The DVD is being collaboratively produced by the staff of the Barbara Goldsmith Conservation & Preservation Department, and Moving Image Archiving & Preservation graduate students in Professor Dan Streible’s Cinema Studies class, “Curating Moving Images.”
For more information, please visit:
Stefan Elnabli, NYU-MIAP 2010
Walter Forsberg, NYU-MIAP 2010
Jonah Volk, NYU-MIAP 2010

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