Dec 23, 2009

Framework 50

LATEST ISSUE: Framework 50 (Fall 2009)

Drake Stutesman (friend of the show) has an editorial in the new (and fiftieth) issue of Framework: Journal of Cinema and Media, one of those heroic publications still printed on paper. She makes a brief mention of orphan films and a longer mention of preservation.

She begins

Framework 50 reflects less on film than on its huge diaspora: film has left its old country (of being a film) and now appears in cut-up resemblances of itself, video art remakes, or computer PowerPoints, screened in restaurants (as wallpaper), on iPods, and in galleries.

and later continues

In today’s deluge of found footage, orphan films, hipster archives, DVD releases of weird, offbeat, cult, or porn films, of exploitation, genre, or Hollywood B-Z films, of esoteric foreign gems or shocking newsreels, of TV shows and experimental art classics, of remastered great cinema presented by big names such as Martin Scorsese (presents Val Lewton) or Terry Gilliam (presents Les enfants du paradis, FR, 1945), or the presentation of films in studio collections such as Paramount, Hammer House of Horror, Universal [friend of the show], or TCM [friend of the show], there is a danger of believing that “it all” -- from important to silly -- is being saved.

My fear is that the gatekeepers of these “save fests,” as crucial as they are, exclude films that represent uncomfortable groups:  . . .  a record that doesn’t suit a dominant view of “what the past was like.” That others will decide who represents another group and not that group itself is a serious problem for reality. In the last few years, I have co-chaired the Women’s Film Preservation Fund[friend of the show], a small fundraising New York body that gives grants to preserve films in which women have played a significant artistic role. We have restored some eighty movies, a few fairly esoteric, and it is easy to see how many “unknown” films could fall through the cracks if such organizations did not exist.

This is a frightening thought: what happens if many films disintegrate and no one knows in twenty years that they, and their points of view, even occurred? How will “history” be formulated?

These are the questions that participants in the Orphan Film Symposium ask -- while other participants also do the saving that allows all of us to see the esoterica that documents the history we almost forgot. May we never be a “save fest” that excludes "films that represent uncomfortable groups." Let us not get comfortable.

p.s. In this same issue of Framework, you can read the dossier on documentary re-enactment, edited by Jonathan Kahana (also friend of the show).