Oct 27, 2017

From the LOC vaults: American Labor short MILLIONS OF US (1935)


By guest bloggers Tanya Goldman and Spencer Nachman


Millions of Us (1935) is an early example of American labor-left filmmaking that experiments with enacted forms, anticipating Frontier Films’s renowned People of the Cumberland (1938) and Native Land (1942). Produced surreptitiously in Hollywood in 1934-5, the film dramatizes the plight of millions of unemployed workers amidst the Depression. This message is filtered through the story of a single “forgotten man” who walks the streets in desperate search of a job. Driven by hunger, he contemplates becoming a scab. A union man intervenes, coaching him to recognize common interests with his brethren. He is ultimately converted to the cause of trade unionism.


--> Millions of Us: Visualizing the protagonist’s conversion to labor unionism and the power of mass action.

This ostensibly straightforward narrative belies the film’s melding of modernist visual style and social realist reportage. Co-director Jack Smith is a pseudonym for Slavko Vorkapich, a Serbian émigré who arrived in Hollywood in the early 1920s and distinguished himself as a master of montage. Working for multiple studios, he created striking, frenetic montage sequences for a number of silent and sound films, including Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe. (Several of his silent and pre-code montage works and experimental shorts are featured on the Unseen Cinema DVD collection). Vorkapich went on to chair the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.

Like many in Hollywood at the time, Vorkapich was aligned with the Left. He served, for example, on the National Advisory Board of the Film and Photo League, a loose collective of radical filmmakers in New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and several other urban centers committed to documenting the era’s labor unrest. In this context, a film like Millions of Us is an obvious extension of these activities. Yet, Vorkapich’s earlier experimental work suggests that his sympathy for the downtrodden predated the mass breadlines of the early Depression. In 1928, he co-directed The Life and Death of 9431: A Hollywood Extra, an experimental short with Robert Florey (best remembered for directing Marx Brothers film The Cocoanuts and studio B-films such as Murders in the Rue Morgue). The Life and Death of 9431 shows the rapid demise of a Hollywood hopeful in a heavily Expressionist style. Arriving at the Studios, the wide-eyed extra enters the casting system, the number 9413 stamped on his forehead. He soon begins his hopeless job hunt amidst an inhospitable landscape of “no casting today” signs. Dreams dashed, his humanity is only restored in death. In its dour story and disorienting visual design, The Life and Death of 9431 presents a California nightmare.


 The Life and Death of 9431: The Hollywood hopeful is just a number.


The California in Millions of Us is also a nightmare of unemployment signs. The film opens in an alleyway on a woman in rags before cutting to newspaper headlines of mass unemployment. The camera then moves to the unnamed man sleeping outside on a brick ledge with a newspaper as his pillow. He is our protagonist. As he sleeps, he dreams of food—a roast, an egg on a frying pan, coffee, and loaves of bread are all superimposed over his face. His dream continues as he sits at a table ready to eat but, in a terrifying turn, his plate slides across the table to the waiting hands of a man in fancy dress. Of this opening sequence, Charles Wolfe observes that the “impressionistic montage establishes a transient’s hallucinatory state of mind.” In creating this opening scene, Vorkapich’s singular touch is particularly evident.


 Millions of Us: Dreams of Food


The man awakens and proceeds to drag himself through the gritty urban streets in a quest for work. “No help needed” signs pepper his journey. As he walks, he encounters another homeless vagrant sitting in the sidewalk, social realist imagery that anticipates the downtrodden men depicted in Lionel Rogosin’s On The Bowery (1956). Our protagonist stares longingly into the window of diner. A kindly old woman from a Catholic mission eventually offers him assistance. But he arrives only to discover the shelter is closed for the night. Yet another institution unable to help in his time of need.



Millions of Us: California's gritty streets and empty promises


The next segment begins as our threadbare protagonist stumbles upon a group of men sitting idly in a park. Up until this point, about five and half minutes into the film, the only sound has come by way of an orchestral score. But here, for the first time, words are spoken—though not by our protagonist, nor the scores of forgotten men around him in the park. Instead, it is a radio broadcast of a speech delivered by a capitalist, whose stentorian voice espouses platitudes of American rugged individualism that are entirely at odds with the reality of the millions of unemployed:

“America has been called the land of opportunity and justly so. Where else in the world does the great opportunity for honest work exist in such a boundless degree as in America?...Yes, my friends I say to you that a real willingness to work has never gone unrewarded (that is for long)…Fellow citizens the period of Depression is a thing of the past….The opportunity is here my friend. For those who have the courage to reach out and grab it. To seize it in their hands and drain from it the fine, full measure of sturdy American effort.

These lines, of course, ring hollow to the men sitting in the park, and again, merely affirm the establishment’s lack of sympathy for America’s unemployed. The film’s political stance in unmistakable.

Dejected further, our protagonist leaves the park. He soon finds himself standing idly outside a grocery store watching as bags are loaded into the car of wealthy shopper. A single apple falls out of a bag and roles to his feet. He considers taking it until he meets the glare of a uniformed police officer. The film fades to black.

Finally, the protagonist stumbles upon a “help wanted” sign—but picketers surround the hiring office. He pauses and contemplates. Will he become a much-maligned scab? Luckily, before he crosses over to the dark side, the union intervenes, welcoming him to their camp and offering him a meal. Now, finally part of a community, labor is given a voice, literalized as synchronized dialogue begins. The union leader stakes his plea for broader working class solidarity and its desire for basic human rights. “You and me,” he says:

“Millions of us who want three square and a job. Who want a chance to work so we can send our kids to school, so we can have a roof over our head. Millions of us getting together. That’s the answer! We want man-sized chunk of everything our hands of made. And just think buddy: that’s the whole cock-eyed country…Every rivet and bolt and brick rivet. You betcha! Your hands worked and scrapped. Who gets the gravy? Not you or me.”

The union man’s rationale converts the protagonist to the cause. He picks up a sign and joins the fight. Of the sequence, Charles Wolfe writes: “The final segment, the unemployed worker joins a union and his envisioned fantasies are replaced by lip-synchronized dialogue and his possession of a new collective, public voice.” This new collective is visualized in the film’s final image (featured above), footage of marching union men superimposed on a close-up of the protagonist’s face. This closing image encapsulates the power and solidarity of the working class mass.




Millions of Us: The protagonist finds solace with his working class brethren.


   
Upon completion, the film entered the nontheatrical labor screening circuit and the very act of showing the film became a deeply politicized, incendiary act. In Ohio, a planned CIO screening was blocked by state censors, as was an intended screening at an art house in Pittsburgh. These episodes prompted the film's distributor Garrison Films to contact Morris Ernst Leopold, a founder of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Millions of Us is an intriguing early work in the history of American documentary and labor left filmmaking, and demonstrates the shared solidarity among artists and organized labor during the
Red Decade. Under Vorkapich’s deft hand, the film demonstrates traces of modernist impulse within the decade’s iconic social realist aesthetic. Its post-production life reveals the politicized nature of film distribution. At the very least, it is certainly a film worth a look for film and history buffs alike.


This guest post was written by Tanya Goldman, a PhD Candidate in Cinema Studies at New York University and IndieCollect’s inaugural Scholar-In-Residence during the 2016-17 academic year, and Spencer Nachman, a sophomore at NYU who interned at IndieCollect during the spring 2017 academic term.


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WORK CITED:

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Charles Wolfe, “Straight Shots and Crooked Plots: Social Documentary and the Avant-Garde in the 1930s,” in Lovers of Cinema: The First American Film Avant-Garde 1919–1945, ed. Jan-Christopher Horak. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996.
This essay is also reprinted in The Documentary Film Reader: History, Theory, Criticism, edited by Jonathan Kahana for Oxford University Press, 2016.


Millions of Us is held at the Library of Congress. You can stream the full film here
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Jun 7, 2017

Call for Love Proposals.

Call for Presentations:  Orphans 11 = Love.



New York University Cinema Studies presents the 11th Orphan Film Symposium, April 11-14, 2018, at Museum of the Moving Image. Scholars, archivists, curators, media artists, preservationists, collectors, and other enthusiasts will explore a variety of neglected works and moving image artifacts. 

We invite one-page proposals for presentations (15 to 30 minutes) that include the screening of seldom-seen material. Proposals should summarize the argument or rationale and identify AV materials by title and format. E-mail a .docx or .rtf  file attachment to orphanfilmsymposium [@] gmail.com.  Subject header: PROPOSAL for Orphans 11. Proposals received by August 28 will receive first consideration, but the call will remain open. 

NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Department of Cinema Studies, and its Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program present three days and four nights of screenings, presentations, and discussions about rare and rediscovered orphan works (film, video, digital). All events at Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, New York. 

As in Plato's Symposium the theme will be love. Love in the many senses of the word -- romantic, spiritual, filial, physical, religious, parental, empathic. Love of others, humanity, planet, country, place, family, animals, food, pleasure, art, peace, learning. Or as Plato might say agápe, eros, philía, and storgē. And what of love's inverses and opposites? 

Cinephilia itself opens the door to all kinds of films we love. Among the orphan categories, many relate to love: amateur films and home movies; advocacy films; works made by religious or charitable organizations; romance and melodrama; erotica, porn, dating do's and dont's; advertising and animation; patriotic pictures; cult films; movies for children. What films have inspired love (or hate), passions, or devotion? 





Whether you speak or not, plan to attend. Registration is open to all. 


Cinema Studies @ NYU celebrates its 50th anniversary this coming year. 

@Orphan_Films
Facebook.com/groups/orphan.films



Jun 3, 2017

2018 Orphan Film Symposium: LOVE

Save the dates!  





Call for presentations at this Orphan Film Symposium will be posted here June 15.  

Attend the biennial international gathering of media archivists, scholars, artists, curators, preservationists, researchers, technologists, collectors, programmers, producers, distributors, librarians, teachers, and students devoted to the study and use of neglected film and video artifacts. 

NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Department of Cinema Studies, and its Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program again present three days and four nights of screenings, presentations, and discussions about rare and rediscovered orphan films. All events at Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, New York.


As in Plato's Symposium the theme will be love. Love in the many senses of the word -- romantic, spiritual, filial, physical, religious, parental, empathic. Love of: others, humanity, planet, country, place, family, animals, food, pleasure, art, peace, learning. Or as Plato might say agápe, eros, philía, and storgē. 

And what of love's inverses and opposites? 

Cinephilia itself opens the door to all kinds of films. Among the orphan categories, many relate to love: amateur films and home movies; advocacy films; works by religious or charitable organizations; romance and melodrama; erotica, porn, dating do's and dont's; advertising and animation; patriotic pictures; cult films; movies for children. 

What films have inspired love (or hate)?

Questions? 
orphanfilmsymposium @  gmail.com

Feb 3, 2017

Le Orphan Film Symposium 2017, en français.

ORPHANS 2017 / ORPHELINS DE PARIS 

Tests, essais et expérimentations


Jeudi 2 mars 

9h00 Accueil et présentations 
Dan Streible (NYU MIAP) & Pauline de Raymond (Cinémathèque française) Introduction à l’Orphan Film Symposium
Lydia Pappas (University of South Carolina) Les chutes d’Actualités Fox sur Paris, 1922-1929

9h30-10h00 Proto-cinéma
Pauline de Raymond (Cinémathèque française) A Bar Room Scene (Edison, 1894), un film kinétoscope peint à la main issu de la collection de la Cinémathèque française
Dan Streible (NYU) Les tests caméra de Fred Ott: Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze et [Fred Ott Holding a Bird] (1894)
Céline Ruivo (Cinémathèque française) Étienne-Jules Marey redécouvert: nouvelles restaurations de films 90 mm (ca. 1890-1900)

10h00-11h00 Attractions médicales 
Antonia Lant (NYU Cinema Studies) Les films chirurgicaux du Dr. Eugène Louis Doyen (1898-1912)
Claudia Gianetto (Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino) Les films neuro-pathologiques du Professeur Camillo Negro (1906-1918)

11  PAUSE

11h30 – 13h00 Artistes expérimentaux 
Alexis Constantin & Alice Moscoso (Centre Pompidou) Les films Super 8 de l’artiste Teo Hernandez, 1963-1992
Simona Monizza (EYE Filmmuseum) Restaurer les films abstraits de Joost Rekveld: #2 (1993) et #3 (1994)
Stefano Canapa & Guillaume Mazloum (L’Abominable) Images Inédites de David Dudouit

Vendredi 3 mars 

9h00 – 10h30 Rushs des Vieux Maîtres 
Elodie Tamayo (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3) Ecce homo d’Abel Gance (1918, rushes 35 mm) : un projet à la recherche de son « médium »
Thomas Christensen (Danish Film Institute) Les tests à double-exposition de Benjamin Christensen pour Häxan (ca. 1920)
Manon Billaut (Cinémathèque française) Le témoignage d’un tournage : les rushs de L’Hirondelle et la mésange (1920) d’André Antoine
Bernard Eisenschitz (critique et historien du cinéma) & Céline Ruivo (Cinémathèque française)    L’Atalante de Jean Vigo (1934, Gaumont, Francofilm), un film aux multiples versions. Présentation de rushs restaurés, conservés à la Cinémathèque française.

10H45  PAUSE

11h10 – 13h00 Coupes d’actualité et de documentaire 
Elżbieta Wysocka (Filmoteka Narodowa) Plus que ce qui pouvait être montré : Matériaux inutilisés des actualités polonaises, 1944-1994
Mila Turajlic (cinéaste) Stevan Labudović: Les actualités yougoslaves et le mouvement des nonalignés en Algérie
Lina Kaminskaitė-Jančorienė (Vilnius University) « Les restes » de la mémoire : Chutes de Šimtamečių godos / The Dreams of Centenarians de Robertas Verba (1969)
Theodore Kennedy (indépendant) & Amy Sloper (Wisconsin Center for Film and Theatre Research) B.F. Skinner joue son propre rôle : Chutes d’un film biographique, The Skinner Revolution (1978)

Samedi 4 mars 

9h00 – 10h30 Le film amateur et les films de famille pendant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale 
Kay Gladstone (Imperial War Museum) Clandestinité : Films amateurs sur des personnes cachées en France et en Belgique pendant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale
Lydia Pappas (University of South Carolina MIRC) Identifier des films amateurs de membres de l’US Army durant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale : Collection J. B. Doty (Italie, 1944) et For This We Die (Inde, 1944)
Rachael Stoeltje (Indiana University Libraries) Les films de famille de John Ford au Mexique, 1941- 1948

10H30  PAUSE

11h00 Remarks for the Good of the Order 
Thomas Christensen (Association des Cinémathèques Européennes) Rapport sur la conclusion du FORWARD Project et sur un registre européen des œuvres orphelines audiovisuelles

11h15 – 13h00 Tests, essais et expérimentations 
Elżbieta Wysocka (Filmoteka Narodowa) Klaps de Krzysztof Kieślowski (Slate, 1976)
Paul Fileri (NYU) Le film d’un étudiant africain à Paris: C’était il y a quatre ans (1954): Race et le colonialisme français à l’école de cinéma IDHEC
Walter Forsberg (Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture) Construire une collection à partir de partenariats entre archives : A People’s Playhouse (American Negro Theatre, ca. 1944)
Céline Ruivo (Cinémathèque française) Premier nocturne en fa # majeur de Chopin, Interprété par Victor Gille (1928)
Enrico Camporesi (Labex CAP, CEHTA, EHESS) & John Klacsmann (Anthology Film Archives) Un film est une bobine : [Untitled, Rolls 5347 and 5350] de Barbara Rubin (1964?)
Tzutzumatzin Soto Cortés (Cineteca Nacional Mexico) Take Over (1936): les essais des frères Rodriguez sur Miguel Alemán en tant que gouverneur of Veracruz, Mexico
Rachael Stoeltje (Indiana University Libraries) Scènes coupées issues de la collection Peter Bogdanovitch : What’s Up, Doc? (1972) et Paper Moon (1973)
Dennis Doros & Amy Heller (Milestone Film) Project Shirley: In Paris Parks (1954) est en réalité trois films

Jan 13, 2017

Announcing the Program for Orphans 2017 in Paris



La Cinémathèque française & New York University host a special edition of the Orphan Film Symposium. Join us in Paris on the mornings of March 2, 3, & 4, 2017. 

Register HERE.


Orphans 2017 / Orphelins de Paris:  
Tests, essais et expérimentations
Cinémathèque française, 51 Rue de Bercy
March 2-4, 2017  





The Program:  
See below, or click here for a pop-up text document. 


jeudi / Thursday, 2 mars
9:00 am Introductions
            Premier nocturne en fa # majeur de Chopin, Interprété par Victor Gille (1928)  
Pauline De Raymond (Cinématheque française) Welcome to la Cinémathèque française  
Dan Streible (NYU MIAP) Introduction to the Orphan Film Symposium    Lydia Pappas (University of South Carolina) Fox Newsreel Outtakes of Paris, 1922-1929

9:30-10:00 am Proto-cinema
La Cinématheque's restoration of a hand-painted Kinetoscope film A Bar Room Scene (1894)
Dan Streible (NYU) Fred Ott Camera Tests: Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze and [Fred Ott Holding a Bird] (1894)
Céline Ruivo (Cinématheque française) Étienne-Jules Marey rediscovered: new restorations of 90mm films (ca. 1890-1900)  

10:00-11:00 am Medical Attractions
Antonia Lant (NYU Cinema Studies) Dr. Eugène Louis Doyen Surgical Films (1898-1912)
Claudia Gianetto (Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino) Les films neuro-pathologiques du Professeur Camillo Negro (1906-1918)  

11:30 am – 1:00 pm Experimental Artists
Alexis Constantin & Alice Moscoso (Centre Pompidou) Super 8 films by Artist Teo Hernandez
Simona Monizza (EYE Filmmuseum) Restoring the Abstract Films of Joost Rekveld: #2 (1993) and #3 (1994)
Stefano Canapa & Guillaume Mazloum(L’Abominable) Images Inédites de David Dudouit



vendredit / Friday, 3 mars  

9:00 - 10:30 am
Silent Rushes from the Old Masters / Rushes des Vieux Maîtres
Elodie Tamayo Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3) Ecce homo d’Abel Gance (1918, rushes 35mm) : un projet à la recherche de son «médium» / Rushes from Abel Gance’s film maudit Ecce homo (1918)  
Thomas Christensen (Danish Film Institute) Benjamin Christensen’s Double-Exposure Tests for Häxan (ca. 1920)
Manon Billaut (Cinémathèque française) Le témoignage d’un tournage : les rushs de L’Hirondelle et la mésange (1920) d’André Antoine / Testimony of a Location : The Rushes for The Swallow and the Titmouse


11:10 am – 1:00 pm Newsreel and Documentary Leftovers
Elżbieta Wysocka (Filmoteka Narodowa) More than could be shown: Unused Materials [nieużytki] from Polish Newsreels, 1944-1994  
Mila Turajlic (filmmaker) Stevan Labudović: Yugoslav Newsreel Footage [restlovi] and the Non-Aligned Movement in Algeria   
Lina Kaminskaitė-Jančorienė (Vilnius University) The Leftovers [liekanos] of Memory: Outtakes from Robertas Verba‘s Šimtamečių godos /The Dreams of Centenarians (1969)  
Theodore Kennedy (independent) & Amy Sloper (Wisconsin Center for Film and Theatre Research) B.F. Skinner Plays Himself: Outtakes from a Film Biography, The Skinner Revolution (1978)   


samedi / Saturday, 4 mars
9:00 – 10:30 am Amateur Film and Home Movies in WWII
Kay Gladstone (Imperial War Museum) Clandestinity: Amateur Films of Secret Subjects in France and Belgium during the Second World War
Lydia Pappas (University of South Carolina MIRC) Identifying Amateur Films by Members of the U.S. Army in WII: J. B. Doty Collection (Italy, 1944) and For This We Die (India, 1944)  
Rachael Stoeltje (Indiana University Libraries) John Ford’s Home Movies of Mexico, 1941-1948   11:00 am Remarks for the Good of the Order Thomas Christensen (Association des Cinémathèques Européennes) Report on the Conclusion of Project FORWARD and an Audiovisual Orphan Works Registry for the EU  

11:15 am – 1:00 pm Tests, essais et experimentations
Elżbieta Wysocka (Filmoteka Narodowa) Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Klaps (Slate, 1976)
Dennis Doros & Amy Heller (Milestone Film) Project Shirley: In Paris Parks (1954) is actually three films.
Paul Fileri (NYU) An African Student's Film in Paris: Paulin Vieyra’s C’était il y a quatre ans [Four Years Ago] (1954): Race and French Colonialism at the Film School IDHEC / Le film d’un étudiant africain à Paris: Race et le colonialisme français à l’école de cinéma IDHEC
Enrico Camporesi (Labex CAP, Centre d'Histoire et de Théorie des Arts, EHESS) & John Klacsmann (Anthology Film Archives) Un film est une bobine / A Film Is a Reel: Barbara Rubin’s [Untitled, Rolls 5347 and 5350] (1964?)
Walter Forsberg (Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture) Building a Collection via Archival Partnerships: A People’s Playhouse (American Negro Theatre, ca. 1944, 5’)
Tzutzumatzin Soto Cortés (Cineteca Nacional Mexico) Take Over (1936): Rodriguez Brothers  test films of  Miguel Alemán Valdéz as Governor of Veracruz, Mexico 
Rachael Stoeltje (Indiana University Libraries) Outtakes from the Peter Bogdanovich Collection: What’s Up, Doc? (1972) and At Long Last Love (1975)


Registration for the symposium is open to all. The fee is $200 USD ($100 USD for students, retirees, and the underemployed). Simultaneous French and English translations provided. Symposium registration also comes with access to all five days and nights of  Toute la mémoire du monde, International Festival of Film Restoration (March 1-5), a 90 Euro value.  REGISTER HERE. The Toute la mémoire du monde festival features 90 screenings, roundtables, master classes, and cine-concerts, as well as an international symposium about the future of cinémathèques and other presentations. The 2017 festival pays tribute to CinemaScope, Soviet melodramas (35mm prints from Gosfilmofond), Finnish filmmaker Valentin Vaala, the American silent-era studio Triangle Film Corporation, and more. Parrain du festival (patron) Joe Dante; invité d'honneur (guest of honor) Wes Anderson.