It’s a Hard Knock Life

The festival at Linwood Dunn Theatre have many films that have been lost, overlooked, or abandoned.  An orphan film is a motion picture work that has been abandoned by its owner or copyright holder; also, any film that has suffered neglect.  Film has been around for hundreds of years dating back to Thomas Edison.  Unfortunately, films aren’t made to last.   They fall outside the scope of commercial preservation programs.  They lack either clear copyright owners or commercial potential.  There is a wide spectrum of films that fall under the orphan qualifications, especially when the term neglected is categorized.  Neglect may be physical (a deteriorated film print), commercial (an unreleased movie), cultural (censored footage), or historical.

You could simply define them as “Any sort of films that have survived but have no commercial interests to pay the costs of their preservation.”  Recent interest has been drawn to these films and works because of their value of cultural and historical artifacts.  Orphan films refer to any work that is outside of commercial mainstream, from home movies to censored material to documentaries, etc.

“In this case it wouldn’t be so hard for a newcomer to sit down and enjoy the program,” said Dan Streible(check the link for Streble’s view on role of orphan films), founder of the Orphan Film Symposium. “That certainly isn’t the case in some instances; oftentimes there’s a new sensibility you have to get into.

“If you’ve never experienced anything like this before, but there is anything of the movie lover or history buff in you, this often turns people on to new ways of seeing film and they often want more after they experience it,” Streible added.

You have to consider these films and works to be “independent”.  They are rare films that have unusual and outmoded technologies.  They are eye opening, undocumented documents that are the pure essence of independently produced. All the different ways of how the film was produced and stored is truly remarkable, such as paper print.  The preservation of these films is much more at risk apart from Hollywood.  For Hollywood, commercial producers now invest heavily in the protection of their film libraries. With the development of television, home video, DVD, cable, and Internet exhibition, Hollywood sound films have protection of their preservation.  These orphan films did not have access to these protections and preservation, which increases their value.


One thought on “It’s a Hard Knock Life

  1. Very interesting! I especially enjoyed the interviews you included; I would love to go to one of those symposiums. I agree with you that orphan films are considered independent due to the fact that they fall outside the realm of Hollywood. But do you think orphan films will gain popularity throughout the public industry? Or will they stay as this part of indie not many people know about?

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