Little Orphan Indie

In the article on Orphan FilmsThe Real Indies: A Close Look at Orphan Films, Mark Olsen claims, as the title suggests, that the orphan films are the real independent films. The orphan films are exactly what the name entitles, they are films that were abandoned by their makers. From my understanding of the term, orphan films are the ones that were not well accepted when they first were shown or they’re films that were forgotten and are now being rediscovered.  The orphan films in that will be featured in the festival at the Linwood Dunn Theater consist of “lost works, home movies, industrial films, abandoned technologies.”

Indie is classified as being anti-Hollywood, so one could argue that these films are indie just for that very reason. They were not popular when they came out and with the description of the films in the article the films do not follow the Hollywood three act restorative structure. An example would be the film Portrait of Jason, which was one person Jason Holliday telling stories of his life being shot nonstop from 9 pm to 9 am.  Portrait of Jason is definitely not to be considered a typical Hollywood film. The form of the movie also quite indie because of the lack of multiple shots or takes. It is simply just one man speaking for the length of the film.  Also considering that  Portrait of Jason is a documentary it is not a typical documentary that would be seen on the main screen. Although one could argue that very few documentaries even reach mainstream culture in the first place.

In regarding controversial content,  Portrait of Jason for its time can be considered a hot topic by the fact that Jason is in fact a openly gay African-american man during the late 60’s when the film came out. This film wouldn’t be something the popular masses of 1967 would want to go see, thus causing it to become orphaned.  In this way  Portrait of Jason is apart of the term independent.

Jason Holliday aka Aaron Payne

Jason Holliday aka Aaron Payne in “Portrait of Jason”

The use of abandoned technologies would also be considered independent because looking at the anti-Hollywood aspect of indie, the technologies were thrown away by mainstream Hollywood as being ineffective in capturing popularity of the masses.  An example of an orphan film that used this method that will also be played in the festival is an Auroatone film with Bing Crosby. Auroatone films were experimental abstract musical films used in mental institutions and army hospitals after WWII to help sooth post traumatic stress disorder as well as mental disturbances. An example is provided below.

As for Mark Olsen calling these films the real independents I would have to agree but also disagree because there are many films not abandoned by their makers that I would consider indie. I would say that orphan films are not the only independent films but they are definitely a ‘genre’ within the bigger group.



One thought on “Little Orphan Indie

  1. I really like your post! The more in-depth examples of a couple orphan films really helped me understand why they are categorized as such. They are not just unwanted- they are also quite indie, whether it be aesthetically or thematically. Though lots of the films I read about seemed to be older; only orphaned because of the troubles (social/cultural dilemmas, no happy audience) or necessities (a film for helping PTSD) of the past. Do you think there could be a film made today that would turn into an influential and important film after being labeled “orphaned”? (I believe we would have to wait some years until we could name an orphan film, to put it in a more known historical context, but that’s just my opinion!)

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