Orphans at MoMA: An Amateur Cinema League of Nations. 90 min.
Inaugurating a new annual collaboration in To Save and Project between MoMA and the NYU Orphan Film Symposium, this program celebrates the historical art of amateur filmmaking. Six curator-historians present six short, sophisticated movies covering a 50-year span, from 1926 through 1976. The Amateur Cinema League, founded in 1926, offered an animated screen logo proclaiming itself “the world wide organization of amateur movie makers.” Its members proudly shared their well-crafted small-gauge films in clubs and festivals, but today even the winners of the ACL’s annual Ten Best competition are difficult to find. David Weiss of Northeast Historic Film presents one of the first productions by the League’s founder, Hiram Percy Maxim, and premieres the restoration of ACL member O. P. Geer’s Poem of Montclair (1933), a playful depiction of a day in the life of his family in Montclair, New Jersey. Historian Charles Tepperman, from the University of Calgary, introduces Another Day (1934) by the Toronto Amateur Movie Club’s Leslie Thatcher, a three-time Ten Best honoree. Kimberly Tarr, of NYU Libraries, debuts a 16mm print of legendary amateur film booster Robbins Barstow’s newly preserved The Abbakadabba Coopno (1941), featuring “the Newark Kid-Stars in their real-life drama of Christian farm work.” (Barstow’s celebrated Disneyland Dreams, elected to The Library of Congress’s National Film Registry as arguably the greatest home movie ever made, was a highlight of a previous edition of To Save and Project.) Scholar Maria Vinogradova, also from NYU, concludes the eclectic and entertaining program with a distinctive rediscovery: a Soviet amateur film shot in 35mm by a member of the People’s Film Studio of Leningrad traveling to Montreal in 1976. Vladimir Medvedev’s reflective On the Same Earth strikes a utopian chord that resonates with the other cine-poets and idealists in this amateur “league of nations.” Pianist Stephen Horne accompanies the silent pieces, which include an unidentified but ingenious 1928 triptych by an unknown filmmaker, preserved by The Library of Congress. This program is organized by Dan Streible, director of the Orphan Film Symposium; Marissa Hicks-Alcaraz, master's student, NYU Cinema Studies; and Katie Trainor, MoMA Film Collections Manager. Films courtesy Northeast Historic Film, The Library of Congress, Archives of Ontario, and NYU Libraries.