The Peculiar Life of an Orphan Part I / by KirstenStudio

From early computer animations, to stop motion (barely) religious armageddon prediction, to a film within a film early sex education, Orphan Film Symposium 8 lived up to its reputation and then some. This year was my first time attending. Orphans 8 took place at Astoria's Museum of the Moving Image, neighbor to Kaufman Studios. The symposium packed in a full schedule with a little bit of everything and it ran overtime every day, not due to lack of organization or planning, but because every speaking was so well versed, enthusiastic and passionate, no one would leave the stage. Made to Persuade was the Orphan Film Symposium's 2012 theme and it tapped an interesting milieu exemplifying the vast orphaned media created for just that. The Orphan's program states that "The call for presentations generated more responses than ever before. Dozens of excellent proposals had to be turned away." This is exciting news in the world of Orphanistas who packed the Museum's theater last week.

Each day was broken down by sections with various guest speakers providing context for each screened piece and it's relevant history. Some creative section titles included "Other Orphans: Bastards, Fugitives, and Test-Tube Babies", "Poetic Persuasion: What happens if you eat watermelon seeds" and "In a Family Way". All exhibited genres of persuasion whether for scientific, political, religious, education or all of the above and more.

The morning was spent examining the definition of "Orphan", while some preferred "Bastard Films" or in some cases "Fugitive". Great inquiry into these definitions by speaker Hadi Gharabhagi (NYU). What followed over the next several days were excellent examples of both Orphans (or whatever you prefer to call them) which were Made to Persuade. Below are some highlights from Thursday's line-up.

Ad Film for Theaters, Television, and the Web brought Annette Groschke (Deutsche Kinematek) to Orphans to screen Charles Wilp's outrageous ads for Sexy-mini-super-flower-pop-op-Afri-cola Campaign, 1968-1974. Cooky over-the-top exploitive soft drink ads with the implication that the consumer will receive a high off the tonic.  Pre-pop icons Marianne Faithful, Petula Clark and Diana Ross made appearances.

Leenke Ripmeester (EYE) presented Joop Geesink's 1940's Dollywood Advertising Films. The ads are fascinating and yes, bizarre, but what was just as interesting was getting an inkling of what someone like Ripmeester is taking on with a collection like this. She described and showed, via Powerpoint, the database where the Geesink media (much of it 35mm originals) was catalogued and the various obstacles that came about during this conservation effort, such as how to store the films (one reel vs dividing films into small reels), considering criteria in which each piece would be catalogued, to budget cuts. Ripmeester was happy to report that much was preserved and digitized and she hopes these films will be used on the internet, from education, to research and programming. She believes they should be accessible for various uses including re-contextualization.


A definite highlight of the entire symposium was the Skip Elsheimer (A/V Geeks) and Devin Orgeron (NC State U) Sugar Bear Sells Sugar Crisp, 1949 to Present presentation. Elsheimer has been digitizing Duke U's AdViews collection and in the process learned a lesson in the candy cereal phenomenon which began in 1949 with a lovable bear pitching cereal that's like candy. A humorous and educational chronology of Sugar Bear's history from his early cool-cat Dino persona to his "Cut the Jive, Sugar Bear's Arrived" '70s hipness. Elsheimer talked about how Sugar Bear was the cereal that really spawned candy cereal and candy cereal ad campaigns that were geared toward children, rather than their parents.  Check out Duke U's library to see for yourself.

Making Films at AT&T/Bell Labs offered Nell Cox in person presenting her Operator (1969), made as a promotional to recruit telephone operators. A delightful behind the scenes piece on operators taking and transferring calls the old fashioned way combined with close-up operator testimonials.

Walter Forsberg offered a screening of some pioneers of early computer animation and followed with a special appearance by Lillian Schwartz along with several of her works. I was happy to hear the mention of New York Women in Film and Television's Women's Film Preservation Fund's grant to preserve of Schwartz's Googolplex (1972 )

The evening brought Helen Hill and the Helen Hill Awards. Both well worth hanging out for the evening's screenings. Dwight Swanson (Center for Home Movies) introduced a Helen Hill camera test from 2005. A sweet short intimate few minutes of Helen Hill filming her family at home. Awards were given to artists Jo Dery and Jeanne Liotta.