In spite of the drizzle and drop in temperature, the faithful turned out for The Real Indies: A Closer Look at Orphan Films program, which appropriately opened last night, on Halloween, with Spider Baby (1968), and began today's screenings with their Pioneering Women segment at 10AM this morning. Pioneering Women boasted a fascinating selection of films made by and about women, accompanied with presentation and discussion. Heather Linville (Academy Film Archive) presented a beautiful series of clips made by the explorer Aloha Wanderwell Baker. The documentarian, known in her day as 'the world's most widely travelled girl' recorded her adventures by car, over four continents. The footage, shot primarily in the 1920's, is incredible and Wanderwell, apparently standing at around 6 feet in height, is a gorgeous fearless force, easily identifiable whenever she appears in her recordings. Linville saved some of the best for last, showing a short excerpt of her early travel footage accompanied by audio of Wanderwell from the 1990's, when she met with an archivist to watch 6 hours of her material together, recalling in great detail the circumstances of the reels. Linville wrapped up the presentation with clips of Wanderwell visiting with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.
Susan Lazarus of Women's Film Preservation Fund, introduced the Newsreel collective production of Make Out (1970, 5 mins) conceived by Geri Ashur. The script was created from a consciousness raising group, where they talked about what it was like to make-out in a car, through a young woman's perspective. Make Out was preserved by a grant from the Women's Film Preservation Fund in 2011 with in-kind services provided by Cineric.
A panel of filmmakers and preservationists, moderated by Antonia Lant (NYU Cinema Studies), followed these first two presentations with a discussion around preservation of women's film work (seated left to right: Connie Field, Lisa Crafts, Antonia Lant, Susan Lazarus and Heather Linville). Lant brought up two main periods in film history where women had a strong hold in filmmaking - the silent era and the women's movement of the 60's and 70's. Crafts said that for independent animators and for other independent filmmakers, coincided this golden age of independent film and the women's movement. So there were hundreds and thousands of women making work. Whether that is part of the canon that's studied, Crafts thought that really depended on the individual who's teaching, but highlighted the importance of these types of films getting out to schools, so each generation can see that there were lots of strong, amazing and interesting women making work. Linville pointed out that from a preservation standpoint, these two heights for female filmmakers have their own difficulties with the elements in which they were shot on. In the silent era films were shot on nitrate film stock, which is highly flammable and in the 60's and 70's the material ended up being unstable and prone to quicker deterioration, whether it be color fading or audio deterioration from being recorded onto magnetic elements, or a variety of other issues. Linville added that with the silent era in particular, there are even fewer women's films to preserve today. That we've often hear statistics from this period in general, such as 80 to 85% of silent era films are already lost. Linville said she'd be curious to know what the percentage of that are films made women. To reiterate Crafts talking point about education, Lazarus said the reason the Women's Film Preservation Fund was founded in general was to show that women were involved in filmmaking from the beginning of the medium and these works not only need to be preserved, but also shown and become part of a syllabus.
The feature screened after this panel, also part of the Pioneering Women program was the Academy Film Archive preserved documentary, The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter (1980), by Connie Fields. The film was added to the National Film Registry in 1996. The film brings to life, the real stories behind Rosie the Riveter, told by the actual Rosie's selected from many interviews Connie Fields conducted in her research for the film, the documentary effectively juxtaposes these women's experiences against the propaganda archival material of the day. Available on DVD through Clarity Films.
The Real Indies: A Close Look at Orphan Films was co-presented by The Academy, New York University and The Orphan Film Symposium.