Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Media Contacts

Becky Wood
IU Libraries

Last modified: Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Orphans Midwest symposium at IU Bloomington features rare and rediscovered films

Aug. 6, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Scholars and archivists from around the world will screen, analyze and discuss old, rare, almost lost and nearly forgotten films and videos at Orphans Midwest, a film symposium on the Indiana University Bloomington campus Sept. 26 to 28.

Making its world premiere is Bill Morrison's "All Vows," with the score performed live by Opus 3 cellist Maya Beiser. Commissioned by Indiana University Cinema and the IU Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program, this performance takes place Thursday, Sept. 26.

Other symposium features include the digitally restored complete version of Edison's "Record of a Sneeze" (1894), a never-before-released short about the U.S. 10th Cavalry's Buffalo Soldiers (1925), a keynote address by renowned cinema historian Tom Gunning of the University of Chicago and dozens of orphan film screenings.

2004 Morrison Film

This image is from "Light Is Calling," artist Bill Morrison's 2004 reworking of a 1920s film. It will be screened Sept. 26 alongside other Morrison films.

Print-Quality Photo

"Orphan films" are all manner of neglected cinematic artifacts, rarities and rediscoveries, including unreleased films, educational movies, censored material, medical films, surveillance footage and student works, among a host of other categories. Often one-of-a-kind creations, orphan films capture glimpses of our shared world that, without preservation, would be lost forever.

The symposium is presented by IU Libraries Film Archive, Indiana University Cinema and NYU Cinema Studies/Tisch School of the Arts, with additional support from the IU New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Program and the College Arts and Humanities Institute. Partnering IU departments and units for the symposium include the Department of Communication and Culture, Film and Media Studies, Black Film Center/Archive, The Kinsey Institute, Media Preservation Initiative Task Force and the Lilly Library.

"The IU Libraries Film Archive and the IU Cinema are two gems of Indiana University," said IU Libraries Dean Brenda L. Johnson, "and we are proud to share them with visiting scholars to enrich the discussion of orphan films and analyze the way such moving images record and preserve different aspects of human life and history."

This year's special edition of the symposium, Orphans Midwest: Materiality and the Moving Image, is the first to take place in the American Midwest, with other "Orphans" events happening on the East and West coasts and overseas. This "first" signals the strength of the cinematic infrastructure at IU, including the university's media collection, its exhibition facilities and its leadership in media preservation initiatives.

"As president of The Film Foundation, I urge everyone with an interest in this project to support and to participate in the Orphans Film Symposium," filmmaker Martin Scorsese said. "The academic-archival-artistic collaboration will help ensure the survival of our collective film heritage and generate greater awareness of the need to preserve motion picture history."

Let's Square Dance

This 1957 image is from "Hoosier Promenade," made from a film series called "Let's Square Dance" that was produced by the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. It will screen Sept. 28 as part of an evening of music-related films.

Print-Quality Photo

"Orphan film events traditionally gather many of the leading film scholars and archivists from around the U.S.," said IU Cinema Director Jon Vickers. "Orphans Midwest provides an unparalleled opportunity to showcase the capabilities of the IU Cinema, the university's film and ephemera collections and IU's commitment to preservation and access to its film-related materials."

Presentations at this year's symposium focus on the technical challenges posed by the materials themselves: celluloid film, various types of videotapes, and the proliferation of digital file formats. The schedule is available online.

These events also play an important role in generating year-round research and preservation projects that draw attention to orphan films and, in turn, increase public interest in preserving these cultural artifacts.

In addition, according to symposium founder Dan Streible, associate professor of cinema studies at NYU, "The Orphan Film Symposium reaches beyond the academy by working with commercial labs as well as museums, archives, libraries and individual artists and collectors to generate the actual preservation of orphaned film and video material. The symposium also gives recently preserved and newly rediscovered films a public showcase that leads to further screenings and visibility."

The symposium is taking place at the IU Cinema, a 260-seat, THX-certified theater dedicated to the scholarly study and highest standards of film exhibition in traditional and modern forms. IU Cinema is one of a relatively small percentage of theaters where one can see century-old 35mm and 16mm films projected properly alongside state-of-the-art digital productions and reproductions.

The IU Libraries Film Archive, one of the world's largest and most comprehensive academic film collections, was formally established in 2011 and within a year was granted membership in the International Federation of Film Archives, an honor granted to only a few American university collections.

For more information about the conference, contact Jon Vickers, 812-855-7632 or, or Rachael Stoeltje, director of the IU Film Archive, at 812-855-2523 or More information about Orphans Midwest and a link for registration are available online.