A journey through orphan films, amateur films and the concept of authorship
Coinciding with the international seminar Stories (and Aesthetics) About Anonymous and Orphan Cinema, Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola will open up the central warehouse of its facilities and give it the form of a gallery or audiovisual exhibition hall to host an anthological exhibition of anonymous, orphan and amateur films throughout the history of cinema.
The concept of orphan films acquired an academic and creative entity in the 1990s from new approaches to managing film archives. At that time, orphan films simply identified films without copyright or abandoned by their owners or custodians. However, the term gradually widened to include any kind of footage which has been abandoned, found or forgotten for commercial, material, cultural, political and historical reasons: material in the public domain, home movies, film out-takes, unreleased films, industrial and educational films, clandestine work, ethnographic films, newsreels, censored material, unfinished pieces, fragments of productions from the silent era, archival material, reels found, medical films, short or unusual format films, advertisements, sponsored films, student work and any other ephemeral piece of celluloid. Rick Prelinger, founder of the online Prelinger Archives, understands orphan films as “films that do not have any controlling and censoring parents”, films that are “free to go home when they like without asking permission”, films from which “to rethink many of the unquestioned concepts of film history”.
The interest that this true "hidden side of cinema" awakens today and that this exhibition aims to highlight is primarily due to two reasons: on the one hand, the creative inspiration that many current filmmakers have found in this material (and the second life that they have given to this material in their films) and, on the other, the contemporaneity of the questions and debates thrown up by the concept of "anonymous cinema". A review of the long tradition of orphan films helps to understand and contextualise two essential concepts in the cinematic debates of our time: the concept of authorship and the concept of audiovisual flow or continuum, opened up to the hegemony of the finished work, as we can see on YouTube.
The purpose of the project is to identify this hidden side of cinema made up of home and amateur films, films with no clear authorship and films that have been abandoned, are incomplete, silenced or not designed for public viewing. The programmes that make up this “exhibition of films” are curated by Sonia García López, Mirco Santi, Mark Toscano, Guy Edmonds, Dan Streible and Maria Vinogradova and bring together more than 30 films or fragments of orphan films in a time span ranging from 1894 to the current day. The central space of the exhibition will also be occupied by a selection from the long tradition of Basque amateur film.
The Anonymous Cinema exhibition covers all of the different meanings of orphan films: small fragments of films of great interest in the history of cinema (such as material by Edison or American Vitagraph), amateur works with artistic pretensions (such as those made within the Amateur Cinema League in the 30s), film collectibles (such as programmes on the First World War for Pathé Baby), bourgeois-home films made in the heart of the Soviet Union, forgotten practices of the first women enrolled in the Institute of Cinematographic Research and Experimentation in Madrid in the 50s, interventions by artists from found footage (such as the work of Rebeca Baron, Goug Goodwin and Jen Proctor) and the endless stream of material on YouTube.
The exhibition also offers visitors the chance to visit the classroom space of the school, accompanied by moving images. The spatial distribution of Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola is designed for teaching and hands-on learning, but also as a flexible and versatile place that can be transformed, as it is now, into a gallery or exhibition space, where students in the curating department can take the floor and present their projects.