Saturday, 9 December 2017
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”.