On Friday, September 27th, Emile de Antonio again found himself in the company of students, experimental artists, marginalized heroes, and non-fiction filmmakers. As part of the 2013 Orphans Midwest Symposium hosted by Indiana University , the WCFTR presented three rarely-seen trailers from the De Antonio Collection: two trailers for Point of Order (one in German) and a trailer for Millhouse (punchline: “A Film in the style of the Marx Brothers”). The films were part of Portmanteau, a screening curated by Dan Streible, founder of the Orphan Film Symposium and co-editor of Emile de Antonio: A Reader.
Since the first Symposium in 1999, Orphans has been dedicated to raising awareness of marginalized media materials threatened by lack of preservation concern and scholarly attention. Included under the banner of “orphans” is a diverse body of texts ranging from home movies, training films and outtakes to medical films, surveillance footage and experimental film. Each day of the 2013 Orphans Midwest Symposium concluded with a screening that showcased orphans that had been recently discovered or restored. De Antonio’s outsider status and the scant attention paid to promos and trailers as film artifacts made his trailers a fitting addition to Portmanteau. The documentarian’s work, which used unusual filmmaking techniques, often sifting through massive quantities of pre-existing footage to document failures of governance and movements on the margins of American Culture, e.g., Point of Order, In the Year of the Pig, and Underground, felt right at home in a screening where films played with the relationship between recorded sound, editing and truth (Jane Gillooly’s Suitcase of Love and Shame, 2013), explored the meaning, materiality, and environmental consequences of film outtakes (Jennifer Reeves Landfill 16, 2011) and shed light on common casualties in traditional historical narratives, i.e., the “Buffalo Soldiers” (A Frontier Post, 1925).
The serendipitous last-minute inclusion of the De Antonio trailers in the Portmanteau screening speaks to the value of the processing work the collection underwent over the past year. During the late stages of the 15-month NHPRC (National Historic Publications and Records Commission) grant-funded project to reprocess the extensive and unwieldy collection, project archivist Emil Hoetler contacted leading scholars familiar with the materials. Streible, who was in the midst of finalizing the lineup of Portmanteau, was one of these scholars. Upon learning of the project and reading through the inventory—which brought to light parts of the collection that had been hidden among an abundance of papers, films, videos, 3-D objects, and sound recordings—Streible invited the WCFTR to screen a few items that hadn’t seen an audience in decades. The WCFTR was thrilled to participate both as a means to spread awareness of the project’s completion and to bring De Antonio’s filmmaking to an enthusiastic audience of interested scholars and cinephiles in one of the most elegant and high-tech university theaters in the country. Though the processing project officially ended only a month ago, a high level of excitement attended news of the increased accessibility of the collection. Official thanks for the trailers’ inclusion in the screening go to Dan Streible, NYU, the NHPRC, Jon Vickers, and Indiana University.