UW News

May 20, 2010

Films from the Vault: A day of viewing (and digitizing) old and odd movies

If you’re intrigued by old and odd films, you might want to set aside some time on Wednesday, May 26. The UW Libraries Media Center will show 22 short movies that day, making digital copies along the way.

There will be Japanese artists and potters, bits of history and biography, French comedy, American jazz and blues, glaciers, starfish — and marmots of the Pacific Northwest, too.

The free day of screening is being called Films from the Vault, and will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. that day in 220 Odegaard. It has been being organized by John Vallier, head of distributed media services for OUGL, with help from others, including iSchool graduate Ben Tucker.

It’s all part of converting the old footage to digitized form, Vallier said in an e-mail. “We’ll be showing 22 films and simultaneously digitizing them for preservation in the Libraries Media Center,” he said. “We use a telecine, which is like a traditional projector except that instead of projecting an image onto a screen it converts the film signal into a video signal. We then take that video signal and plug it into a computer, where we digitize it.

“Usually we watch the film transfer on a computer monitor, but since many of these films are so interesting and rare (and fun to watch), we wanted to share a slice of this process with others.”

All the films, plus about 4,000 other titles, are part of the Educational Media Collection, which were transferred from Classroom Media Services to the Media Center in 2008, Vallier said. Learn more about the collection here.

“We’ve been digitizing since mid-2009 as many UW professors (and researchers from afar) still want access to many of these titles. While most of them were published and distributed some time ago, it is now extremely difficult to track down titles. In many cases we appear to have the only remaining copies.”

Here’s a schedule of the day’s films, with descriptions compiled by Tucker. UW-related films are being shown from noon to 2 p.m.

9 a.m. Kamarara: The Sickle and Injured Pride (21 minutes). A lazy woodcutter, not wanting to work, threatens suicide by using his sickle trying to frighten his strong-willed wife. She mocks him and urges him on until a passer-by intervenes. He is humiliated. The woodcutter finds a way to back down and saves his pride. Finally, he accepts his responsibility with honor and returns to work. (In Japanese without English subtitles.)

9:30 a.m. Ukiyo-e (19 minutes). A chronological presentation of 300 examples of the ukiyo-e painters’ favorite subject matter: the kimono-clad beauties of the day. It also features works by modern artists who are carrying on the ukiyo-e tradition.

10 a.m., Two Japanese Landscape Scrolls (21 minutes). The “long scroll” of Sesshu Toyo (fifteenth century artist), a seasonal panorama of Chinese landscapes, is contrasted with scrolls of the Japanese countryside by contemporary artist Taikan Yokoyama.

10:30 a.m., Choosing for Happiness (14 minutes). A film that points out character traits that are important to look for when evaluating a marriage partner. It stresses the importance of self-analysis and the acceptance in a marriage partner of those basic attributes which cannot be changed.

10: 50 a.m., Happy Anniversary (12 minutes). France’s Pierre Etaix directed and acted in this comic portrayal of a man trying to reach home to celebrate his wedding anniversary. Etaix presents without words the humorous but frustrating plight of the husband who encounters delay after delay in Paris traffic.

11:15 a.m., Felicia (12 minutes). Filmed in her home, school and neighborhood in Watts, Calif., Felicia is shown observing the area as it was in the spring of 1965, a few months before Watts was devastated by rioting. Felicia comments on hopes and frustrations experienced by the black population as a whole.

11:30 a.m., Coast to Coast in 48 Hours (19 minutes). A documentary on traveling from New York to Los Angeles on Transcontinental Air Transport, the combined railroad and air transport line of the 1930s. Charles A. Lindberg, as one of the company’s directors, makes an appearance.

Noon, A Program of Songs by Sam ‘Lightnin’ Hopkins (8 minutes). This film illustrates an informal performance by a fine country blues guitar player who lived from 1912 to 1982. He sings “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” “Mojo Hand” and “Take Me Back.” (A release of University of Washington Press.)

12:10 p.m., Return to Bikini (23 minutes). A report of the scientific survey by a team from the UW Laboratory of Radiation Biology to determine the condition of Bikini and Aniwetok atolls six years after the last nuclear test detonation.

12:40 p.m., Snow Metamorphism (9 minutes). Time-lapse micrographs taken at the Institute of Low Temperature Science in Sapporo, Japan, illustrate snow compaction under load and different types of metamorphism and melt.

12:55 p.m., Marmots of the Pacific Northwest (20 minutes). The Olympic marmot, one of the Northwest’s unique wildlife species, is introduced. The remarkable habits of the animal in hibernation, reproduction, feeding and social interaction are examined in the marmot’s natural environment of the high mountain meadows of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

1:15 p.m., Time-Lapse Studies of Glacier Flow (13 minutes). This film, mostly in BW but with some color sequences, includes material collected over several years from Pacific Northwest glaciers, and illustrates the flow of glacier ice over an icefall during periods of three to four months. One time-lapse scene also illustrates the up-glacier retreat of a snowline during the summer.

1:30 p.m., Village Potters of Onda (27 minutes). A film showing Japanese folk potters at work using techniques that have remained relatively unchanged for over 250 years. Includes a description of their way of life and the methods used in clay-mixing, throwing, decorating and firing. Produced by Robert Sperry, UW School of Art.

2 p.m., Skanda Sasti (17 minutes). Filmed in Tiruchendur in south India, the film presents “the festival of conquest”‘ celebrating the victory of Skanda, the six-headed son of Shiva, over the Demon in all of its various incarnations. It shows the worship of the iconic statues of Skanda and his two consorts, including the showing of the 101 lights. On the seventh day of the festival the battle between Skanda and the Demon is presented in a pageant showing that, finally, man does not destroy the world, but masters it. The film ends with the ritual marriage of the god and his consorts.

2:25 p.m., Indira Gandhi: A Heritage of Power (22 minutes). Brought up in the shadow and influence of her father and grandfather, Indira Gandhi grew up to a legacy of power and prestige. In a country where women have been subordinated by men, she became the first woman elected prime minister. After imposing curbs on civil liberties, Gandhi was interviewed, responding with apparent candor and charm to questions about her political acts. She hints that the West does not understand India or her own situation.

2:55 p.m., Dream About a House (12 minutes). In this surreal film, the camera is driven relentlessly through the streets of Budapest, wandering restlessly about the architecture. Suddenly a woman beckons and, there, sitting in front of an old apartment house, are those who have shared its living quarters and history.

3:15 p.m., Czechoslovakia (16 minutes). The history of Czechoslovakia is presented from its birth at Versailles to the Communist coup at the end of World War II.

3:40 p.m., A Different Approach (21 minutes). Using broad comedy strokes, this film deals with the traditionally serious subject of employment of people with disabilities. Irreverent humor, a singing and dancing handicapped chorus, top television celebrities and the story of a film within a film dispel myths and prejudices about people with disabilities.  Edward Asner, Norman Lear, Jim Nabors and (the ever-popular) Betty White introduce vignettes which include satires on advertising approaches, as well as candid interviews where people speak out about what it’s like to work with, employ, or be, the handicapped.

4:05 p.m., Discovering Jazz (22 minutes). The history of jazz, a uniquely American art form, is traced from its roots in 19th century black America, where rhythmic and melodic freedom were added to the harmony and structure of European music and contributed such techniques as note bending and call and response.

4:30 p.m., Starfish Realm (14 minutes). The film is set in two locations — the laboratory and the ocean. The first sequence is of starfish and other aquatic creatures such as the anemone and the sea slug. This is a ballet, of sorts, showing the delicate and rhythmic motion of the animals. The second part is an encounter in the laboratory between a crab and an octopus.

4:50 p.m., Dark Secrets, Bright Victory (13 minutes). A film depicting a family’s battle against bulimia. Teenager Heidi is the one with “the problem,” yet her eating disorder is an integral part of the overall family dynamic. She allowed her addictive behavior to provide a temporary release from what seemed otherwise overwhelming problems. In an emotionally charged family counseling session, the family pattern of deception emerges and the foundation for Heidi’s hidden habits becomes clear.


Learn more about the Media Center online here.