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Wunderkino 2013: Visions of Travel and Mobility

posted June 14, 2013

Wunderkino 2013: Visions of Travel and Mobility

14th Annual Northeast Historic Film Summer SymposiumThursday, July 25 – Saturday, July 27, 2013

Images from a film Midgley made of Chicago in 1929-30

Wunderkino is a much-admired, multi-disciplinary gathering of devotees of moving-image history, theory, and preservation. For more than a decade, it has brought together archivists, scholars, artists, and interested members of the public in an intimate setting for three days of viewing and discussing lesser-known, amateur, and found films.

The event takes place at Northeast Historic Film in Bucksport, a town of 5,000 on the coast of Maine. Northeast Historic Film, based in Bucksport, organizes the annual event, which offers insights about culture, heritage, history, geography, performance, and the drama and comedy of social life.

Speakers present an extraordinary assortment of amateur and non-theatrical films – a wunderkino. The term can be glossed as a “wonder-cinema” or “cabinet of cinematic curiosities,” a collection of moving images that projects its makers’ curiosities and personalities. (See earlier MIAN’s articles, here, and here.)

The program for this year’s event concentrates on travel: Presentations explore the ways that, from the beginning of film at the turn of the 20th century, the medium coincided with the advent of mass tourism and travel. Amateur filmmakers took the opportunity for greater mobility about the globe to recorded the forms of travel and what they saw: theme parks, motels, resorts, tourist attractions, highways, and the people they encountered on their travels. With illustrative clips from home movies and little-considered other films, Wunderkino 2013 considers how modern travel affected filmmakers, audiences, and what they saw.

This year’s sessions are typically varied and fascinating – magic-mushroom field trips, world’s fairs, chucklelogues…

The Tree in a Test Tube?: Forestry and Film in Mid-Century Maine

Oliver Gaycken, University of Maryland,the 2012 recipient of NHF’s William O’Farrell Fellowship for research at NHF presents his research on forestry films.

Stan Midgley: Thousands of feet and thousands of miles

Trisha Lendo, from the UCLA Film and Television Archive, discusses the career of Stan Midgley who shot wilderness footage in around the US and made more than 4,000 presentations about his work which embraced regional pronunciations and customs. His films used sight gags so that they came to be known as “chucklelogues” while he became known as “Mark Twain with a camera.

An amateur 1936 film from the Charles Chislett Collection at the Yorkshire Film Archive, Impressions of the ‘Maiden Voyage’ of the ‘Queen Mary’ to New York and back. It depicts the cruise ship’s first voyage from Southampton Docks: cargo being loaded, passengers embarking, the interior of the ship, the journey across and the arrival, with views of New York as it sails up the River Hudson.

The Armchair Traveller: The Travelogues of Charles Joseph Chislett

Sue Howard, Yorkshire Film Archive/Northeast Film Archive, in the United Kingdom, describes the work of Charles Chislett, a bank manager and chair of the Photographic Society in a South Yorkshire industrial city. His travelogues displayed a mix of social standing, financial ability, and a strong ethos of serving his community. In his charity-fundraising films, he aimed for “transporting the armchair traveller to areas of the globe to which they would likely never travel themselves.”

Burton Holmes Travel Films

Ilona Auth, from the Selznick School of Film Preservation in Rochester, New York, describes the work of the originator of the travelogue format, who presented exotic cultures and remote locations to huge audiences at a time of little international travel. His work provokes questions about cultural and geographic education and a sense of global community.

Shooting the Sportsmen’s Paradise: The Role of Early Motion Pictures in the New Brunswick Travel and Tourism Industry

Scott Preston, of the University of New Brunswick in Canada describes the introduction of film to sport hunting, travel, and tourism in New Brunswick around 1900. He examines G.W. “Billy” Bitzer’s “A Moose Hunt in New Brunswick,” a sportsman’s film shown at the New England Forest, Fish and Game Show in Boston in December 1905.


A Sporting Life — on Film: Hunting and Fishing in New England Shown at Boston’s Sportsmen’s Show in 1905

Paul Spehr, from Fairfield, Pennsylvania, discusses G.W. “Billy” Bitzer’s American Mutoscope & Biograph Company hunting and fishing films of Maine, New Brunswick, and elsewhere which were a hit at the 1905 Boston’s Sportsmen’s Show.


From the Town to the Country: Rituals of Working Class Associational Life and Salford Lads Club Camp Films

Richard MacDonald, of Goldsmiths, University of London, presents amateur camping films made by Salford Lads Club in a working class neighbourhood near the Manchester docks. The collection is unusual because at the time amateur home movies were largely a middle-class pursuit.


Oregonian Harry Randall Spanish Civil War films

Kimberly Tarr, of New York University, talks about the Chief Photographer of the Photographic Unit of the 15th International Brigade. Randall’s films of 1937-38 document the life of troops during the Spanish Civil War and the cultural landscape around them.


To the Fair, To the Future: Travel & Film at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair

Amanda Murray, of Wicked Delicate Films, New York, presents a collage of Prelinger Archives footage from 1939 New York World’s Fair and aged fairgoers’ memories of it as they throw light on broadening possibilities for individualized travel, tourism, and consumerism.

Carole Ackerman, the first "Carol Lane." Image: Schlesinger Library.
Engineering the Female Traveler: How to Pack a Suitcase and the Curious Case of the Shell Oil’s ‘Carol Lane’

Melissa Dollman, Schlesinger Library, Harvard University, and Devin Orgeron, North Carolina State University, talk about a WWII aviation researcher for Life magazine, Caroline Ackerman who became the founding director of Shell Oil’s first public-relations program for women. Dollman and Orgeron describe her How to Pack a Suitcase and offer insights to Shell’s unusual, female-focused campaign. Image: Schlesinger Library.

Travel and Mobility as Cultural Diplomacy: The USIA and Government Films Around the World

Brian Real, of the University of Maryland: At the height of the Cold War the United States Information Agency produced or collected thousands of motion pictures about travel and mobility and disseminated them to hundreds of film festivals and clubs around the world to promote American public policy and ideals abroad.

Hell Bound Train

Brian Graney, from Indiana University, describes the late-1920s, sermon-inspired The Hell-Bound Excursion Train, in which Indianapolis-born Baptist James Gist, Jr. and his local cast enacted a catalogue of sins assigned to coach after coach of a train speeding toward Hell. All aboard!

The Curious Case of the Hidden Images from Luxembourg’s National Home Movie Archive: A Travelogue

Françoise Poos, an independent curator in Luxembourg, tackles issues of mobility and the materiality of home movies by tracing the journey of Luxembourg’s Centre National de l’Audiovisuel 2007 Hidden Images exhibit of home movie stills.

Magic Mushroom Mountain Movie

John Klacsmann, of the Anthology Film Archives in New York City, discusses philosopher Manuel DeLanda’s recently digitized Super 8mm avant-garde home movie, Magic Mushroom Mountain Movie which DeLanda shot between 1973 and 1980 during an annual pilgrimage to psychedelic Mazateca rituals in remote Mexican village.

You can register online at the site of Northeast Historic Film in Bucksport, Maine.

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