Mark Williams presentation at the Orphan Film Symposium



Orphan Film Symposium
Saving, studying, and screening neglected cinema and media artifacts since 1999

NYU Cinema Studies and Concordia University presented the thirteenth biennial Orphan Film Symposium, Counter-Archives, in Tiohtià:ke / Montréal, Canada, June 15-18, 2022.  Orphans 2022 resumed the symposium's format as a three-day, four-night in-theater event, with an international group of archivists, scholars, and artists presenting and talking about previously-neglected films. More than 80 presenters took the podium in a total of 16 sessions. Orphans 2022 also met the new era's expectation of "blended content," live-streaming each session from the de Sève Cinema via the NYU Cinema Studies site. We thank Concordia's Jean-Francois Martin and Alexandre Page for fluidly projecting and live-mixing some 30 hours of programming.  

Mark Williams (Dartmouth College) & Aboubakar Sanogo (Carleton University) present a variety of films from the Sherman Grinberg Library and the U.S. National Archives regarding the history of colonialism and "the idea of Africa." These are part of the ongoing Media Ecology Project, which connects scholarly research and archival collections. 

Abstract from Williams and Sanogo:

        This presentation will introduce a new research initiative on the study of little-known archival U.S. cinema that represents Africa. Since the emergence of the moving image in the late 19th century, Africa has been the subject of millions of feet of film footage that have sought to describe, understand, interpellate, colonize, dominate but also emancipate the African continent, and project it into the future.
        The Media Ecology Project (MEP) at Dartmouth is a digital resource that empowers researchers to access, analyze, and teach with moving image collections online. Our research about representations of Africa on film is drawn from a considerable number of largely ignored archival materials from The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), including many educational and documentary films produced or collected by the U.S. Department of State, the Office of War Information,  Office of Strategic Services, U.S. Air Force, Office of Economic Opportunity, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Peace Corps, and the U.S. Information Agency, as well as the Harmon Foundation, Ford Motor Company, and The March of Time organization. These NARA materials will be contrasted to American Pathé Newsreel and Paramount Newsreel materials from the private Sherman Grinberg Film Library that chiefly represent Africa as a site for colonial prowess and attendant spectacles of ceremony for European royalty.
       This complex, contradictory archival corpus demands a revisitation through contemporary lenses to better understand the histories that inform our present and to articulate different and necessary futures. The digital humanities provide a means by which such a revisitation of our collective moving image past will be possible.

Go to to watch the full presentation and for more details about the conference.