We discovered another rare film in the Harvard Film Archive’s collections this week.
THE NEW-ARK (1968) was written and directed by Leroi Jones AKA Amiri Baraka (1934-2014). The HFA has a print, possibly unique, in the James Hinton Collection. Hinton was cinematographer on the film.
THE NEW-ARK is a creative documentary about Black Education, urban public theater, and political consciousness-raising in Newark, NJ, set inside and outside of Spirit House. Spirit House, also known as Heckalu Community Center, was a Black Nationalist community center in Newark, NJ, under the leadership of poet, playwright, and activist Amiri Baraka (known at the time as LeRoi Jones). Includes shots of Baraka reading “Poem to Half-White College Students.” There are shots of Spirit House Community Black School including the teaching of the Black Alphabet. The film contains footage of street theater performances, political rallies, rehearsals, martial arts practice, discussions, dance and musical performances. (blurb based on a description by Chuck Jackson)
The 1968 Ektachrome print is in decent condition and the HFA plans to partner with Anthology Film Archives to digitize the print and make it available for screenings.
Sometimes we just have to laugh at the things that come into the Film Conservation Center.
We have to laugh because otherwise we might cry.
The Caroline Leaf Collection experienced many moments of closure last week. To begin with, it is now processed, encoded, and the finding aid is up online. I really enjoyed working on this collection and becoming so familiar with Caroline Leaf, the innovative Canadian-American animator and filmmaker, and her work. Her animated and live-action films demonstrate a consistent and delicate balance of whimsical artistry underlined with dark themes. And throughout all of her art, there is willingness – nay, resolve – to invent new methods and execute them beautifully, no matter the time commitment. These qualities are well represented in her collection as well, which is full of drawings and test samples that reveal her extensive processes.
Some snapshots of Caroline Leaf during the making of Interview.
Serendipitously, Caroline Leaf herself traveled from England to visit the Harvard Film Archive last week in order to approve a new answer print of Sand or Peter and the Wolf. There had been a protracted back-and-forth creating the new print because the coloring wasn’t quite right for a while. Her visit just happened to coincide with the finishing of her finding aid, and I had the exciting opportunity to meet (and lunch with!) her. She even gave some feedback on the finding aid, which is a rare opportunity for both a processing archivist and the person for whom the collection is about.
This is a guest post from our fall intern, Tricia Patterson!
The past few weeks, I have been processing The Caroline Leaf Collection. Leaf is an award-winning Canadian animator who also spent some time teaching animation at Harvard University between 1996 and 1998. She is most known for innovative animation techniques, such as using sand to illustrate characters and movement or scratching images directly onto film.
In 1991, she produced her short film Two Sisters (or Entre Deux Soeurs), for which she won 12 awards, including First Prize in the 5-15 minute category at the prestigious Annecy International Animation Festival. As I started sorting through the collection, I found it actually contains many of her original development materials for Two Sisters (as well as other works), including storyboards, test film strips, and other stuff. But I came across one illustration and what looked like an accompanying short story along with a note that I found quite confusing.
Specifically, the line “adapted from The Master and Margarita” was baffling because it just so happened to be one of my favorite novels. But I had watched Two Sisters, and frankly had detected zero similarities between her short, the book, the illustration, and the short story. Further, none of the other pre-production materials suggested a connection either. EXCEPT: nestled in the box there also happened to be a copy of the book itself. Yet, I felt it had to be some sort of mistake – some accidental tenuous connection made during the inventory. I set it aside, determined to investigate at a later point.
And then I found it: while going through her collection of VHS tapes, I found a talk she gave about her work for ASIFA, including an in-depth narrative of how Two Sisters developed!
It turns out, Caroline Leaf also fell in love with the book, particularly the idea of a devil character that enters a story and changes all of the characters’ lives in some way. In 1979, she attempted to write a radio play version of it, but she ran into the problem of wanting to keep every detail in the story and not really having enough room. So she took a different approach and wrote a one-page story about a family going for a drive and stopping to pick up a stranger that ends up staying with the family for six months and altering each of their lives in a different way. Enter: the illustration and short story I found.