Welcome San Francisco Movie Makers (1960)

Preserved by the San Francisco Media Archive with NFPF support.

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Archive Spotlight: Chicago Film Archives

Lord Thing (1970) by DeWitt Beall, courtesy Chicago Film Archives.

One of the things we hope to do regularly on this blog is bring attention to some of the work being done by the organizations who participate in our preservation program.

The Chicago Film Archives is a great example of what a small-scale organization can accomplish through determination and ingenuity. Established in 2003 by Executive Director Nancy Watrous as a repository for the 5,000-item film collection that was being disposed of by the Chicago Public Library, the CFA has rapidly grown into an important regional archive holding more than 20,000 films, the earliest of which—A Pictorial Story of Hiawatha—dates back to 1903.

In 2005, the CFA was awarded its first grant from the NFPF to preserve Fairy Princess (1956), a short film by amateur moviemaker Margaret Conneely that was named one of the Photographic Society of America’s “Ten Best” films of 1956.

In the ensuing 10 years, the CFA has preserved 23 additional films through our grant program, all of which—with the exception of their most recent projects—are available for viewing on their website and YouTube channel. Highlights include DeWitt Beall’s Lord Thing (1970), a fictionalized account of the political transformation of the Chicago street gang the Vice Lords that was rescued from VHS obscurity when the CFA discovered 16mm prints of the film in the care of Beall’s widow.

Like many archives, the CFA can’t afford film-to-film preservation for every title in its collection, but in the meantime all of the films are kept stabilized in climate-controlled vaults and many of them have been uploaded to its YouTube channel. With some 1,500 films available for viewing—from home movies of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair and playing Frisbee in Grant Park in 1973 to dance films by Ruth Page and TV commercials from the 60s—the CFA deserves special recognition for its commitment to public access.

Disintegration Line #2 (DL2) (1960s) by Larry Janiak, courtesy Chicago Film Archives

The CFA’s engagement with the local community can also be seen in their public events, which include outdoor screenings, collaborations with local musicians, and its CFA Crashers series which invites outside programmers into the vaults to curate a program.

For a more in-depth profile of the CFA, check out this excellent article that appeared in the Chicago Reader last year. To keep up to date about their latest projects and activities, follow them on Facebook. And if you live in New York, be sure to check out the Larry Janiak retrospective at Anthology Film Archives on Sunday, July 19th. It includes brand new prints of three films recently preserved with NFPF support. CFA Collections Manager Anne Wells will be in attendance to introduce the program.


Watch the Following Films from CFA Preserved with NFPF Support

Tags: grant film, Archive Spotlight

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