Wednesday, October 21, 2015

How the Only Extant Footage of Roger Casement was Filmed (1915)

On August 3, 1916, Roger Casement was executed for treason at Pentonville prison in London. Born in 1864 near Dublin to an Anglo-Irish family, Casement went into the diplomatic service, received a knighthood for his humanitarian work and during World War I led an important role in the Irish struggle for independance. With German assistance he tried to organize an Irish Brigade to prepare an uprising against Britain. Shortly after he had entered Ireland on a German submarine he was captured and executed by the British. To some a martyr, to others a traitor - Roger Casement has remained a controversial and historical figure ever since.

Casement has only been captured on one short piece of footage that still exists today. The story how he was filmed is extraordinary and will feature in an upcoming article by authors Cooper C. Graham and Ron van Dopperen for the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television.

We will keep you posted on this latest project!


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Pordenone Screens "On the Firing Line with the Germans" (USA, 1915)

On October 9, authors Jim Castellan and Ron van Dopperen attended the special screening at Pordenone of Wilbur H. Durborough's historical World War I film On the Firing Line with the Germans. Reconstructed by the Library of Congress and with a musical score on the piano by Philip Carli, the film was shown to a crowded Verdi theatre. Afterwards we had a panel discussion at the Hotel Moderno, which was also well attended and organized together with Marten van Harten, project coordinator of the International Network of Museums for Peace.

Jim Castellan, Ron van Dopperen and Marten van Harten 

For a war film it is somewhat ironic that the scene that attracted most attention has nothing to do with the German army during World War I. Durborough's film has a short segment showing the first attempt by the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom (founded in 1915) to stop the Great War. Apart from the evolving public interest and historical value of this feature documentary - which was compared to the British classic World War I film The Battle of the Somme (1916) - the film was also applauded for the restoration work by the Library of Congress. To make this possible, in 2010 Cooper C. Graham and Jim Castellan began the process of reviewing and logging each reel of known Durborough film in the Library’s nitrate vault and the National Archives film collection. Lost footage shot by Durborough not found on the surviving nitrate reels was found in the Signal Corps film collection of the National Archives. Research by Ron van Dopperen, Graham and Castellan led through an online film sourcing company to Signal Corps film with no identifiable source but identified as Durborough’s by initial film frames associated with the titles on the Copyright paper print rolls in the Library of Congress.

Restoration Process

The Durborough film with its accompanying musical score is now in the public domain and available in digital (dcp) format. The nitrate reels were reviewed using the reconstruction script and select scenes and reels were optically printed using an Oxberry optical printer with a KL wetgate to create new internegatives.  The new negatives were then scanned using a DFT Spirit Classic datacine in 1080p 24fps HD.  The digital files were next loaded onto a Macintosh computer for review and assembled using Final Cut Pro X. The final step was to have the images masked, stabilized, and speed corrected using the Clipster by DVS. Apart from Mike Mashon, head of the Moving Picture Department at the Library of Congress, we would like to thank the full staff of this restoration project: Nitrate Inspection and Selection: Valerie Cervantes, Lynanne Schweighofer, George Willeman; Optical Printing: Brian Allan and Michael Hinton; Scanning: Pat Kennedy; Digital Assembly: George Willeman and Lynanne Schweighofer; Digital Masking and Stabilization: John Carter; Project Manager: Rob Stone.

Q&A at the Moderno Hotel after the film show

Interest by the International Peace Movement

Pointing out the interests of the international peace museums, Marten van Harten has outlined several ways how the original film can be presented in different countries. Screenings could be combined with short films on legal aspects such as women's rights.  For permanent museum use there may be a demand for a number of selected scenes showing the casualties of war, the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw and the suffering of the civilian population on the eastern front, as filmed by Durborough. The film scene showing the 1915 peace initiative will also be used on October 16 for Global Ethics Day.

Last but not least, we would like to thank Kevin Brownlow for his support and interest in our film research - we were very pleased he attended our dinner after the film show - as well as David Robinson, director of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival for his work on getting the Durborough film on the program!

P.S: The international film journal Sight & Sound in December 2015 published this review of the exhibition of Durborough's film at Pordenone.

Posted before on YouTube, here is a short compilation of scenes from the movie, as shown on October 9.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Press Release: INMP Leads Campaign to Restore Historic 1915 World War I Film

Pordenone, Italy –  An international and interdisciplinary coalition, organized in the Netherlands under the guidance of the International Network of Museums for Peace (INMP), will enjoy the success of its campaign to restore Wilbur H. Durborough’s 1915 World War I documentary film, On the Firing Line with the Germans, when it premieres this week at the 34th annual Pordenone Silent Film Festival. 

Advertisement, Moving Picture World, February 26, 1916

NGO’s, museums, researchers and academics became interested in the film when it was discovered to contain rare footage of an international delegation of women (including future Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Jane Addams (the first U.S. woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize), and Dutch suffragist and peace activist Aletta Jacobs).  In 1915, this delegation functioned as envoys on a citizen diplomacy mission to end World War I.  The mission arose out of the historic 1915 International Women’s Congress in The Hague, The Netherlands – organized by Jacobs and presided over by Addams -- in an effort to end the hostilities of World War I with a process of mediation.   Over 1100 women attended this meeting, with the largest delegations coming from the Netherlands and the United States.

Scholars believe that this and other important historical stories can be powerfully told with the restoration of the Durborough Film.  “Most people are completely unaware that internationally organized women – although lacking any formal political voice – were bold enough to meet with foreign ministers, chancellors, President Wilson and even The Pope, in an attempt to end World War 1.  This film provides an opportunity to tell this important story of diplomatic history and link it to the present.  It is also an effective tool by which to educate the public about the development of international law”, said Hope Elizabeth May, Professor of Philosophy at Central Michigan University, who enlisted the support of U.S. Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice, Stephen J. Rapp, in the campaign to restore the film.  “Peace museums expressed strong interest in view of the ongoing cycle of world war commemorations", said historian Marten van Harten,  INMP program coordinator and the initiator of the campaign.  “Ambassador Rapp’s letter of support made a strong impression on the Library of Congress and helped to shift the balance.”

1915 Delegation for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Also joining in the campaign was the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom (WILPF), which was formed as the result of the 1915 Hague meeting.  WILPF, which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, remains the oldest international women’s peace organization in the world today. In addition to its importance for peace historians and activists, the film also has exceptional cinematographic, historic and educational value.  Researcher James Castellan, who has been researching the film and working on its reconstruction since 2001, notes that it is the only existing, essentially complete World War I feature-length documentary film.

The restoration of this historic film, undertaken by the United States Library of Congress, will premiere on October 9, 2015 at 3:50pm in the Teatro Verdi at 15:50, with music by Philip Carli as accompanist. The film will be followed by a Questions and Answers panel at the Hotel Moderno. The panel will include Mr. Mike Mashon of the U.S. Library of Congress restoration team, James Castellan, film researcher / co-author of American Cinematographers in the Great War (London/John Libbey Publishing 2014), Prof. Hope Elizabeth May of  Central Michigan University /The Bertha von Suttner Project, Prof. Giovanna Pagani, Honorary President of WILPF Italia, Mr. Marten van Harten of INMP /Historical Film for Peace Education Project, and Dutch film historian Ron van Dopperen (moderator and co-author of American Cinematographers in the Great War).

For more information on 100 years of efforts by women to stop war read the INMP Newsletter.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Contact: Marten van Harten
International Network of Museums for Peace

Friday, October 2, 2015

Pordenone Catalogue Features Restored World War I Film

On the Firing Line with the Germans, the 1915 World War I film shot by Wilbur H. Durborough, features in this years edition of the catalogue of the Pordenone Silent Film Festival. As announced before, after almost one hundred years the movie will have its second premiere on Friday October 9, 2015, as part of the World War I Centennial program by the Pordenone Festival and accompanied by a special musical arrangement. It has been restored and digitized by the staff of the Library of Congress.

Durborough (left) with American reporters on the Eastern Front. Frame from his war film

The Pordenone Film Catalogue describes the importance of this World War I movie for early film history and also has some comments by Marten van Harten, on behalf of the International Network of Museums for Peace, on the special significance of this film for the 20th century peace movement. The restoration of the Durborough film has been enthusiastically supported by this international organization.

The catalogue description of the Durborough World War I film can be viewed and downloaded here.