Monday, July 28, 2014

A peek into Mostly Lost, the Library of Congress's mystery film festival

The Library of Congress's film archives, located in Culpeper, Virginia, house hundreds of films from the silent era with seemingly no identification attached to them. Most if not all of the cast and crew of these films are no longer alive, and it's unlikely that the nation's archivists will ever positively identify some of these no-name, undocumented works. But that won't stop them from trying.

Every year, the Library of Congress hosts Mostly Lost, a film event that gives film scholars a chance to watch and dissect some of these unusual films. This is not intended to be a film festival for general audiences; viewers are discouraged from simply watching the films for enjoyment and often bring electronic devices to perform research during screenings. The whole event is deeply academic, especially considering scholarly presentations before and after the films, so this is clearly an event for enthusiasts and experts only.

Unfortunately, we missed this year's event (it went down two weeks ago), but NPR provides some insight into how Mostly Lost unfolded and what sort of people show up for an event like this. From the sound of it, at least a few films were positively identified. Considering how many films from the silent era have been permanently lost, this is a very good thing.

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