Can you identify the man in this picture? The archivists at Lost Films hope you can. The image is taken from footage of a vintage film that no one has been able to identify. According to the description that goes with the still, all we know now is that this oddly-dressed character is an escaped convict named “Hem Lock.” The movie is probably American, and it was most likely shot somewhere around 1923. If you think you can add some more information, it’s time for you to sign up.
More than 80 percent of silent films and a high percentage of old sound films have been lost or are now unaccounted for. Lost Films is a collaborative effort among film societies in Germany, France, Poland, New Zealand, and several other countries to help identify and locate some 3,500 lost or missing films through crowdsourcing. Anyone can become a member and then upload clips and images from “mystery movies” to the site, and also comment on the as-yet-untitled stills and images that have already been uploaded. The site also contains a heartening list of films that have been recently been recovered.
The project is funded by the German Federal Cultural Association.
Be sure to find many silent and early sound movies (among other things) in our collection of Free Movies Online.
Sheerly Avni is a San Francisco-based arts and culture writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, LA Weekly, Mother Jones, and many other publications. You can follow her on twitter at @sheerly.