Lost Films: Identify Missing Cinema Through Crowdsourcing

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.

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Comments (4)
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  • Anonymous says:

     Inter­est­ing project how­ev­er I feel the peo­ple who could iden­ti­fy these movies will either be long gone or too old to remem­ber these movies.

  • tankred says:

    the image reminds me of a draw­ing by Fran­cis Picabia fig­ur­ing a dot­ted man. But I doubt F.P. has some­thing to do with this orig­i­nal movie, it is more like­ly that he was inspired by
     this same movie. 

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