What’s a silent film, film forgers ?

April 3, 2007 § Leave a comment

Observations on film art and FILM ART : Film forgery has a couple of examples of silent films forged in mockumentaries around the years. I’d be especially intrigued by Forgotten Silver (1995) as I haven’t seen it yet; but judging from the screen grabs that Bordwell has made available, the pastiche references (Cecil B. De Mille’s 1916 Joan of Arc for one) seem pretty obvious.

Forgery was so prevalent in silent Hollywood films that I’m surprised it is not mentioned in Bordwell’s post at all: from faked WW 1 battle shots presented as authentic to safaris that never quite took place, not to mention the countless times that the trade press reports an “authentic” background, or a “historically correct” background, opr a raging debate about how “authentic” a background is in a film — when what you really you get is a beautiful fantasy land of “Hungary” or “Europe” as Hollywood sees it –forgery was a constant. I’ve given a few examples of faked news on a previous web site of mine, cinebuds which I’ve stopped maintaining for some time. I’m sure one could find plenty of other examples.

And all this forgery was never an issue — not until, that is, the Ingagi scandal in 1931: a faked African documentary made of shots lifted from other documentaries and faked jungle scenes, and forbidden by the MPPDA in 1931

not because of the insinuations of relations between the African women and gorillas, but because Congo Pictures had represented the film as authentic when in fact it wasn’t. (Los Angeles Times, Jan. 8, 2007)

So far, Ingagi is the only and earliest example I’ve found of a film forbidden on the ground of its being “unauthentic” and of not being what it purports to be (on that ground wouldn’t most Hollywood films of the 1920s have to be forbidden ?). I’d love to get more examples. So far, and given the absolute lack of precedence, I don’t really understand why Ingagi was such a big deal…


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