Lost Films

Lost Films

Will they ever be rediscovered?

There's something infinitely mysterious about lost movies. In modern day, it seems like footage never dies, even footage that (mostly celebrities) don't want to be aired, like sex tapes and other leakages. Today, we can't keep our videos to ourselves.

But in the history of filmmaking, only 4.8% of films ever made are available to the public, according to TCM. I wish they had offered more explanation for this--are these student films in grad school? Ten second films of a flower moving in the breeze? Certainly these were acts of love, but it's more romantic to think of bigger-budget films seen by huge numbers of audience members being lost forever. These types of films certainly have shaped our cultural consciousnesses, but since they are lost, we'll never know in what ways.Collectors are constantly searching for these lost relics. The Internet has brought pieces of lost films back together, but there are still many, many more fairly well-known films that still need to be found.

One of the most amazing aspects of lost film collection is that people still know so much about the plot and actors involved with the project, and often have stills or screenshots of the original movie. These lost films are amazingly well-documented, and one wonders about why careful documentation has been preserved, while the film itself has not. In other words, how does anyone know that these lost films ever existed in the first place? How can TCM make an estimate as accurate as 4.8%?

io9.com's Gordon Jackson has compiled some of the most-sought-after lost films from the earliest days of cinema. These films have been lost because of disaster, accident or a perceived disinterest. Some of the films have been lost for decades, and probably will never be found. Others have been destroyed, and will certainly never be found. I find it unreasonably sad that we can know so much about a movie we will are almost guaranteed to never find again.

One of the strangest lost films on the list is Ingagi (1930), a film that was billed as a documentary that featured "found footage" of a tribe that sacrificed women to a giant gorilla. Obviously, the validity of the found footage was challenged and the film was no longer allowed to be distributed, causing it to fall into obscurity.

What do you think about lost films? Do you think collectors of these pieces of cinema history are wasting their time?