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Warren Relates the Adventures of Film Foundation Operators

First Work Involved Filming of Primitive Berbers of Northern Africa


The following article was written for the Crimson by Hamilton Warren '26, of the University Film Foundation, who is in charge of their present exhibition.

With the opening of an exhibition of educational films at Brattle Hall, Tuesday, the University Film Foundation will progress one step further in its policy of presenting educational films taken from a scientific point of view.

J. A. Haeseler '23 who directed the taking of the films has used a different technique than is common in most educational pictures. Realizing that the common tendency has been to present subjects from an unusual angle with the result of sacrificing many points of importance, he has tried to combine the showman's technical knowledge of motion picture taking with the information of the trained scientist.

Filmed Berbers

Of the present series, the first picture was made among the interesting Berber peoples in Northern Africa. Going abroad, Haeseler met Captain M.W. Hilton-Simpson who was on the point of starting out on an expedition into the Aures Massifs in the north of Africa.

In order to prepare the way for the filming of the people, it was decided to have Captain Hilton-Simpson and his wife precede Haeseler and acquaint, with the new camera, the friends which the explorers had made on previous contacts with the natives. Up to this time the Berbers had only seen the ordinary still camera and no movies had ever been taken of them.

First Attempt Successful

It was a great surprise to Haeseler that the natives regarded the new experience with perfect equanimity. Even close-ups of pottery-making and weaving were made possible by this absolute lack of self-consciousness. The greatest difficulty coincident with taking these pictures as well as films of other primitive peoples was found in handling the great numbers of spectators who gathered. The operator had to be on the alert for moving shadows on the camera's field of vision. Among people less stolid than the Berbers, the forming of an audience had to be prevented in order to help the subjects overcome their feeling of self-consciousness.

Scientific Knowledge Needed

His work among primitive peoples convinced Haeseler that scientific knowledge of the technique recorded by the camera is necessary to take pictures correctly. To secure an accurate record, the subjects had to be photographed in occupations which they do for themselves and not for the benefit of the camera. To take continuous pictures of the daily occupations of the subjects under study would have been a matter of the greatest expense. A knowledge of the subject was necessary so that the operator might know when to start and stop the camera in order to cut down the waste of film to a minimum and yet get all the essentials.

Taken with these ideas in mind the film met with such success that Haeseler was encouraged to go on with this type of picture. On the same trip in Africa he had filmed the Nomad Bedouins who live in the Sahara. After the completion of this picture he went to Central Europe where he produced the film. "Mediaeval Moderns", the principal film in the Foundation's exhibition Tuesday.

Upon returning to America, he interested several prominent officials at Harvard in his idea with the result that the University Film Foundation was organized. Constantly the almost unlimited scientific knowledge of Harvard was put in a position to be demonstrated to the general public through the medium of the motion picture.

The University has provided quarters for the Foundation and encourages the acuity to cooperate in the production of films. All Harvard's laboratories and equipment are at the disposal of the organization when available.

All the films released by the Foundation are not necessarily of their own production. From time to time films of a real scientific value are acquired from others. They are all edited and titled by the organization before release. All the acquisitions must conform to a high standard which the Foundation has set for its work.

World-Wide Cooperation

The collaboration of scientists and explorers throughout the world has been secured to help in the taking of these pictures. This assistance, obtained by sending out hundreds of letters, has made the Foundation's progress more rapid than could have been possible without such help. Among the collection of the University Film Foundation are now found films on microscopic animal life, uncivilized barbarians, and modern industry, medical life. The value of the motion picture as a medium of education lies in the greater impression on the mind caused by pictures, contrasted with books or even experiment, for a single film may take about 30 minutes to show a process involving weeks of work and study.

Varied Program

The films to be presented Tuesday are: "Mediaeval Moderns", "Bedouins of the Sahara", "The Nesting of the Sea Turtles", "Elementary Animals", "The Etcher's Art", and "Drypoint--a Demonstration.

The last two are of a series being produced by the Foundation to illustrate the technique of several of the arts. "The Etcher's Art' will be shown only at the Cambridge performance while "Drypoint' will be limited to the Boston showings at the Fine Arts Theatre the afternoon and evening of Saturday, December 21.

Desert Film

"Bedoins of the Sahara" is a resume of the lives of a nomadic people. It portrays their wanderings and their communities in the oases of the Sahara. "The Nesting of the Sea Turtles" shows how these deep sea creatures crawl upon the sand beaches once each year, to dispose of their eggs in holes dug in the sand with their flippers. Six or eight weeks later the eggs hatch in the warm sand and the baby turtles troop down to the sea to spend the rest of their lives in the water. "Elementary Animals" is a microscopic study of the Amoeba and other Rhizopods.

"Mediaeval Moderns", illustrates the customs and methods of living of a little known plains-people of Hungary. This film with the others which are included in the program, have been selected not only for educational value but to show the possibilities of this sort of work.

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