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CRMA Presents a Silent Film Festival with Collector and Historian Michael Zahs

July 10, 2013
Historian Michael Zahs. Photo courtesy of Humanities Iowa.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa Step back into film entertainment as it was over a hundred years ago with well-known collector and historian Michael Zahs. Short films predating 1908, as well as “magic lantern slides” will be shown as Zahs shares anecdotes and details about them. The public is invited to attend this no-cost event on Thursday, July 18 at 6:00 p.m. in the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (CRMA) Auditorium.

Zahs’s collection is one of the largest of the earliest films, and is internationally significant in film history. Attendees will be the only people in the world watching these films, as these are the only copies in existence. This will be the first time they will be shown in Cedar Rapids. Typically, Zahs shares the films in classes and the Briten Film Festival at Ainsworth Opera House. He has been working with Humanities Iowa and the University of Iowa special collections to preserve, restore, and digitize these films.

“These films predate what most people think of as old films,” said Zahs in an interview with the CRMA. “Some are as old as 1894. Originally, they would have been shown in Iowa’s opera houses. World traveler Frank Brinton would have entertained audiences with magic lantern slides as an illustrated lecture. He would have talked and shown the slides while sharing artifacts and costumes. He was the first in area to do this.”

As the CRMA celebrates the work of Brian Selznick with its latest exhibition, attendees familiar with the film Hugo might recognize some of the sets that are shown in the film, as well as appearances by George Méliès and his wife. Méliès is also the film pioneer who provides a major plot point to the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which inspired the movie Hugo.

The evening’s presenter, Michael Zahs, will be able to delight guests with interesting details about these rare films. He currently leads historical bus hours in Washington County, and prior to that, he taught in Iowa public schools for 39 years. He received his BA and MA degress from the University of Northern Iowa.