Reel treasure found
Unbeknownst to The New Zealand Film Archives, 75 early American films have been in its possession, including the sole copy known to exist of a silent film directed by cinema icon John Ford, who later went on to make Grapes of Wrath and The Quiet Man. The film, called Upstream, is described as a backstage romance between an aspiring actor and a girl from a knife-throwing act. The collection also includes works produced between 191 and 192 starring important female actors such as Clara Bow and Mabel Normand. The batch is being seen as a time capsule of American film from the 191s and 192s. Only about a fifth of all US films produced between 19 and 194 have survived, the rest having been lost through decay or neglect. It is thought that New Zealand had such a rich trove of early films largely because of the distribution system at the time. Copies would be sent out across America and beyond, and after their run had finished they would either be sent back to the distributors or simply be destroyed. New Zealand was so distant that cinemas hung on to the copies and in some cases stored them, from where some made their way into the national film archive.