Little Fugitive

Little Fugitive

A film by Ray Ashley, Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin

Little Fugitive, Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin, 1953, DCP,

07/04 OV English with Spanish subtitles
20/04 OV English with Basque subtitles

This is the film that François Truffaut always remembered as the origin of the New Wave. It taught young directors how to film reality and that independent cinema was possible. New American cinema also owes much to this film, and one of its key names, John Cassavetes, always cited it has having taught them to envisage a direct style of cinema and new production methods distinct from the classic and extravagant films made in the big studios. It is a real treasure and an absolute benchmark from the history of film, and a piece which marks the closure of our dialogues in the cinema about the work of photographer Berenice Abbott.

The photography revolution at the hands of Abbott and her generation came at a time when the North-American photographer went out into the country’s streets to document the circumstances following the Great Depression, and something similar took place in the world of cinema and its evolution. Alongside a new awareness which was more connected to reality were new models of 16mm and 35mm portable cameras developed during the Second World War. These ended up in the hands of young film makers, making it possible, finally, for them to work with light equipment and to launch themselves into telling the story of what happened on the country’s streets. Italian neorealism had already gone down that road and its forms, ethics and aesthetics were starting to show the way. This movie is one example: the writer and film maker Ray Ashley formed a team together with his wife, the photographer Ruth Orkin, and the photographer Morris Engel. They filmed in real settings and without professional actors, with no support from producers or distributors. This is how certain revolutions get off the ground.

The film tells a day in the life of Joey, a seven-year-old kid from Brooklyn who runs away to Coney Island for an adventure-packed day. A handheld camera, authenticity, an austere style, a simple story, direct and sometimes improvised filming, and an iconic protagonist… finally cinema—the new cinema—dared to go into the streets to document a small fiction in the midst of a real setting.

Little Fugitive was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Writing and won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival.