Saving Brinton (NR)

Documentary 90 min. May 18, 2018
By Craig D. Lindsey
Like last year’s haunting Dawson City: Frozen Time, Saving Brinton tells the story of small-town folk who unearth long-lost, turn-of-the-century cinema in their sleepy part of the world. The celluloid excavator that’s front and center here is Michael Zahs, a likable fellow from Washington County, Iowa, with a bald head and a long white beard, a sort of Santa with goodies he’s holding on to for preservation purposes.

He collects old nitrate stock and projection slides that once belonged to Frank and Indiana Brinton, an Iowa couple who early in the 20th century traveled Middle America, blowing people’s minds with films and pictures they would project on a big screen. The Brintons’ archives also are filled with valuable doozies (including some Georges Méliès films) that now have film historians and preservationists knocking on Zahs’ door.

Brinton delves deeply into the joy and surprise of discovering 20th-century films once considered dead and gone. But this documentary’s directors also create a sunny, adorable portrait of a good man with a great hobby. For Zahs, collecting these movies isn’t so much an obsession as it is a civic duty. As a man who does all he can to hip his neighbors to his town’s rich history (teach at schools, commandeer bus tours, etc.), keeping the Brinton legacy alive and well is just another service he does with pride.
Tommy Haines, Andrew Sherburne Barn Owl Pictures

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