Producer Watrous forms non-profit Chicago Film Archives with 5,300 rare 16mm films

Three years ago, when the Chicago Public Library announced it was clearing out its collection of 5,000 16mm titles, producer Nancy Watrous wanted to acquire it.

After the library deliberated for 18 months, it was persuaded to donate the collection to Watrous, who has formed Chicago Film Archives, a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization.

The rare collection of professional, amateur and home movies spanning eight decades in all genres, is the foundation of CFA’s regional film archive.

Watrous calls it “one that expresses both the history of Chicago filmmaking, as well as Chicago history itself.”

“Glimpse of CFA” will screen six films of varying genres and lengths from the collection on Dec. 10, 7 p.m. at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Watrous also received a generous donation of 300 films from former equipment purveyor, Jack Behrend. The 1960s and ?70s groundbreaking films of the late genius director Gordon Weisenborn are included in the Behrend donation.

Films are stored at Watrous’ 1,300-sq. ft. office at 329 W. 18th St. A librarian/information manager is in the process of cataloging the films, including a partial electronic catalog.

“The objective, once the films are cataloged, is to make them accessible for programming and research by academic and cultural institutions,” Watrous said.

While Watrous is self-funding CFA, the organization will hold a fund-raiser in May, also at the Cultural Center.

The Dec. 10 16mm program includes: “American Shoeshine,” by Sparky Green, 1979; “Zea,” by Andre DeLuc, 1981; “Siege,” by Julien Bryan, 1939; “The New World of Stainless Steel,” by Republic Steel, 1960; “High Lonesome Sound,” by John Cohen, 1963 and “Santa Claus Suit,” by Martin Steven, 1953.

Watrous’ phone is 773/478-3799.