Sag Harbor Cinema continues its “Kids and Families” program with a one week run of the classic of American independent cinema “Little Fugitive,” in which a little boy, tricked into believing he has killed his older brother, runs away to Coney Island.
The Academy award nominated film was written and directed by Ruth Orkin and Morris Engel, who married during the production, along with Ray Ashley. Engel, whose rare and extraordinary films include “Lovers and Lollipops” and “Weddings and Babies,” shot the film himself on a shoestring budget, capturing the magical atmosphere of New York in the ‘50s and the exotic wonders of Coney Island’s Luna Park as seen through the eyes of his 7-year-old lead, Richie Andrusco.
The filmmakers cast non-actor children and made great use of summer street life in order to obtain the film’s natural feel. Engel’s fluid, mostly handheld, camera style was pioneering at the time for a 35mm theatrical release. Its profound influence can be seen not only in the American independent cinema to come, but also overseas. It premiered at the International Venice Film Festival in 1953, where it won the Silver Lion and a Silver Ribbon for best non-Italian film of the year. François Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” is widely considered to have been inspired by Engel and Orkin’s masterpiece.
“The Little Fugitive is one the great films about New York, and one of the great films about summer,” said SHC’s artistic director Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan. “It is also brilliant, visionary filmmaking in its perfect balance between a pioneering, realistic style and fairy tale atmosphere. And it speaks of the universal power of the best cinema, which makes it an ideal choice for our ‘Kids and Family’ series.
“I am thrilled to share it with our audiences and to have an opportunity to salute Ruth Orkin’s Centennial in the presence of Mary Engel, who has done so much to preserve the memory of her parents’ work.”
Mary Engel, the daughter of Orkin and Engel, who runs the Orkin Engel Archive, will participate in a Q&A about the film and her parents’ legacy following the August 23 screening at 7 p.m. This screening will be in collaboration with Ruth Orkin’s centennial, celebrating the 100th year after the noted photographer’s birth. Tickets available on Sag Harbor Cinema’s website, sagharborcinema.org.