As an architecture student at Yale in the late 1960s, Josh Morton lived in New Haven's Hill neighborhood, half a block from the local chapter headquarters of the Black Panther Party. Looking for a new way to support their cause, Morton volunteered to drive for the Panthers' "Breakfast for Children" program, picking up kids in his van, feeding them pancakes in a local church basement, and driving them to school. After gaining the Panthers' trust through his work, they handed him a 16mm camera and asked him to make films about their community to help them raise money.
In the fall of 2015, after learning of Morton's films through fellow filmmaker Nick Doob '69, the Yale Film Study Center's Archive & Special Collections Manager Brian Meacham contacted Morton, a graduate of both Yale College (1967) and the Yale School of Art and Architecture (1972), to inquire about the series of documentary films he made in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 2016, the FSC received a donation from Morton of original elements and prints of six films, including the observational documentary Mayday (1970), as well as a short film titled Puppet Show (1970). This film, one of the first Morton made, depicts a puppet show about the Panthers that was presented for neighborhood kids at the group's New Haven headquarters.
Earlier this month, Meacham and Morton presented a new 16mm preservation print of the film at the 2019 Orphan Film Symposium focusing on "Radicals" at the Austrian Film Museum in Vienna. Alongside film archivists, filmmakers, and academics from institutions around Europe and North America, Meacham and Morton told the story of the creation and preservation of the film, and presented the world premiere of the newly-preserved print.
Photo credit: Thomas Christensen, Danish Film Institute.