The story of a silent-film studio founded nearly 100 years ago in Providence might have been lost to time if not for the efforts of a recent Rhode Island College graduate.
Adam Tawfik wasn’t sure what he’d find when he began researching Eastern Film Corporation for an honors thesis. With a major in film and a minor in history, Tawfik’s perspective was that he might “uncover a mystery.”
Tawfik’s pursuit of that mystery resulted in his thesis, “The Elusive Eastern Film Corporation of Rhode Island: Resurrecting a Footnote in Film History.”
“One of my hobbies has always been to research obscure movie topics,” said Tawfik, who returned to his home in Athens, Ga., after his May graduation from RIC.
That interest led him to choose RIC, where he found a program that gave him the opportunity to study not just production, but the broad aspects of film. He’s known for years he’s been heading toward being a film historian.
For his thesis on Eastern Film Corporation, Tawfik went to primary sources, including newspaper articles from the 1910s and 1920s. Much of his work was done at the Rhode Island Historical Society, digging through documents and viewing four of Eastern’s films.
“Adam came in here and started pouring through material,” said Jim DaMico, special-collections curator for the society.
“We have 26 silent films from Eastern on cellulose nitrate in our film archives. They’re relatively rare and relatively few films were made in Rhode Island in the 1910s and 1920s,” said DaMico. “Cellulose nitrate is highly combustible, so a lot of the films from that era were lost in fires.”
In addition to the films, some of which have been transferred to VHS or DVD, the Rhode Island Historical Society has documents about the film company’s creation, location and people involved in the company.