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Mike Zahs

“SAVING BRINTON” My rating B-

90 minutes | No MPAA rating

By most calculations,  rural Iowan Mike Zahs is a hoarder — which is to say he suffers from a disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.

The retired teacher — who sports a beard worthy of an Old Testament prophet — has a house (two of them actually) packed floor to ceiling with items that might be precious or worthless. Apparently he has his own mental filing system that allows him to locate certain items in all the confusion. His wife can only roll her eyes.

Thing is, Zahs is terrifically articulate, which helps ease our concerns that he may just be another wack job.

And it turns out that Zahs’ towering mountain of junk contains some real treasures. Nearly 30 years ago Zahs took responsibility for the long-abandoned home of fellow townsman William Franklin Brinton, who in the early years of the 20th century traveled the Midwest putting on magic lantern shows and projecting early motion pictures to audiences of farmers and small towners.

Amidst this collection of yellowing posters, ancient projectors and other paraphernalia of old-timey entertainment,  Zahs has discovered a reel of nitrate film, a hand-colored short by the great French cinema pioneer Georges Melies.  It is, in fact, the only known copy of this particular film.  (Melies’ life and art was was the inspiration for Martin Scorsese’s 2011  “Hugo” in which Ben Kingsley portrayed the great magician of early film.)

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