Scratch and Crow

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Frame from Scratch and Crow"

Scratch and Crow (1995) is a four-minute, 16mm, animated sound film made by Helen Hill as her MFA thesis at the California Institute of the Arts.

Scratch and Crow has no dialogue, spoken narration, or human voices. Its soundtrack is a mix of subtle sound effects and animals sounds. Hill uses three poetic intertitles to enhance her images' spirituality.

In 2009, the Librarian of Congress named Scratch and Crow to the National Film Registry, a designation reserved for American films deemed worthy of preservation for being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

Colorlab preserved the film in 2007, contributing pro bono lab work for a consortium that included the Hill estate, Paul Gailiunas, Harvard Film Archive, the University of South Carolina, New York University, BB Optics, and the Orphan Film Project. Colorlab's new 16mm print premiered at the 2007 Ann Arbor Film Festival, which was dedicated to Helen Hill, who died that year.


The opening screen credit reads: "A film by Helen Hill." The closing credits: "Thanks to Maureen Selwood, Christine Panushka, Jules Engel, Eastman Kodak, Dollar-a-Day Doodlers. / made at calarts / © ch. hill 1995".

Viewing copies[edit]

  • A 16mm film print is available at Harvard Film Archive and may be loaned with permission. A 16mm print, from the same source negative, may be viewed on-site, by appointment, at the George Amberg Film Study Center, Department of Cinema Studies, New York University.
  • Scratch and Crow appears on the authorized DVD The House of Sweet Magic (2008), a compilation of nine films by Helen Hill. Distributed by the experimental film and video label Peripheral Produce.
  • Timecode NOLA placed a low-resolution, watermarked video copy of "Scratch and Crow" on its Vimeo channel in 2011, part of a 59-minute "Helen Hill Showcase Tribute" (Vimeo title Timecode: NOLA 404). The video compilation includes seven films by Helen Hill, as well as an interview with Hill and footage of "New Orleans Against Crime City Hall Protest" (2007). Scratch and Crow begins at the 31:09 mark and ends at 35:32. [1].
  • A party self-identified as Lost_Shangri_La_Horizon placed a low-resolution video copy of Scratch and Crow on a commercial website on Dec. 16, 2010. Approximately 80 other works from the National Film Registry appear on the Lost_Shangri_La_Horizon Daily Motion site. The video bears the watermark of the Timecode NOLA video described above. [2]


  • Chideya, Farai. "A Mardi Gras Tribute to Helen Hill," Huffington Post, April 18, 2010, [3].
  • cristin, About, [4].
  • Davidson, Amy. "Close Look: Helen Hill," New Yorker, Jan. 8, 2010, [5].
  • Dyess-Nugent, Phil. "Helen Hill Books Into the Library of Congress," The Phil Dyess-Nugent Experience (blog), December 30, 2009, [6].
  • Eagan, Daniel. America's Film Legacy, 2009-2010: A Viewer's Guide to the 50 Landmark Movies (London: Bloomsbury, 2011).
  • Eagan, Daniel. "Five Women Animators Who Shook Up the Industry,", June 13, 2012.
  • Library of Congress news release. "Michael Jackson, the Muppets and Early Cinema Tapped for Preservation in 2009 Library of Congress National Film Registry," Dec. 30, 2009, [7].
  • Streible, Dan. “Media Artists, Local Activists, and Outsider Archivists: The Case of Helen Hill,” in Old and New Media after Katrina, ed. Diane Negra (Palgrave, 2010), 149-74.
  • The Helen Hill Collection, 1990-2006: Film Guide . Harvard Film Archive, Fine Arts Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University, May 2011.