There are three ways of looking at “Little Fugitive,” which starts a five-day run at the Museum of Fine Arts on Wednesday. The 1953 film was jointly written and directed by the novelist Raymond Abrashkin (under the name Ray Ashley) and the married couple Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin. Engel also shot it, and Orkin helped edit it. It’s the story of a 7-year-old boy, Joey (Richie Andrusco), who ends up by himself at New York’s Coney Island amusement park.
The first way to look at “Little Fugitive” is as part of film history. For as long as there have been Hollywood movies, there have been non-Hollywood movies: everything from industrial films to avant-garde experiments to features aimed at ethnic audiences. “Little Fugitive” may qualify as the first American film that can be described as “indie” in the way we now use the term: a feature-length work of artistic ambition aimed at the popular audience and made outside of the studio system.