The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has acquired the entire sixteen-film catalog of Ila Bêka and French Louise Lemoine, two collaborative filmmakers whose work intervenes in the fields of both architecture and cinema. For ten years, Bêka and Lemoine have developed cinematographic work known for its innovative approach to representing contemporary architecture. The acquisition represents the Department of Architecture and Design's first foray into the medium of film.
“Film is becoming a significant tool for in-depth exploration and transmission of architecture and design experiences, and not only aesthetics and process . . . In focusing on the subjective experience of architecture,” wrote MoMA collection specialist Paul Galloway. “The [films of Beka and Lemoine] further MoMA’s ability to examine and present the relevance of building design to everyday life.”
Learn more about the film practice of Bêka and Lemoine here. Details about the acquisition can be found here.
NFAI Recovers 30 Hours of WWII Footage Featuring Indian Forces
The National Film Archive of India (NFAI) recently acquired thirty hours of rare footage of Indian forces in action on various fronts of the Second World War. The films were shot by British cameramen in the midst of the war and had been stored at the Armed Forces Film and Photo Division. The material was in U-Matic format and shows Indians contributing to the war effort in Burma, Africa, West Asia, and Europe.
According to NFAI director Prakash Magdum, “The NFAI doesn’t have such a thing in its collection. So it is important for us. Indians made up the largest voluntary forces in WWII. But their sacrifice has not been well documented.”
The NFAI expects to make the films available to the general public soon. The archive has already digitized the footage and is in the process of cataloguing each film with the help of military historians.
In August 2015, the ABS-CBN Film Archives launched the “Sagip Pelikula (Save Our Films)” advocacy campaign, in partnership with Central Digital Lab, to further its cause of restoring classic Filipino films. Since it began this restoration work in 2011, the archive has completed work on over a hundred films produced between 1976 and 2011, including Ishmael Bernal’s Himala (1982) and Peque Gallaga’s Oro, Plata, Mata (1982). The restored films have been released across multiple platforms including theatrical runs, film festivals, free-to-air and cable television, DVDs, and digital streaming services.
“If we don’t start restoring them now, we will lose them forever,” said Manet Dayrit, president of Central Digital Lab, of the hundreds of films in storage that remain to be restored and digitally remastered.
Further details on the restoration project can be found here.
[Above: A still image from Himala (Ishmael Bernal, 1982), showing restoration]
The Cohen Film Collectionrecently announced that it has completed a digital restoration of Julie Dash’s canonical Daughters of the Dust (1991) and plans to release that version theatrically this fall as part of the reopening of the New York art house venue theQuad Cinema. A national release and a new Blu-ray version of the film will follow.
“The film had not been properly color graded when it was originally released,” said Tim Lanza, the archivist at Cohen Film. “We worked with the cinematographer A.J.”—that is, Arthur Jafa—“to approve the color grade we had done.” He continued, “The big issue for Julie and A.J. was capturing the variety of African-American skin tones. That was not something presented in the first version available.”
The filmdepicts a family of Gullah women living on the Sea Islands and their decision to migrate to the American mainland in the early 1900s. Its restoration coincides with the release of Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade. Many critics have noted the influence of Dash’s work on the contemporary album.
“Native Son” Restoration Premieres, Argentina Gifts a Copy to Obama
The Library of Congress (LoC) recently completed its restoration of the 1951 film adaptation of Richard Wright’s Native Son, directed by Pierre Chenal,using an international version discovered in El Archivo General de Puerto Rico. The film was restored to its original 107 minutes with additional material from a 16mm Argentine print, for a total of sixteen extra minutes. The full Native Son had its premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in February. A less complete restoration-in-progress was shown once at the 2012 New York Film Festival.
Native Son was an English-language production filmed in Argentina with stock shots of Chicago. The movie had a largely American cast, including the former showgirl Jean Wallace (Mary) and Gloria Madison, a University of Chicago student (Bessie). A feature about the making of the film in The New York Times reported that “an entire block of slums, supposed to be in Chicago,” had been constructed in a Buenos Aires suburb, and that the movie’s budget was “five times the cost of the usual Argentine film.”
When President Obama visited Argentina in March, he received a copy of the restored film from the Buenos Aires Film Museum.
Read more about the restoration here; read more about the gift here.
[Above: A 1951 ad for Native Son (Pierre Chenal, 1951); Getty Images]
A landmark effort facility for film preservation is nearing completion on sixty-five acres in the hills of Santa Clarita, California. The Packard Humanities Institute is a $180 million facility that houses vintage movies in the UCLA Film & Television Archive. The Institute was made possible by a major philanthropic gift from David W. Packard, son of Hewlett-Packard co-founder David Packard.
“UCLA was looking for a modest little place to move to, and I got involved and turned it into something monumental," says Packard, 75, during a tour of the facility. “It’s a labor of love and a labor of craziness. I could have just built an adequate facility, but it didn’t cost that much more for it to be something wonderful.”
The campus is designed primarily for storage, research and film-preservation work, though it may occasionally host semi-public events in one of its three screening rooms. The exterior resembles a type of classical Greek building known as a stoa, a colonnade structure supported by marble columns. The interior is patterned after the fifteenth century Convent of Saint Marco in Florence, with offices resembling the cells of a monastery.
Further details about the facility, as well as Packard’s film-related philanthropy can be found here.
Long Lost Thai Film Restored, Set for Cannes Premiere
A long-lost Thai film from the 1950s has been completely restored and will show at Cannes next month. Santi-Veena (Tawee Na Bangchang, 1954) will be among twenty-one classic films showing at the Cannes Film Festival before being brought to Thai theaters later this year.
The film stars Poonpan Rangkuan and Rewadee Sriwilai at the beginning of their careers. It had long been thought lost until copies were found two years ago in film archives in China, Russia, and the United Kingdom. It was added to the National Film Heritage Registry in the same year.
Santi-Veena was first released in theaters and broadcast on television in 1954. A commercial and critical success, it was remade by Rattana’s son Santa Pestonji in 1976.It was the first Thai film shot in color on 35mm color with sound; it was also the first Thai film to garner awards at an international film festival, winning best cinematography and best art direction at the Southeast Asian Film Festival in Tokyo in 1954.
Scorsese Backs Campaign to Move Scottish National Film Archive
Martin Scorsese has given his support to a fundraising campaign to build a new home for Scotland’s national film archive. The director joined Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, and Bill Paterson in calling for donations to support the archive’s move to Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. Writer Ian Rankin and broadcaster Kirsty Wark have also lent their support to the campaign, which is seeking to raise £250,000.
The archive contains footage from more than 100 years of Scotland’s history, including gala days, industrial processes, educational films, and amateur home videos. It is currently based at Hillington in the south west of Glasgow, with the relocation to be completed by late 2016.
Scorsese said: “Moving image archives hold our common memory. They need to be seen, studied and enjoyed. I enthusiastically support the efforts to develop the Scottish Moving Image Archive and I urge all of you to support this vitally important initiative.”
During the pre-dawn hours of 29 March, an accidental fire at the Utah Film Center (UFC) in downtown Salt Lake City destroyed the vast majority of its facility, including its films, computers, and files. An overheated fluorescent light ballast was the source of the fire, according to Salt Lake City Fire officials. The fire damaged supports for the main floor of the film center and the UFC’s building has therefore been deemed unfit for occupancy.
For the last sixteen months, a small group of film enthusiasts have occupied Belgrade’s Zvezda Cinema. Established in 1911, it is the city’s oldest theater. The protesters are angry at the Serbian government’s privatization schemes, which saw the state-owned Beograd Film—comprised of fourteen revered cinemas, including the Zvezda—dismantled and sold off. All have since closed their doors and fallen into disrepair.
Fed up at the ransacking of Serbia’s arts and armed with crowbars, walkie-talkies, and flashlights, a small group broke into the Zvezda on 21 November 2014. About 200 demonstrators, including workers rights activists and cinephiles, flooded the cinema, beginning a sit-in known as the Movement for the Occupation of Cinemas. Its logo depicts a clenched fist stretched skyward, clutching a length of film.
Despite numerous obstacles, the group has turned the dilapidated relic into a showcase once more, screening as many as three films a day and more than 500 over the last 15 months. They repaired an old Slovenian Iskra 35mm projector that was left in the projection booth, swept the floors, and repaired a leaking roof. A new projector was also bought with donation money. A 150-seat, open-air amphitheater behind the building, a feature added in the 1970s, was given a paint job and used to screen movies in the summer.
Read more about the movement and the ongoing occupation here.
On 29 April–1 May 2016, the George Eastman House hosted its second annual “Nitrate Picture Show,” the world’s only festival of film conservation. The festival features screenings of vintage nitrate prints from international archives—including the Eastman Museum’s own collection—as well as lectures, workshops, and other opportunities to experience the art and science of film preservation, from print conservation to archival projection. Guest speakers include Wolfgang Klaue and David Francis.
A complete schedule of events can be found here; further details are here.
Cairo’s Cimatheque Opens “Alternative Film Archive” Exhibition
An exhibition entitled “Building an Alternative Film Archive,” curated by Cairo’s Cimatheque Alternative Film Centre, opened at K Project Space on 6 March. Through this exhibition, Cimatheque aims to encourage questions about “its own role as a space at this moment in time and its aim in developing alternative approaches to archiving Egypt’s visual legacy.”
Cimatheque was inaugurated in May 2015 as a platform for filmmakers and cinephiles alike. Its archival collection includes material from commercial Egyptian cinema, advertisements, as well as amateur footage, home videos and independent films, and unedited newsreels and documentaries.
More information about his event can be found here. Further details about Cimatheque are available here.
[Above: Image from “Building an Alternative Film Archive”]
The first festival of silent film was held in Tehran, Iran, from April 30–May 7. The secretary of the festival, Alireza Qasemi, who is also the founder of the event, said that Italy, the U.S., and Australia are the only countries that regularly enjoy festivals of silent films.The Tehran International Silent Film Festival was established “to fill the vacuum for such an event in Iran,” he added. The Experimental and Documentary Film Center and the Tehran University of Art Festival are the main sponsors of the event.
Forty-five fiction, animated, and documentary films will be screened at the festival, which will be held at the Tehran University of Art. The films have been selected from among over 800 submissions from around the world. The program focuses on works by Victor David Sjostrom, Yasujiro Ozu, Fritz Lang, Mauritz Stiller, Carl Theodor Dreyer, and Robert Wiene.
More information on the event can be found here and here.
Chicago Film Archives Receive MacArthur Award for Creativity
In February, the Chicago Film Archives were awarded a 2016 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. This award recognizes exceptional nonprofit organizations that have demonstrated creativity and impact. Its purpose is to invest in long-term sustainability with a one-time sizable grant. According to the CFA, this award of $200,000 will be put in reserve to ensure the stability, longevity and integrity of the institution’s operations and mission.
Chicago Film Archives is a regional film archive that was founded in 2003. It is dedicated to identifying, collecting, and preserving films that represent the Midwest, while serving a variety of academic, cultural, and artistic communities by making the films available for exhibition, research and production.
Recently, CFA completed the preservation, digitization, and cataloging of the Ruth Page dance collection, which included the conservation of 200 videotapes and two 35mm nitrate films from 1928. In addition, CFA has conserved twenty-eight other films with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation, including the Film Group’s 1966 documentary Cicero March, which was selected for the National Film Registry in 2013.
On 14 April, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) launched Seances, Guy Maddin’s most recent experimentation in old and new moving-image media. Designed in collaboration with Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson, NFB, and Nickel Media, Seances is an interactive recombination and resurrection of lost films.
Each viewing experience is completely unique, a never-to-be-repeated configuration of sound and image, evoking early and silent-era cinema. Using cloud-based compositing, the project draws upon an extensive image bank—footage from the unusual two-pronged shoot of Maddin’s 2015 feature film The Forbidden Room—to generate a seemingly infinite abundance of ephemeral shorts. According to its creators:
Seances presents a new way of experiencing film narrative, framed through the lens of loss. In a technical feat of data-driven cinematic storytelling, films are dynamically assembled in never-to-be-repeated configurations. Each exists only in the moment, with no pausing, scrubbing or sharing permitted, offering the audience one chance to see this film before it disappears.
Seances is at once anachronistic and completely of its time. It spans a vast historical breadth, from early cinema all the way to present-day with its impressive and unique application of technology, and along the way achieves unexpected profundity and a surprising depth of emotion. It’s humorous and touching and gripping and gorgeous: a testament to loss and ephemerality in the age of the Internet.
Maddin began the project in Paris in 2012, shooting footage for 18 films at the Centre Georges Pompidou. Maddin claims he was motivated by the losses of silent film history and a desire to reincarnate this vanished past.
Read more about the project here, here, and here. And begin your own interactive encounter with cinematic ghosts here.
The International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) Secretariat in Brussels preserves a rich collection of historical documents about FIAF and the film archive movement dating back to the 1930s. A number of these documents have been digitized and are now accessible online. These documents include FIAF’s constitutional documents, FIAF publications, FIAF congressional documents, and reports from executive committee meetings. Historical documents related to the FIAF Summer Schools can be found here.
“Voices of Democracy” features historical interviews, panel discussions, speeches and debates among presidential candidates from 1961 to 2008. These historical materials document the evolution of issues and presidential candidates’ positions on election topics including the American economy, education, religion, civil rights, foreign policy, climate and the environment, labor and unions and campaign and election reform. The materials also document public broadcasting’s coverage of the process of elections and voter rights, as well as commentary and analysis of campaigns.
In October, the AAPB launched its Online Reading Room, which now features 2.5 million inventory records and more than 11,500 audiovisual streaming files of historical content dating back to the 1940s. In collaboration with the Library of Congress, WGBH Boston, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and more than 100 public media stations and archives, this initiative is intended to preserve historical public television and radio programs. The material available online includes national and local news and public affairs programs, local history productions, and programs dealing with education, environmental issues, music, art, literature, dance, poetry, religion and filmmaking from a local or regional perspective.
At the end of March, LaborBerlin’s Indiegogo campaign, “Film Ain’t Dead,” successfully raised €33,000 to support their members’ independent analog film practice. The funds will allow the organization to purchase professional film processing and printing equipment from Film16, a lab near Cologne that recently closed.
LaborBerlin is a collective of celluloid artists and enthusiasts who support the use of analogue film outside of the commercial film industry. Members of the collective develop, cut, copy, and experiment with Super8, 16mm, and 35mm film. The purchase of Film16’s equipment will allow LaborBerlin members to control the entire post-production phase of analog film practice, from processing to making prints.
Learn more about LaborBerlin here and their fundraising efforts here.
"Archival News” reports recent news highlights from the media archive community for the Cinema Journal readership. Some information in this column comes courtesy of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) listserv, along with institutional newsletters, websites, and press releases. This column is updated quarterly. Contributions to this column are welcomed. Information should be sent to Katherine Groo, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies, Lafayette College; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.