Annette Michelson—a critic, scholar, and an editor at Artforum who famously left to found October with Rosalind Krauss and Max Kozloff—has donated her archives to the Getty Research Institute, which has also purchased Robert Morris’s drawing Blind Time (1982) and his Earth Projects (1969), a suite of ten lithographs, from Michelson’s collection. She has also sold the institute her film library, which comprises over fifteen hundred volumes.
Michelson’s archive includes correspondence with figures like Susan Sontag, Ad Reinhardt, Yvonne Rainer, and Martha Rosler, as well as her writing and research for Artforum and October. The assistant curator for modern and contemporary collections at the Getty, John Tain, called Michelson “one of the most important living scholars of film in the world, having been a key voice for the establishment of cinema studies as an academic field.”
William Kentridge Gives Major Gift to Eastman House
In October, the George Eastman Museum announced that William Kentridge has donated the complete set of his films, videos, and digital-born works to the museum. The gift comprises both original negatives and positive prints covering Kentridge’s entire career as a filmmaker, as well as all of the master elements of the renowned artist’s works in electronic and digital media. As the home of the definitive collection and archive of Kentridge’s time-based works, the Eastman Museum is now the leading resource for the appreciation and study of this extraordinary body of work.
Kentridge is best known for making animated films with his groundbreaking technique of photographing a succession of charcoal drawings rendered on a single sheet of paper. His gift to the museum comprises more than one hundred titles spanning the artist’s entire career—from his recently rediscovered Discourse on a Chair (1985) to his critically acclaimed Drawings for Projection (1989) to his most recent work, More Sweetly Play the Dance (2015). The gift also encompasses numerous reels of unedited original camera footage and pristine projection prints. These include tapes and digital files showing the artist rehearsing and experimenting in his studio.
When Kentridge first began making his works, his technique signaled a radical departure from the traditional practice in animation whereby each change in the image registers on a fresh acetate sheet or cel. In taking leave of this approach, Kentridge underscores the power of the eraser—a device that has come to define the unique style of his films. By foregrounding the process of erasure, the artist calls attention to the material conditions of drawing itself, while lending a concrete visual form to abstract concepts such as transience, memory, and violence. Although he may be described as a thoroughly contemporary filmmaker, Kentridge often draws inspiration from the achievements of early cinema, notably film pioneer Georges Méliès.
Further details on the acquisition can be found here and here.
[Above: More Sweetly Play the Dance (William Kentridge, 2015)
The University of Sussex will become the home of Lord Richard Attenborough’s extensive archive of personal and work papers gathered over his long career in film and theater. The announcement was made during the unveiling of a new portrait of the Oscar-winning director at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts on the university’s campus.
As well as personal letters, film scripts, photographs, and posters, the archive includes personal working files, including budgets, casts lists, and marketing material related to all of the major films that he directed. The university intends to make the archive publicly accessible, which until recently had been stored in the Attenborough family home in London.
More information on the acquisition can be found here and here.
The University of California San Diego recently announced that it will house the papers of Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Paul Espinosa, best known for his documentaries about issues along the US-Mexico border. Espinosa made many of his most-celebrated films while he was affiliated with San Diego’s public broadcasting station, KPBS. The archive will include 200 boxes of material accumulated during more than thirty-five years of filmmaking: scripts, photos, letters, interview transcripts, and research material.
Espinosa, 65, grew up in New Mexico and earned degrees in anthropology from Brown University and Stanford. While at KPBS, he made a string of documentaries that were aired nationally on public television, including The Lemon Grove Incident (1985), which depicts the nation’s first successful legal challenge to school segregation, and The Hunt for Pancho Villa (1993), which examines the 1916 showdown that nearly culminated in a war between the United States and Mexico. His productions have earned him eight Emmys, a Golden Mike award, and a lifetime achievement award from the California Chicano News Media Association. Four cities—San Diego, Phoenix, Albuquerque and El Paso—have hosted Paul Espinosa Film Festivals.
[Above: California and the American Dream (Paul Espinosa, 2006)]
In September, the Library of Congress announced that it had acquired the personal archive of Jerry Lewis, which contains more than 1,000 moving image materials and paper documentation. The Jerry Lewis Collection covers the entire span of his career—from an early screen test made years before his movie debut to extensive amounts of test footage, outtakes, bloopers from his self-produced and often self-directed Hollywood productions, and a print of his controversial (and never seen) film. The collection also chronicles his television career, including his appearances with his onetime partner Dean Martin on the Colgate Comedy Hour (NBC, 1950-1955); and full runs of his various variety series and guest appearances on programs like The Tonight Show. In addition, the archive includes home movies, videos of his lectures given while instructing at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, nightclub appearances both with and without Martin, and footage from his legendary work on the Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon. The collection will complement the Library’s existing collections of iconic humorists, including Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Danny Kaye, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Sid Caesar and Johnny Carson.
For further information on the archive and this event, see here.
The American Genre Film Archive (AGFA), an archive of low-budget films co-founded in 2009 by Tim and Karrie League, is stepping in to save the contents of the Something Weird Video collection after its founder Mike Vraney, died in 2014. AGFA has launched a Kickstarter campaign to purchase a 4K scanner and digitally transfer original film elements from the Something Weird collection, as well as one-of-a-kind obscurities in the AGFA archive.
The first title that AGFA will preserve is Tom Hanson’s The Zodiak Killer. Released in 1971, the movie was made in hopes of capturing the real-life Zodiac Killer. The plan didn’t work. Instead, viewers got the “most outrageous and compelling ‘tabloid horror’ vortex in the history of planet Earth. And beyond.”
NFPF Announces Avant-Garde Awards, Preservation of Lost Silent Films
In September, the National Film Preservation Foundationannounced the recipients of this year’s Avant-Garde Masters Grants. All told, seven films will be preserved and made available through the 2015 grants, including Gregory Markopoulos’ Twice a Man (1964 / Temenos, Austrian Film Museum); The Doctor’s Dream (Ken Jacobs, 1978 / SUNY Binghamton); Film in Which There Appear Sprocket Holes, Edge Lettering, Dirt Particles, Etc. (Owen Land, 1966 / Anthology Film Archives); Institutional Quality (Owen Land, 1967 / Anthology Film Archives), A Film of Their 1973 Spring Tour Commissioned by Christian World Liberation Front of Berkeley, CA (Owen Land, 1974 / Anthology Film Archives); Welcome to Come (Fred Camper, 1968 / Northwest Chicago Film Society) and Moods of the Sea (Slavko Vorkapich, 1942 / UCLA Film & Television Archive).
Now in its thirteenth year, Avant-Garde Masters is the pioneering program created by The Film Foundation and the NFPF that saves films significant to the development of the avant-garde in America. The grants have preserved works by sixty-one artists, including Kenneth Anger, Shirley Clarke, Bruce Conner, Joseph Cornell, Oskar Fischinger, Hollis Frampton, Ernie Gehr, George and Mike Kuchar, and Carolee Schneemann.
In October, the NFPF also announced that six American silent-era films had been preserved in collaboration with the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam. The films are available online. Among the newly viewable films are the Fleischer Brothers cartoon Koko’s Queen (1926) and a 1917 journey up the Eliot Glacier, the largest on Oregon’s Mount Hood.
The films were preserved and made available by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Library of Congress, and the Oregon Historical Society. The National Museum of American History is currently working to preserve a number of industrial films including Fine Paper (ca. 1917), which shows how the Strathmore Paper Company of Massachusetts made its celebrated rag paper. This and other films will be added to the NFPF website as preservation is completed.
For more information about this collaboration—and the silent films slated for preservation in 2016—see here.
[Above: Still from Koko’s Queen (Fleischer Brothers, 1926)]
Cohen Media Group Acquires 30 Merchant Ivory Films for Restoration
In October, Variety reported that the Cohen Media Group had purchased the Merchant Ivory brand, which includes global distribution rights to twenty-one feature films, as well as nine documentary and short films. James Ivory will continue to supervise the brand as creative director of the collection. He will consult with Charles S. Cohen on the restoration, re-release, and marketing of each film.
The filmmaking team of producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory partnered in Merchant Ivory for a series of English-language films in India starting with The Householder (1963), starring Shashi Kapoor, followed by Shakespeare Wallah (1965). Moving to the United States and England, Merchant Ivory collaborated with screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala on Howards End, which was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including best picture.
For further details on the titles acquired in the purchase and restoration plans, see here and here.
[Above: Still from Howard’s End (James Ivory, 1992)]
China, India Mark WWII Anniversary with Restoration Projects
China’s state-run film archive has restored some 800 historical films to mark the seventieth anniversary of the end of WWII. Of those restored during the eight-month process, 282 were used to create a documentary about the country’s victory over Japan. The documentary and restoration work were part state-organized celebrations that culminated in a military victory parade through central Beijing in September.
Read more about the event and the restoration work here.
In September, the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) announced that it would be overseeing the transfer of fifty-five films from the Armed Forces Films and Photo Division (AFFPD) in New Delhi to the NFAI. The collection documents the events of WWII on a variety of formats, including video and 35mm film format. Once the agreement is finalized, the films will be relocated, transferred to other formats, and digitized. The original film material will then be sent back to the AFFPD, along with copies of the digitized versions. The project is part of a broader effort on the part of the NFAIto expand its collection and restoration efforts beyond feature filmmaking.
For further details on the content of the collection to be transferred, see here
[Above: Film Archive Director, Sun Xianghui, discusses the project]
The law allows users to request exemptions for lawful uses—but it doesn’t make it easy. Exemptions are granted through a rulemaking process that takes place every three years and places a heavy burden on EFF other requesters. Every exemption must be argued anew, even if it was previously granted, and even if there is no opposition. The exemptions that emerge are limited in scope. They only apply to end users—the people who are doing the ripping, tinkering, jailbreaking, or research—and not to the people who make the tools that facilitate those lawful activities.
During the week of October 19–25, participants around the world celebrated the eighth annual “Open Access Week.” According to its founders, the event is an “opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.”
Further details on past and future Open Access events can be found here and here.
NFSA Launches AV Training Program for Remote, Indigenous Workers
The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) has partnered with the Indigenous Remote Communications Association (IRCA), to offer two remote media and archive workers the opportunity to travel to the NFSA in Canberra to receive professional training in preservation. The Indigenous Remote Archival Fellowship program will be offered for the first time in 2015. It will allow the recipients to experience and learn from the experts responsible for the development and preservation of Australia’s national audiovisual collection. The program builds upon the work of the NFSA, IRCA and other stakeholders, in the development of a national remote archiving strategy.
IRCA’s General Manager Daniel Featherstone said: “There are a large number of community-produced audiovisual collections across remote Australia desperately in need of preservation. The Remote Media Archiving Strategy is aimed at building the capacity and skills of Indigenous organizations to locally manage these collections. This fantastic initiative will build on skills workshops IRCA recently delivered in partnership with NFSA to help preserve this important social and cultural heritage.”
A long-lost “Chushingura” film—a term used to describe representations of the 47 Ronin story—has been unearthed in the old capital of Japan. The film features Onoe Matsunosuke (1875-1926), a legendary Kabuki actor who is believed to have appeared in hundreds of films. Only ten of his performances survive on film, making this latest discovery all the more valuable.
The found film is a complete version of a 9.5mm silent Pathé Baby edition of Chushingura: The True Record of Chushingura (Tomiyasu Ikeda, 1926). The film consists of four reels running with a total running time of sixty-six minutes; the film was likely re-edited for commercial sales and home exhibition.
Osaka University of Arts professor Yoneo Ota discovered the film among a collection of titles donated to Kyoto’s Toy Film Museum, which collects old film prints and projectors. Ota serves as director of the museum. The film was screened at the Oe Nohgakudo hall in Kyoto’s Nakagyo Ward on October 18 with a “katsuben,” or silent film narrator.
For more information about the archival discovery or screening, see here.
[Above: Still from Chushingura: The True Record of Chushingura (Tomiyasu Ikeda, 1926)]
The French commercial court of Nanterre has approved the acquisition of Gaul’s 108-year-old film lab Éclair Group, which was placed under bankruptcy protection in June. Ymagis will split the company into two subsidiaries: Éclair Media SAS, which will be dedicated to content distribution services, and Éclair Cinéma SAS, which will handle postproduction and restoration.
Founded by industrialist Charles Jourjon in 1907, Éclair achieved early success as an innovator of 35mm and 16mm cameras. The company had been severely damaged by the sharp decline in photochemical film production and processing. As a result, the group significantly reduced its revenue and workforce. Éclair went through a phase of restructuring, which refocused the business on subtitling and dubbing, content distribution services, film and video restoration, as well as postproduction.
In a landmark moment for archival cooperation between India and Bangladesh, the two institutions exchanged films. The Bangladesh Film Archives (BFA) gifted the first-ever sound version of Devdas (Pramathesh Barua, 1935) to the National Film Archives of India (NFAI). In return, the BFA acquired a copy of Raja Harishchandra (Dadasaheb Phalke, 1913), the first Indian feature film made during the silent era.
The gift from Bangladesh ended the NFAI’s more than three decades of searching for the 1935 film. The copy of Devdas was handed over to the NFAI by a visiting three-member delegation from Bangladesh, led by Murtaza Ahmad, Secretary of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Information, and Dr. Mohammad Jahangir Hossain, Director General of the Bangladesh Film Archive.
It was during a meeting of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) in Canberra, Australia in April this year that Prakash Magdum, the Director of the NFAI, had taken up the matter with his Bangladesh counterpart. The film exchange was possible due to special efforts taken by the national archives of the two countries in recognition of the need to extend support towards promoting the film heritage of both.
NYTimes Photo Archive Threatened by (Future) Floods
A broken pipe one Saturday morning in October sent water cascading into “the morgue,” the storage area where The New York Times keeps its immense collection of historical photos, along with newspaper clippings, microfilm records, books and other archival material—causing minor damage and raising alarm.
Jeff Roth, the morgue manager, said it appeared that about 90 percent of the affected photos would be salvageable, but it is too early to say with any certainty how many were lost.
The morgue occupies the sub-subbasement of the former New York Herald Tribune building on 41st Street, which abuts The Times’s headquarters at 620 Eighth Avenue. The accident raised the questions about how in the digital age, the era of climate change, and in the prohibitive Midtown Manhattan real estate market, the company’s most physical assets and intellectual property can be safely and reasonably stored.
A “lost” Hitchcock film that had not been shown publicly for nearly 100 years was screened in September at the British Silent Film Festival. Three Live Ghosts (1922) was one of the first films that the young Alfred Hitchcock worked on and had been thought lost forever. The film is a comedy, originally distributed by Famous Players-Lasky. It was discovered in a Russian archive and was included in this year’s program thanks to Laraine Porter of De Montfort University Leicester’s Cinema and Television History (CATH) research team.
For a complete festival program, see here. For more on Three Live Ghosts, see here.
Mike Henderson, Black Radical Imagination at the Schomburg Center
As part of its ongoing 2015 Black Radical Imagination film series, the Schomburg Center in Harlem began screening a collection of works by experimental African-American filmmakers in October. The program is entitled “The Black Fantastic” and was curated by Chicago-based filmmaker Amir George and L.A.-based curator Erin Christovale. They describe the event as an effort “to invoke a futurist aesthetic of the black image on screen,” and further note that “The visual pieces delve into the worlds of video art, film animation, narrative storytelling, and new media. Each artist contributes their own vision of a free changing world in a postmodern society."
Along with films by filmmakers Ja’Tovia Gary, Buki Bodunrin, and Ezra Claytan Daniels, will be the New York première of 16MM films by the pioneering black experimental filmmaker Mike Henderson. The Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University called Henderson’s works “radically inventive, often hilariously funny, and very rarely shown.”
Further details on the film series can be found here.
The thirty-fourth annual Pordenone Silent Film Festival was held from October 3–11, 2015. This year’s event was dedicated to Jean Darling, a child star of silent cinema (1922-2015) and a patron of the annual festival.
The festival’s thematic strands included “Les Miserables”; “Victor Fleming: The Silent Era”; “Russian Laughter”; “Italian Muscle in Germany”; “Other City Symphonies”; “América Latina”; “Beginnings of the Western”; and “Bert Williams and Company.” The festival also included a public lecture by Naum Kleiman, master classes in silent film sound, and special screenings of Romeo und Julia im Schnee (Ernst Lubitsch, 1920); Maciste Alpino (Luigi Maggi, 1916); The Battle of the Century (Hal Roach, 1927); and Picture (Paolo Cherchi Usai, 2015). In addition, organizers announced a new director for next year’s Festival.
For a complete schedule of the events, see here. For a review of the event, see here.
UCLA Celebrates 50 Years with Showcase of Its Archival Achievements
As part of the archive’s fiftieth-anniversary celebration, UCLA has organized an eleven-week program entitled “Archive Treasures.” The program began on October 2 will a screening of Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948) and will continue through December. The program includes classics as well as little-known titles, feature rarities, and short films (e.g., an interview with Bela Lugosi, a snappy performance by the 20-member all female jazz band, The Ingenues).
On October 22-24, the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) hosted “Misfits 2015,” a two-day symposium designed to encourage discourse about the practical and philosophical considerations involved in building, maintaining, exhibiting, and preserving time-based media art collections. Misfits 2015 was designed to build on the success of CMOA’s 2013 symposium, “A Collection of Misfits: Time-Based Media and the Museum.” The most recent event draws on CMOA’s own history as a significant catalyst of time-based media during the 1970s, as a nexus of avant-garde film, and as the pioneering publisher of The Film and Video Makers Travel Sheet.
Panels focus on various facets of the historical moment in which time-based media entered the museum, including the emergence of major media centers in the 1970s; the significance of contemporary and modern day in-person presentations of films; the ways in which the filmmaker’s tour (facilitated by the Travel Sheet) and major media centers contributed to local film ecologies in cities around the country; the art-world/film-world dynamic and shifting models of spectatorship and distribution for time-based work; the interrelationship of canonization and preservation; and the interpretation of time-based media through the lens of “supporting” archival collections, artist’s notes, sketches, and artifacts.
More information and a complete program can be found here.
Kyoto Preservation Workshop Marks 10th Anniversary
An annual workshop for the restoration and preservation of films celebrated its 10th anniversary this past summer in Kyoto, the country's film capital. According to its organizers, the workshop has played a significant role in bringing film experts and enthusiasts together—from Japan and elsewhere—to exchange information and discuss the challenges facing film preservation in the region. This year’s workshop was organized by experts from film-related entities based in the Kansai region with 120 people in attendance.
For a detailed summary of the workshop’s events, see here.
On October 17, the thirteenth annual Home Movie Day was celebrated by the Center for Home Movies and by communities around the world.Home Movie Day is a celebration of amateur films and filmmaking. The event teaches individuals and families how best to care for their films and gives them an opportunity to screen their home movies, and watch those that others have brought along.
On October 27, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) celebrated the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. Annually, archives around the world join together on this date to celebrate audiovisual archives with activities that not only highlight the vulnerability of this heritage, but also to acknowledge the work of the heritage institutions that protect it. This year’s theme was “Archives at Risk: Protecting the World’s Identities.”
The General Conference first approved the commemoration of a World Day for Audiovisual Heritage in 2005 as a mechanism to raise general awareness of the need for urgent measures to be taken and to acknowledge the importance of audiovisual documents as an integral part of national identity.
James A. Lindner Receives Archival Technology Medal
James A. Lindner recently received the Archival Technology Medal Award from the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. The award recognizes significant technical advancements or contributions related to the invention or development of technology, techniques, workflows, or infrastructure for the long-term storage, archive, or preservation of media content. Lindner received the award in recognition of his career devoted to the art and science of media preservation and the development of technologies and techniques widely used in the world of media archiving. His research into the JPEG-2000 format as a target preservation codec for moving image conservation contributed to the broad acceptance of the format in media and in cultural heritage archives. He is also cited for development of the SAMMA workflow and systems for digitizing videotape. He has advanced the state of the art in preservation of both physical media and digital representations of motion-imaging content.
NASA recently released more than 11,000 images from the Apollo space missions to the delight of many, many viewers around the web. The Project Apollo Archive can be explored here.
[Above: Astronaut John L. Swigert, Jr., Apollo 13 Command Module Pilot, holds the “mailbox,” a makeshift device used to purge carbon dioxide from the Lunar Module that played a significant role in saving the doomed astronauts lives. Apollo 13 Hasselblad image from film magazine.]
NYTimes: Berlin Museum Specimens Find Digital Life
In October, the NYTimes reported on the Berlin Museum of Natural History’s efforts to digitize the museum’s entire collection of insects, including high-definition 3-D images of thousands of particularly important specimens, and make all of the images available online. The museum’s collection consists of more than 35,000 drawers holding about 15 million individual specimens. So far, the team has scanned about 10,000 drawers. Some specimens are selected for high-definition scanning, which will allow scientists from anywhere in the world to examine these colorful creatures in remarkable detail, even to maneuver them on screen for close scrutiny.
Vision Maker Media Launches Blog, Online Resources
Vision Maker Media, a member of the National Minority Consortium and an organization that funds and supports documentary filmmaking on Native issues for public television, recently announced the launch of a blog and suite of online resources, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. With help from the Nebraska State Historical Society and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, VMM has produced a guide to help personal and institutional collectors with instructions and examples of best practices to save Native American archives. The organization hopes to build on this project with future grant projects and work with tribal collection holders.
Harvard genetics professor Dr. George Church is reportedly attempting to code a film onto miniscule strands of DNA as a way to preserve the contents for hundreds of generations. Church will try to code A Trip to the Moon (Georges Méliès, 1902) onto an unusual, denser type of genetic material known as “unnatural DNA.” Unnatural DNA was designed specifically to store high quantities of data and is different that the genes typically found in living organisms. With the financial support of Technicolor, Dr. Church’s lab is taking the hundreds of miniscule pixels that make up each image of a movie and assigning them a code based on color. These codes are then converted into the chemical bases that comprise DNA: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. Similarly, the film’s audio is broken down into smaller bits of data, given a numerical code and converted into DNA base pairs. Each DNA strand is then carefully labeled with a chemical index that denotes its place in the movie, so that a computer program can place each of the genetic fragments into the proper order and recreate the film.
"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, Lecturer, Film and Visual Culture, School of Language and Literature, University of Aberdeen, Taylor Bldg. A, Aberdeen AB24 3UB, Scotland; phone +44 (0)1224-701590; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.