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Archival News 57.1 (Fall 2017)
Edited by Rielle Navitski


 

PRESERVATION

Shiraz, a Rare Surviving Work Shot in Silent-Era India, Returns to UK and Indian Screens

Shiraz, a Rare Surviving Work Shot in Silent-Era India, Returns to UK and Indian Screens

The British Film Institute’s restoration of Shiraz in process. Photo: Robin Baker via Twitter.

Under the auspices of the UK/India Year of Culture spearheaded by the British Council, the British Film Institute restored Shiraz: A Romance of India (1928) from the original negative held in its collection. One of three films produced in India by German-born director Franz Osten—along with Light of India (1926) and A Throw of Dice (1929)—Shiraz narrates the 17th-century origin story of the Taj Mahal. A potter (whose name gives the film its title) pines for the orphan Selima after she is sold into servitude. She subsequently inspires the love of a prince and the commission of the grand monument after her death. Boasting high production values, Shiraz is one of only a handful of silent films shot in India that survives today. In early November, Shiraz screened in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, and New Delhi, with Grammy-nominated composer and sitarist Anoushka Shankar performing her score for the film alongside an eight-piece orchestra. For more on the restoration and screening of Shiraz, see here, here, and here.

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George Eastman House Acquires and Restores Rare Cache of Lumière Films

George Eastman House Acquires and Restores Rare Cache of Lumière Films

Rochester, NY’s George Eastman House has added eighteen Lumière films dating from 1896 - 1903 to its collection, including actualities shot in Croatia, France, Northern Ireland, Spain, and Switzerland. Paolo Cherchi Usai, the senior curator of the museum’s Moving Image Department, stressed, “Finding a collection of Lumière prints and negatives in almost mint condition, 120 years after their creation, is nothing short of extraordinary.” Following their preservation by the Haghefilm Digitaal laboratories, the films screened at the Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy on October 4. For more information on the acquisition, see here; to view the Giornate del Cinema Muto catalogue, which includes descriptions of the films, see here.

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Boston Public Library Donates over 200,000 Sound Recordings to the Internet Archive for Digitization

Boston Public Library Donates over 200,000 Sound Recordings to the Internet Archive for Digitization

The Boston Public Library has transferred more than 200,000 previously uncatalogued vinyl records to the Internet Archive, which will digitize the recordings and, copyright permitting, make these digital versions and accompanying metadata online. The collection spans several decades—from the turn of the twentieth century to the 1980s—and genres, including opera, classical, jazz, rock, and pop. The 78rpm records from the Boston Public Library will be incorporated into the Internet Archive’s Great 78 Project, which has made over 38,000 recordings available as of this writing. Read more on the donation here and here.

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INSTITUTIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS

Natural Disasters Strike Audiovisual Archives in Mexico and Puerto Rico

Natural Disasters Strike Audiovisual Archives in Mexico and Puerto Rico

Scattered film cans at the Permanencia Voluntaria archive after the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck Central Mexico. Photo: Liaa Cruz via GoFundMe.

Amid the catastrophic damage and loss of life following a 7.1-magnitude earthquake in central Mexico on September 19 and Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20, audiovisual archives have also suffered devastation. The Permanencia Voluntaria archive in Tepoztlán, whose collection comprises film prints, publicity materials, and business records generated by the production, distribution, and exhibition activities of brothers José and Rafael Calderón, which often focused on marginalized genres like wrestling and cabaretera (showgirl) films. The quake damaged the building where the archive and its microcinema are housed, destroying 80 percent of the shelving on which film prints are stored. Fundraising and efforts by Permanencia Voluntaria director Viviana García Besné and volunteers minimized damage to the collection. Fewer specifics are available on the impact of Hurricane Maria on the Colección de Imágenes en Movimiento of the Archivo General de Puerto Rico, housed within the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña. The Instituto’s facilities sustained damage and some collections were transferred off-site for safekeeping. For more on the impact of these disasters, see here and here.

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National Film Archive of India’s Preservation Policies Spark Controversy

National Film Archive of India’s Preservation Policies Spark Controversy

After obtaining images of the National Film Archive of India’s storage facilities, The Indian Express raised questions about the archive's preservation policies. According to a November 2015 condition report obtained by the newspaper, over 17,500 film reels were being stored in burlap sacks outside of climate-controlled vaults, and nearly 15,000 of these reels had deteriorated to the point where they could not be projected. The newspaper also reported that in an inventory of NFAI holdings, 51,500 reels listed as part of the archive’s collection were missing, and 4,922 films not listed in the register were present in the vaults. Archive staff acknowledged that 28,401 reels were disposed of in 1995 and 2008; others are believed destroyed in a 2003 fire.

In an article in The Hindu, Prakash Magdum, the director of the NFAI, stated that copies of several films listed as lost were in fact present in the archive’s collection, and that the bulk of the films destroyed were heavily decayed prints and multiple copies of well-known international films like Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. An NFAI official who spoke to The Hindu on condition of anonymity stated, “The process of reel disposal is sensitive and can often cause misunderstandings of an alarmist nature. Most of the disposed of material contained a lot of Bollywood pot-boilers. It is unfortunate that lack of resources, which contributed to poor record-keeping in the past, is obscuring our present world-class efforts at film preservation.” Greater clarity about the state of the archive and its past preservation policies may emerge when a full inventory of the NFAI’s collection is completed in November.

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London Community Video Archive Opens its Doors

London Community Video Archive Opens its Doors

With a mandate to preserve and disseminate works from the socially engaged community video movement active between 1970 and 1985 in London and England’s Southeast, the London Community Video Archive was launched in June. Housed within Goldsmiths, University of London’s Department of Media and Communication, the archive’s creation was supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant and the British Film Institute. In addition to digital versions of the preserved videos, the organization’s site features oral histories with participants in the movement and documents like photographs and ephemera. The London Community Video Archive site can be accessed here; see here for additional details.

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EXHIBITIONS AND FESTIVALS

36th Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy Showcases “Nasty Women,” the Impact of World War I A Hundred Years On

36th Giornate del Cinema Muto in Pordenone, Italy Showcases “Nasty Women,” the Impact of World War I A Hundred Years On

Blanche Sweet in The Deadlier Sex (Robert Thornby, 1920) which capped off the “Nasty Women” series at this year’s edition of the Giornate del Cinema Muto.

These year’s programs for the Giornate del Cinema Muto referenced both recent history—with “nasty woman,” a memorable insult from the 2016 US presidential election, giving its title to a program on unruly females in silent cinema—and the events of a hundred years past, with “The Effects of War” program displaying the devastation of World War I. Other festival highlights included Soviet travelogues, Swedish cinema, Norwegian educational films shot in Africa, and two saundo-ban (silent Japanese films post-synchronized with phonograph records) directed by Yasujiro Ozu and Hotei Namura. Rediscovered and restored films screened at the festival include several Lumière films acquired by the George Eastman House (see item in “Preservation” section) and the 1915 version of The Golem, directed by Henrik Galeen and Paul Wegener. Reports on the festival are available here, here, here, and here.

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Series at California African American Museum Highlights Female Pioneers of the “Race Film”

Series at California African American Museum Highlights Female Pioneers of the “Race Film”

Organized around memorable performances by women in early twentieth-century Black-cast films, the California African American Museum’s film series “Center Stage: African American Women in Silent Race Films” featured lesser-known actresses alongside prominent performers like Evelyn Preer, star of Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates (1920), the earliest surviving feature directed by an African American. CAAM History Curator and Program Manager Tyree Boyd-Pates curated the series in collaboration with the UCLA Digital Humanities Department. The series drew on the Department’s Early African American Film project, which is rooted in the The George P. Johnson Negro Film Collection and generated a database of silent “race films.” Boyd-Pates told local public television station KCET, “I wanted to tackle some of the discussions about film and diversity contemporarily...The films feature nuanced and exemplary portrayals of black women that I felt would resonate with audiences today.” Program notes for “Center Stage” are available here; see here for further coverage.

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Singapore’s Asian Film Archive Hosts Asian Restored Classics Festival

Singapore’s Asian Film Archive Hosts Asian Restored Classics Festival

Held August 31 to September 10, the Asian Restored Classics Festival organized by Singapore’s Asian Film Archive featured rare works like the oldest extant film shot in Myanmar, The Emerald Jungle (Maung Tin Maung, 1934) and a fragment of the early Japanese sound film Senninbari (Genjiro Saegusa, 1927). More recent productions in the festival line-up include Fist of Fury (Lo Wei, Hong Kong, 1972), a career-making film for Bruce Lee, and Edward Yang’s Taipei Story (1982). The cinemas of India, Indonesia, Iran, Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand were also represented in the program. See here for more information on the festival.

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CONFERENCES, SYMPOSIA, AND WORKSHOPS

Second Radio Preservation Task Force Conference Highlights Pedagogy and Digital Approaches

Second Radio Preservation Task Force Conference Highlights Pedagogy and Digital Approaches

The Radio Preservation Task Force linked to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Preservation Plan held its second conference from November 2-4 in Washington, D.C. Organized around the theme “From Archive to Classroom,” the conference addressed the issues of endangered radio histories, best practices in material and digital curating, the intersection of sound studies and the digital humanities, and the pedagogical use of radio sources. Specific areas of focus included African American, indigenous, Spanish-language, and multilingual Caribbean radio, as well as Cold War broadcasting and the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act. To read more about the conference, see here.

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Third Edition of Film Preservation & Restoration Workshop India Held in Chennai

Third Edition of Film Preservation & Restoration Workshop India Held in Chennai

An initiative of The Film Heritage Foundation, the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), and Indian network Viacom18, the third annual Film Preservation & Restoration Workshop was held October 7 through 14 at Prasad Film Laboratories in Chennai. The workshop trained over fifty students from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh in techniques for the restoration and digitization of filmic, photographic, and paper materials. In a press conference announcing the event, the prominent director of Tamil cinema Mani Ratnam stressed the urgency of film preservation in India, recalling, “Our films were just disappearing. I could not even get a correct copy of a film I made in 2000.” Coverage of the workshop can be found here, here, and here. 

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Restoration Asia IV Highlights Case Studies from the Region’s Audiovisual Preservation Efforts

Restoration Asia IV Highlights Case Studies from the Region’s Audiovisual Preservation Efforts

Under the auspices of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) and the South East Asia Pacific Audio Visual Archives Association (SEAPAVAA), Restoration Asia IV took place in the Fukuoka City Public Library Archive in Fukuoka, Japan. Focusing on issues in the conservation of Asian film heritage, including research and restoration in overseas archives and laboratories, the technical symposium featured the Japanese premieres of two film restorations: Santi Vina (Thavi Na Bangchang, Thailand, 1954) and The 26 Martyrs of Japan, (Tomiyasu Ikeda, Japan, 1931). For more on the event, see here and here.

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AWARDS

Center for Home Movies Receives Advocacy Award from the Society of American Archivists

Center for Home Movies Receives Advocacy Award from the Society of American Archivists

8mm films brought to the Walter Brown Media Archives at the University of Georgia for the international Home Movie Day coordinated by the Center for Home Movies, recently honored by the Society of American Archivists. Photo: Margaret Compton, via Twitter.

In recognition of the Center for Home Movies’ efforts to increase public awareness of archival preservation, the Society of American Archivists honored the organization with the Philip M. Hamer–Elizabeth Hamer Kegan Award. SAA noted the impact of Home Movie Day, an annual festival now in its fifteenth year where participants bring and screen amateur films, as well as its touring film programs and Home Movie Registry, a guide to home movie holdings in US and international archives. See here and here for further details on the award.

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LaMaMa Experimental Theatre Club Lands Grant to Digitize Video Records of 1970s Off-Off-Broadway Performances

LaMaMa Experimental Theatre Club Lands Grant to Digitize Video Records of 1970s Off-Off-Broadway Performances

The National Historic Records and Publication Commission has awarded the LaMaMa Experimental Theatre Club a $100,000 grant to transfer over 260 videos documenting 170 performances staged between 1972 and 1978. LaMaMa’s partners on the project, the Bay Area Video Coalition and the Wisconsin Centre for Film and Theater Research, will respectively digitize and host the materials, making them freely available to researchers and the public online. LaMaMa’s existing digital collections can be explored here; more information on the project, including a partial list of works and performers included in the collection is available here.

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University of Calgary Receives $1.5 Million to Preserve EMI Music Canada Archive

University of Calgary Receives $1.5 Million to Preserve EMI Music Canada Archive

The University of Calgary won a $1.5 million Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant to migrate and digitize the more than 40,000 audio and video recordings in the EMI Music Canada Archive, donated to the university by Universal Music Canada in 2016. Preparations for the digitization project, including the creation of a reformatting lab, were supported by an earlier grant from the Mellon Foundation. See more on the grant here; the EMI Music Canada Collection page can be visited here.

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ONLINE RESOURCES

Over 40,000 Documents from the George Eastman House’s Technicolor Archive Now Available Online

Over 40,000 Documents from the George Eastman House’s Technicolor Archive Now Available Online

One of the 40,000 documents relating to the history of the Technicolor process now available online from the George Eastman House.

As part of multiple initiatives marking the one hundredth anniversary of the Technicolor process in 2015, the George Eastman House has made thousands of documents relating to its history between 1914 and 1955 freely available online. Donated by the Technicolor Corporation in 2009, the documents include research notes, corporate correspondence, publicity newsletters, and dye and film tests, which were digitized with the support of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. For more on the George Eastman House’s Technicolor initiatives, including a book and past exhibition, see here; visit the online the Technicolor archive here, and learn more about its contents here.

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American Archive of Public Broadcasting Releases Full Watergate Hearings

American Archive of Public Broadcasting Releases Full Watergate Hearings

The full hearings on the Watergate scandal and President Nixon’s subsequent impeachment trial, which were taped and then broadcast on public television in 1973 and 1974, are now available online through the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, a partnership between the Library of Congress and WGBH. Donated by DC public television station WETA, the broadcasts can be viewed here in the online exhibit “Gavel-to-Gavel: The Watergate Scandal and Public Television,” curated by 2017 Library of Congress Junior Fellow Amanda Reichenbach. For more information on the exhibit, see here.

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More than 250 Non-Fiction Films from Early Twentieth-Century India Made Available Online by the British Film Institute

More than 250 Non-Fiction Films from Early Twentieth-Century India Made Available Online by the British Film Institute

As part of the UK/India Year of Culture initiative, the British Film Institute has digitized more than 250 non-fiction films shot in India between 1899—the collection includes India’s earliest surviving film, Panorama of Calcutta, From the River Ganges—and Independence from British colonial rule in 1947. BFI Head Curator Robin Baker points out that the films are exceedingly rare documents of everyday life in little-documented locales, though almost universally shot from a colonial point of view. Although the full collection can be accessed only by UK residents through BFI Player, over 100 highlights are freely available on BFI's YouTube channel. More information about the project can be found here.

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Alaska’s KYUK Public Television Station Launches Online Collection of Videos in the Yup’ik and Cup’ik Languages

Alaska’s KYUK Public Television Station Launches Online Collection of Videos in the Yup’ik and Cup’ik Languages

KYUK Public Media, based in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in southwestern Alaska, has launched an online collection of its past television programming in the Yup’ik and Cup’ik languages, featuring interviews with tribal elders, documentation of traditional practices, and even episodes of the channel’s quiz show, “Ask an Alaskan.” To date, the station has digitized nearly 170 videos, which are available for viewing here through the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. The station is raising funds to make an additional 2,700 hours of video available online. Read more about the initiative here.

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PASSINGS

After Hugh Hefner’s Death at 91, a Mixed Legacy as Creator of Playboy Brand and Champion of Film Preservation

After Hugh Hefner’s Death at 91, a Mixed Legacy as Creator of Playboy Brand and Champion of Film Preservation

A still from Pandora’s Box, one of several films whose restoration was bankrolled by the late Hugh Hefner. Photo: San Franciso Silent Film Festival.

As commentators debated the impact of Hugh Hefner and the Playboy brand he created on American sexual mores following his death on September 27, relatively few highlighted his efforts in the field of film preservation. Focusing his energies on Hollywood cinema, Hefner bankrolled the restoration of the original edit of The Big Sleep, The Lost World, several films of the pre-Code era, and the German silent Pandora’s Box, among others. In addition, Hefner donated $1 million to the UCLA Film and Television Archive in 2006 and a total of $3.6 million to the University of Southern California between 1992 and 2007. Read more about Hefner’s involvement with film preservation here, here, and here.

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Archivist Stephen Parr, Founder of Oddball Films Stock Footage Library, Passes Away at Age 63

Archivist Stephen Parr, Founder of Oddball Films Stock Footage Library, Passes Away at Age 63

Creator of the Oddball Films stock footage library that furnished images for Oscar-nominated films, independent productions, and music videos alike, Stephen Parr passed away on October 24. Footage drawn from the more than 50,000 film elements collected by Parr over three decades appeared in Blade Runner (1982), the Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated biopics of Harvey Milk and Steve Jobs, and the Amazon series Transparent, among many others. Oddball Films also hosted over 1,500 screenings of rare film materials. For more on Parr’s life and work, see here and here.

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“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 Rielle Navitski, Theatre and Film Studies, University of Georgia, Fine Arts Building, Athens, GA, 30602-3154, email: rnavitsk@uga.edu. For news and finds from online media archives, follow @archivalnews on Twitter and Instagram.

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