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Archival News
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ARCHNEWS59_3

Archival News 58.4 Summer 2019
Edited by Rielle Navitski

 

DISCOVERIES

Stills, Correspondence Documenting the Career of Satyajit Ray Unearthed in His Family’s Kolkata Home

Stills, Correspondence Documenting the Career of Satyajit Ray Unearthed in His Family’s Kolkata Home

Satyajit Ray operates the camera during the filming of The Middleman (1975). Photo by Nemai Ghosh. British Film Institute.

With ample time on his hands during a country-wide lockdown designed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, filmmaker Sandip Ray has located thousands of images and documents among the previously unsorted belongings of his father Satyajit Ray, Ray's family reported in April. In addition to close to a thousand production stills, including images taken on the sets of Ray’s acclaimed Apu film trilogy, the newly identified items include over a hundred photographs taken by Ray himself and letters to Ray from Akira Kurosawa, Frank Capra, and Arthur C. Clarke.

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Fragment of Silent Comedy Starring Larry Semon and Oliver Hardy, Presumed Lost, Resurfaces in Japan

Fragment of Silent Comedy Starring Larry Semon and Oliver Hardy, Presumed Lost, Resurfaces in Japan

Larry Semon and Dorothy Dwan in the final chase scene from Stop, Look, and Listen.

Ten minutes of the lost slapstick feature Stop, Look, and Listen (1926), directed by and starring comedian Larry Semon and featuring his better-known counterpart Oliver Hardy, were discovered by archivist Toshihiko Sasayama in February. The film’s final reel, which was discovered among a lot of films purchased at an antiques store in Aichi prefecture, features a climactic chase scene atop a train that draws on Semon’s 1922 short The Show. More information on the discovery is available here; the recovered footage can be viewed here.

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Footage from Kishore Kumar Vehicle, Ordered Destroyed in Copyright Dispute, Obtained by National Film Archive of India

Footage from Kishore Kumar Vehicle, Ordered Destroyed in Copyright Dispute, Obtained by National Film Archive of India

Poster for the 1957 film Begunah, ordered destroyed due to a copyright lawsuit filed by Paramount.

More than sixty years after a Mumbai court ordered that all existing prints of Begunah (Narendra Suri, 1957) be destroyed in response to a copyright complaint filed by Paramount, two reels from the film have been secured by the National Film Archive of India, the organization reported in February. Ten days after Begunah’s release, Paramount’s claim that the film plagiarized Knock on Wood (Melvin Frank, 1954), starring Danny Kaye, resulted in its withdrawal from circulation. Begunah starred the popular singer and actor Kishore Kumar – who idolized Kaye to the point of keeping a portrait of the comedian in his home – and also included a rare onscreen appearance by Jaikishan Dayabhai Panchal, one half of the renowned composer duo Shankar-Jaikishan. Approximately sixty minutes of the film, including its ending, are preserved on the two 16mm reels obtained by the NFAI. To learn more, see here and here.

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ACQUISITIONS

Schomburg Center Purchases Papers of Actor, Singer, and Activist Harry Belafonte

Schomburg Center Purchases Papers of Actor, Singer, and Activist Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte speaks at the March on Washington in 1963. US Information Agency.

The personal archives of iconic performer and civil rights advocate Harry Belafonte will be returning to his native Harlem to join the collection of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Center announced in March. In addition to a film career that spanned over sixty-five years, Belafonte is known for popularizing Afro-Caribbean rhythms – he became the first solo artist to sell over a million copies of an album with the 1956 Calypso – and his involvement in the civil rights movement.

In addition to scrapbooks and press clippings documenting his career beginning in the 1940s, Belafonte’s papers include documents of his collaboration with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including the March on Washington. Film-related materials in the collection include several scripts from his Hollywood career, including The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (Ranald McDougall, 1959), in which he received top billing, and the early hip-hop feature Beat Street (Stan Lathan, 1984), which Belafonte produced, as well as home movies of Belafonte’s performances and everyday activities.

The acquisition was supported by a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in addition to contributions from the Open Society Foundations, Ford Foundation, Danny and Manizeh Rimer and New York State’s Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus. The collection will be processed and made available to researchers over the next fifteen months. More information about the acquisition is available here, here, and here.

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Twenty-Five Thousand Documents of Rock and Roll History Find New Home at Michigan State University

Twenty-Five Thousand Documents of Rock and Roll History Find New Home at Michigan State University

Documents of rock and roll history collected by Jack Bodnar acquired by Michigan State University Libraries.

Recordings, posters, handbills, and alternative newspapers documenting the music scene and counterculture of 1960s and 1970s Michigan will join Michigan State University Library’s Special Collections division, the library announced in March. Amassed over four decades by Jack Bodnar, who studied journalism at MSU, the collection includes myriad recordings, over a thousand psychedelic posters from venues like Detroit’s Grande Ballroom and Lansing’s The Brewery, and a complete collection of the Detroit-based underground newspaper The Fifth Estate.

These newly purchased materials will become part of MSU Library’s Russel B. Nye Popular Culture Collection, which includes the most extensive comic book collection in the world and a wide array of popular fiction and young adult literature from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The library’s Radicalism Collection, largely comprising political pamphlets and alternative press publications, also overlaps with the countercultural focus of the recent acquisition. For more on the collection, see here and here.

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Library of Congress Acquires Entire Output of Photographer Shawn Walker, His Documentation of Kamoinge Workshop’s History

Library of Congress Acquires Entire Output of Photographer Shawn Walker, His Documentation of Kamoinge Workshop’s History

Portrait of Shawn Walker by Jenny Walker. Library of Congress.

Over 100,000 photographs and negatives shot by Shawn Walker will enter the collection of the Library of Congress, joining the works of other prominent Black photographers like Gordon Parks, Robert McNeill, Roland Freeman, Dawoud Bey and Roy DeCarava. Walker’s archive includes his portraits of icons like Spike Lee, Toni Morrison, Jesse Jackson, and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as depictions of everyday life in his native Harlem and images from his international travels. The acquisition, announced in February, is the eighth comprehensive single-photographer collection acquired by the library.

Walker also donated 2,500 items from his personal collection – including photographs, ephemera, and audio materials – documenting the history and output of the Kamoinge Workshop, which he helped found in 1963 in response to the marginalization of Black photographers. Based in Harlem, the photography collective’s members included Anthony Barboza, Adger Cowans, Louis Draper, Albert Fenner, Ray Francis, Toni Parks, Herb Randall, Herb Robinson, Beuford Smith and Ming Smith. See here and here for more on the acquisition.

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PRESERVATION

Greece’s First Sound Film Returns to Athenian Screens After Ninety Years

Greece’s First Sound Film Returns to Athenian Screens After Ninety Years

Bilingual publicity for the recently restored Apaches of Athens, the first sound film made in Greece. Greek Film Archive Foundation.

Greece’s earliest attempt at a part-talkie, Apaches of Athens (Dimitris and Mihalis Gaziadis, 1930) premiered in a restored version at Athens’s Stavros Niarchos Hall in February after being unearthed at the Cinémathèque Française in 2016. Based on a popular 1921 operetta dealing with themes of social inequality, the film features prominent performers of the period like Petros Kyriakos, Mary Sayanou, Petros Epitropakis, and Giannis Prineas, and was one of the earliest Greek films to find an international audience. Apaches of Athens was projected with a reconstruction of its orchestral soundtrack, as the discs that accompanied the film have not survived.

The film’s restoration was funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation in partnership with the Greek Film Archive Foundation and the Greek National Opera. For more on the restoration, see here; for more on early Greek sound cinema, see here.

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1997 Blade Runner Videogame to Receive Restoration, Re-release

1997 Blade Runner Videogame to Receive Restoration, Re-release

Nightdive Studios, which specializes in recreating early computer games for use on present-day gaming platforms, has partnered with Alcon Entertainment to restore and re-release a 1997 videogame loosely based on Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner. The game, which was awarded best adventure title by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences and sold more than a million copies, features distinct characters and intersects only glancingly with the plot of the film. Created by the now-shuttered Westwood Studios, Blade Runner’s original code was lost when the company moved its offices from Las Vegas to Los Angeles in 2003. Nightdive reconstructed Blade Runner using its proprietary KEX engine to remaster the game for multiple platforms. The release of Blade Runner: Enhanced Edition is expected later in the year. See here for more on the restoration.

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INSTITUTIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS

Film Archives Pivot to Online Programming in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

Film Archives Pivot to Online Programming in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

A selection of films made freely available by the Cineteca Milano during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders enacted to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, film archives have been obliged to shift from in-person screenings to online programming. Some, like the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, have followed the lead of arthouse theaters, partnering with distributors to offer video-on-demand rentals of new releases, with a portion of proceeds going to the venue.

Others have made works from their collections freely available online. The Cineteca Milano released five hundred films for online streaming, some for a limited time (registration for a free account is required for access), while the Cinémathèque Suisse posted a series of restored shorts on Vimeo. The Cinémathèque Française launched Henri, a virtual screening room with offerings organized in thematic collections, including works by Jean Epstein and silent and early sound productions from Albatros studios. The Filmoteca Española is making one Spanish feature available for viewing every three days, and the Greek Film Archive is releasing six fiction films and nine documentaries from the post-WWII period in April and May, with each available for 72 hours after its online release.

The International Federation of Film Archives maintains an extensive guide to moving-image collections already made available online by its members. Among many others, the Chicago Film Archives, the Bay Area Television Archive at San Francisco State University, and Media Burn Independent Video Archive have long offered a range of moving-image materials online, and NYU Preservation launched its YouTube channel in late April.

 

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Cinemateca Brasileira Struck by Flood Amid Administrative Uncertainty

Cinemateca Brasileira Struck by Flood Amid Administrative Uncertainty


Archival materials piled in a Cinemateca Brasileira storage facility damaged by flooding. Photo by Leandro Gouveia for CBN.

Compounding budget difficulties and administrative shake-ups, the Cinemateca Brasileira experienced another blow when one of its storage facilities was damaged by the extensive flooding that devastated southeastern Brazil in mid-February. Three feet of water entered the facility in the Vila Leopoldina neighborhood of São Paulo, submerging exhibition copies of films (original materials are reportedly kept in the Cinemateca’s main location in Vila Clementino) as well as photographs and books, although the extent of the damage is unclear.

Since 2018, the Cinemateca Brasileira has operated under the auspices of the Associação de Comunicação Educativa Roquette Pinto (Roquette Pinto Association for Educational Communication; ACERP). This partnership was undermined in late 2019 when the Ministry of Education opted not to renew its contract with ACERP, leaving the Cinemateca Brasileira operating on the basis of a temporary emergency contract. In addition, nine million reais (approximately 1.6 million US dollars) of federal funding allotted to the organization for the Cinemateca’s operating costs have yet to be disbursed. The Associação Brasileira de Preservação Audiovisual published an open letter denouncing the situation in January. For more on the incident, see here and here (in Portuguese).

 

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National Endowment for the Humanities Announces Grants to Fund Digitization of Howard Hughes Papers, LGBT Broadcast History

National Endowment for the Humanities Announces Grants to Fund Digitization of Howard Hughes Papers, LGBT Broadcast History

Portrait of Howard Hughes, circa 1940, from the archives of the New York World’s Fair. New York Public Library.

The National Endowment for the Humanities announced several major grants to support preservation of and access to media-related collections in early April. The University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries and Department of Film will receive over $270,000 to catalog film-related materials from the archives of Hollywood tycoon Howard Hughes, rehouse the documents in acid-free folders, and make them available for on-site consultation. Over 1,700 items from Hughes’ papers have already been digitized and are available online. In addition, the University of Houston and the Gulf Coast Archive and Museum of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender history received close to $350,000 to catalog, transcribe, digitize, and make available online over five thousand hours of LGBT radio and television broadcasts from the Houston area. Other media-related grants announced include a $350,000 award to the National Geographic Society to catalog and digitize over 15,000 glass slides of the Arctic and Antarctic, Greenland, and Alaska produced between 1914 and 1944 and a $250,000 award to Florida Atlantic University to make digitally available 25,000 slides documenting Latin American and Caribbean cultures shot by Florence Arquin, a close friend of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, in the 1940s and 1950s.

 

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Real Estate Woes Lead to Relocation of NYC’s Archive of Contemporary Music, Paley Center in Beverly Hills

Real Estate Woes Lead to Relocation of NYC’s Archive of Contemporary Music, Paley Center in Beverly Hills

The former Paley Center for Media location in Beverly Hills.

Rising rents have forced the Archive of Contemporary Music, which holds approximately three million recordings, to leave its long-time location in New York City’s Tribeca. The archive’s founder, Bob George, negotiated an early exit from the organization’s lease, and will relocate the collection to locations in upstate New York and southern California at an estimated cost of $80,000. More information about the move is available here and here.

Following the purchase of its long-time West Coast location by the LVMH group in November 2018, the Paley Center for Media, which is dedicated to the study of broadcast and digital media’s history and social significance, opted to vacate the premises four years earlier than required by the terms of its lease. Thanks to an agreement with the Beverly Hills Public Library, the Paley Center will continue to provide access to its collections in the Los Angeles area while searching for a permanent location.

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EXHIBITIONS AND FESTIVALS

Restored Works of Taiwanese Popular Cinema Tour Europe

Restored Works of Taiwanese Popular Cinema Tour Europe

Still from the melodrama The Husband’s Secret (Lin Tuan-chiu, 1960), one of the works of Taiwanese commercial films featured in a recent European tour.

Quickly and cheaply produced, Hoklo (Taiwanese-language) popular cinema was maligned by the island’s own government—which favored production in Mandarin—and has been largely forgotten. Of the more than a thousand Hoklo titles shot between the mid-1950s and the early 1980s (referred to as taiyupian), only around two hundred survive. A tour of taiyupian restored by the Taiwan Institute, organized by Chris Berry (King’s College London) and Ming-yeh Rawnsley (University of London), sought to expose European audiences to these little-seen productions. Mostly selected from the 1960s output of Japanese-trained directors Hsin Chi and Lin Tuan-chiu, the films range from melodramas like May 13th, Night of Sorrow (Lin Tuan-chiu, 1965) to romantic comedies like Foolish Bride, Naive Bridegroom (Hsin Chi, 1967).

A symposium at King’s College London and screenings elsewhere in the city were held in February; the remainder of the tour’s scheduled screenings in the UK, France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, Norway, and Finland have been canceled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More information on the initiative is available on the project’s website as well as here and here.

 

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Irish Costume Archive Launches Exhibition at Hunt Museum

Irish Costume Archive Launches Exhibition at Hunt Museum

Costumes worn by Cillian Murphy in Breakfast on Pluto (Neil Jordan, 2005). RTE.

Outfits from Braveheart (Mel Gibson, 1995), The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018), The Tudors (Showtime, 2007-2010), and other productions shot in Ireland or involving Irish talent went on display at Limerick’s Hunt Museum from February through mid-April. The exhibit represents a selection of the more than three hundred pieces amassed by the Irish Costume Archive, founded three years ago by costume designer Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh out of concerns that costume history was being neglected by Irish cultural institutions. Other highlights of the exhibit included Liam Neeson’s military uniform from Michael Collins (Neil Jordan, 1996) and Daniel Day-Lewis’s Afghan coat from In the Name of the Father (Jim Sheridan, 1993). For more on the exhibit, see here and here.

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ONLINE RESOURCES

Library of Congress Tests New Platform for Remixing Public-Domain Audio on Hip-Hop Tracks

Library of Congress Tests New Platform for Remixing Public-Domain Audio on Hip-Hop Tracks

The Library of Congress’s Citizen DJ site turns public domain audio into source material for beats and remixes.

A demonstration of the Library of Congress Citizen DJ project, which allows users to explore public-domain audio clips drawn from its collection and remix them with electronically generated beats, is now available online. Created by Library of Congress Innovator-in-Residence Brian Foo in collaboration with the organization’s LC Labs as an unusual means of boosting the collections discoverability, the full version of the site will launch in Summer 2020. Users can navigate the demonstration and offer feedback to shape the final stages of its development through May 15. More information about the project is available here.

 

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Subtitled Classics of Chinese Cinema Streaming Free Online

Subtitled Classics of Chinese Cinema Streaming Free Online

Ruan Lingyu appears as a vision superimposed on the Shanghai skyline in a subjective shot from Goddess (Wu Yonggang, 1934).

A dozen Chinese films dating from the 1920s through the 1940s are now freely available on YouTube with English subtitles thanks to an initiative of the University of British Columbia’s Department of Asian Studies. The bulk of the collection’s titles were produced in the vibrant Shanghai industry, ranging from silent productions featuring popular star Ruan Lingyu, including Goddess (Wu Yonggang, 1934) and New Women (Cai Chuseng, 1935), to music-driven early sound films like Street Angel (Yuan Muzhi, 1937) and Song at Midnight (Ma-Xu Weibang, 1937) and more politicized works like Crows and Sparrows (Zheng Junli, 1949) a condemnation of corruption in the Kuomintang (Nationalist) party produced on the eve of the Communists’ triumph. The films can be accessed here; more information is available here.

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Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Digitizing Recordings from Post-Screening Q&As

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Digitizing Recordings from Post-Screening Q&As

Fragile consumer-grade cassette tapes document public events at the Pacific Film Archive as early as 1976.

The Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive is making a decade’s worth of post-screening discussions with filmmakers and critics available online with the support of a $45,000 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources’ Recordings at Risk program. The digitization project involves the 750 oldest and most vulnerable audiotapes in the collection, dating between 1976—when the archive first began recording its public programs—and 1986. Guests captured on tape include Jean-Luc Godard, Fred Astaire, Chantal Akerman, Susan Sontag, Roberto Rossellini, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, and Lourdes Portillo.

The launch of the full collection, to be hosted by the Internet Archive, is not expected until later in the year. However, a small selection of recorded events—including David Lynch’s first Q&A for Eraserhead (1978) and a conversation with renowned Senegalese director Ousmane Sembène with Angela Davis serving as translator—can be accessed here along with additional information about the project.

 

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Database Offers Comprehensive Record of Foreign Silents Screened in Brazil During Cinema’s First Two Decades

Database Offers Comprehensive Record of Foreign Silents Screened in Brazil During Cinema’s First Two Decades

A database hosted by the educational site Mnemocine now offers a full inventory of imported films screened in Brazil between 1896 (when moving images were first commercially shown in the country) and 1918, offering a powerful tool for researching exhibition on an international scale. Additional entries document screenings between 1919 and 1934, bringing the total to 28,000. The database can be accessed here.

 

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US Army Signal Corps Films of World War I Prepped for Online Release

US Army Signal Corps Films of World War I Prepped for Online Release

Still from Scenes of Quartermaster Bakeries in the A.E.F [American Expeditionary Forces]., 1918. National Archives.

The digitization of approximately one million feet of footage produced by the US Army Signal Corps during World War I has been completed in advance of the films’ online release. The Signal Corps, which handles military communication and coordination, donated the films—numbering close to five hundred—to the National Archives in 1939. The films document not only the events of combat, but also soldiers’ interactions with the camera and daily tasks ranging from the espionage-tinged (examining letters for traces of invisible ink) to the mundane (baking bread for fellow soldiers). The digitization project also involved the creation and upload of keyword-searchable scans of an index card guide to the collection, allowing users to search the films’ metadata from the National Archives’ main catalog. The material will be available on the National Archives’ YouTube channel. More information about the project and the collection is available here, here and here. A finding aid can be accessed here.

 

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Website Dedicated to the Career of Barbara Hammer Makes its Debut

Website Dedicated to the Career of Barbara Hammer Makes its Debut

An online guide to the work of the pioneering lesbian experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, who passed away last year, made its debut in March. The site includes a comprehensive guide to Hammer’s films, performances, and visual art; a guide to writings by and about Hammer; a running list of exhibitions and other events relating to Hammer’s work; and guidelines for grants and awards administered in the artist’s name by Queer|Art and San Francisco State University’s Queer Cinema Project. Independently from the new site, a selection of Barbara Hammer’s films from the 1980s is currently available online via Company Gallery.

 

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Archival News” reports recent news highlights from the media archive community for the JCMS 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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