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Archival News 57.3 (Spring 2018)
Edited by Rielle Navitski


PRESERVATION

Twenty Films by Egyptian Filmmaker Youssef Chahine to Be Restored by Misr International Films

Twenty Films by Egyptian Filmmaker Youssef Chahine to Be Restored by Misr International Films

 

Still from Youssef Chahine’s Al-Massir (Destiny, 1997). Source: Cannes Film Festival.

Twenty feature films by Youssef Chahine, the Egyptian director best known outside the Arab world, are slated for restoration by Misr International Films. In forty-six features shot over more than five decades, Chahine’s work drew on popular melodrama, neorealism, and musical spectacle to critique imperialism, Islamic fundamentalism, and social inequality. Misr International, founded by Chahine in 1972, is partnering with France’s CNC, television channel TF1, telecom company Orange, the Archives Audiovisuelles de Monaco, the Cineteca di Bologna, and the Cinémathèque Française on the project. The first restoration in the series, the historical allegory Al-Massir (Destiny, Egypt/France, 1997), screened at the Cannes film festival in May. Paris and Cairo will host retrospectives of Chahine’s work later this year. Additional information about the project can be found here.

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Universal Pictures Announces Partnership with The Film Foundation, Ongoing Commitment to Silent Film Restoration

Universal Pictures Announces Partnership with The Film Foundation, Ongoing Commitment to Silent Film Restoration

Still from The Man Who Laughs, one of the titles restored in Universal Pictures’ ongoing silent film restoration initiative. Source: The Hollywood Reporter.

 

In May, Universal Pictures made public a new partnership with The Film Foundation, with Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg to provide aesthetic and historical input on the restoration process. Titles slated to be restored by Universal in 2018 include the 1946 and 1964 versions of The Killers, based on the story by Ernest Hemingway and the westerns Destry Rides Again (dir. George Marshall, US,1939) and Winchester ’73 (dir. Anthony Mann, US, 1950).

 

Later that month, Universal announced plans to restore ten silent titles at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s opening night screening of The Man Who Laughs (dir. Paul Leni, US, 1924), which had restored by the studio in 4K using a 35mm print struck from the original camera negative. The project builds on the silent film initiative launched by the studio in 2015, with fifteen restorations completed to date. More information on Universal’s preservation initiatives can be found here and here.

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Rediscovered Satire of Anti-Semitism The City Without Jews Premieres at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

Rediscovered Satire of Anti-Semitism The City Without Jews Premieres at San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

Still from The City Without Jews. Source: Filmarchiv Austria.

The City Without Jews (Die Stadt ohne Juden, dir. Hans Karl Breslauer, Austria, 1924), a biting look at intolerance and xenophobia that foreshadowed the Holocaust, is finding new audiences thanks to the discovery of a print at a Paris flea market in 2015. Based on a novel by Hugo Bettauer, a writer and activist assassinated by a Nazi party member in 1925, the film depicts an economic crisis in the imaginary nation Utopia, for which its Jewish citizens are blamed. Their expulsion, however, brings about unintended consequences.

While a partial copy of The City Without Jews was located in the Nederlands Filmmuseum (now part of EYE Filmmuseum) in 1991, this recent find includes additional footage and more pointed intertitles not present in the Dutch print. In the wake of presidential campaigns marked by xenophobic rhetoric in Austria and the United States, a crowdfunding campaign raised over 86,000 Euros to fund The City Without Jews’s restoration by the Filmarchiv Austria. In July, the restoration had its international premiere in a joint presentation of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Learn more about The City Without Jews here and here.

 

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Rare Color Films of Louise Brooks, George Washington Carver Brought to Light at British Film Institute and US National Archives

Rare Color Films of Louise Brooks, George Washington Carver Brought to Light at British Film Institute and US National Archives

George Washington Carver in a 1937 amateur film shot by Dr. C. Allen Alexander. Source: National Archives.

Two separate finds unearthed rare color images of early twentieth-century public figures in recent months. In June, the US National Archives announced they had encountered footage showing pioneering Black scientist and educator George Washington Carver in a recent acquisition from the National Parks Service. African-American surgeon Dr. C. Allen Alexander filmed scenes with Carver on the grounds of the Tuskegee Institute in 1937 using Kodachrome color reversal film. To learn more and view the footage, visit the National Archives’ Unwritten Records blog.

In the realm of commercial filmmaking and color processes, several examples of early Technicolor were uncovered at the British Film Institute in May. During an inspection of a print of the two-strip Technicolor film The Black Pirate (dir. Albert Parker, US, 1926), archivist Jane Fernandes discovered several color film fragments that had been repurposed as leader used to thread the reel. In addition to a costume test or unedited shot of Louise Brooks from the production of The American Venus (dir. Frank Tuttle, US, 1926), the cache of fragments includes images from the lost film Mona Lisa (dir. Arthur Maude, US, 1926) starring future Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, as well as other 1920s productions. For additional coverage of the find, see here and here; the fragments can be viewed on the BFI’s YouTube channel.

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INSTITUTIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Destruction of Original Recordings After Digitization Sparks Controversy

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Destruction of Original Recordings After Digitization Sparks Controversy

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s vaults.

Source: Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

The CBC found itself on the defensive in late April after the Canadian Broadcast Museum Foundation publicly criticized the broadcaster’s move to destroy original audio and video recordings after they had been digitized. The CBC began to destroy original recordings of radio and television programs after the foundation missed a March 31 deadline to move the materials, which it had planned to store in a decommissioned underground Canadian Forces base.

Critics stress that uncertainty about the stability and longevity of digital formats render this practice a risky proposition for long-term preservation. Changing formats of LTO (linear tape open), the magnetic tape on which the CBC will store its digital data, may quickly become obsolete, necessitating the migration of the data. The CBC’s response to the criticism cited “equipment obsolescence and the increasing cost to production staff and media librarians of maintaining playback devices” as factors in its decision, insisting that “our archives are not being destroyed; they are being transformed into digital, file-based formats to ensure preservation.” Further coverage of the debate can be found here and here.

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Cineteca di Bologna Suffers Nitrate Fire

Cineteca di Bologna Suffers Nitrate Fire

The aftermath of a July 4 nitrate fire at the Cineteca di Bologna.

Source: Sasso Marconi Vigili di Fuoco (Fire Brigade).

Shortly after the close of the Cineteca di Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato festival, one of the archive’s storage vaults caught fire in the early morning hours of July 4. The blaze, likely due to the spontaneous combustion of nitrate materials, was contained by the vault’s design and a rapid response by firefighters. While no inventory of destroyed or damaged reels is available, according to the Cineteca’s website “Luckily, they are not the most rare and precious of the collection.” Additional information on the incident is available here (in Italian).

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Irish Film Institute Triples Storage Capacity with New Facility at Maynooth University

Irish Film Institute Triples Storage Capacity with New Facility at Maynooth University

After the Irish Film Institute’s existing vaults reached capacity in 2011, the archive launched a funding campaign and turned to a partnership with Maynooth University to expand its facilities. A new building with 1,300 square feet of climate-controlled vault space, the largest of its kind in Ireland, opened on the university’s campus in March. The building triples the space available to store the IFI’s collection of over 30,000 film reels, which include features by Irish and Irish-American directors like John Huston, Neil Jordan, and Aisling Walsh and a growing number of amateur films. Maynooth’s Media Studies department will offer a graduate-level module in Media Archives through the university’s partnership with IFI. For more information, see here and here.

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AWARDS

Funding for Digitization of William H. Hays Papers Among Grants Awarded by National Historical Publications and Records Commission

Funding for Digitization of William H. Hays Papers Among Grants Awarded by National Historical Publications and Records Commission

Will H. Hays at a 1941 banquet, captured in footage digitized by the Indiana State Library.

In June, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission awarded the Indiana State Library a grant of close to $75,000 to digitize the papers of William H. Hays, an architect of Hollywood’s self-censorship mechanisms during the 1930s. In addition to documents relating to these policies, the collection contains correspondence, meeting minutes, and financial documents of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America dating from Hays’ tenure as its president during 1926 and again from 1935 to 1945. A finding aid for the collection, which is the library’s most frequently consulted, can be viewed here. More information on the grant and digitization project is available here.

Other media-related projects funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission include the digitization of 4,000 of public television and radio programs by the American Archive of Public Broadcasting and the Walter J. Brown Media Archives at the University of Georgia; Bethel Broadcasting’s digitization of 1,000 videotapes depicting Yup’ik and Cup’ik peoples from the indigenous-run KYUK television station; and the digitization of thirty-two interviews with high-profile athletes used in Miles Williams’s television documentary Black Champions by Washington University in St. Louis. A full list of the awards can be viewed here; see additional coverage here.

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Recordings at Risk Program Aids Preservation of Marginalized Media Histories

Recordings at Risk Program Aids Preservation of Marginalized Media Histories

Open-reel tapes preserve recordings of the Indians for Indians Radio Hour Program, to be digitized with funds from the Council for Library and Information Resources.

Source: University of Oklahoma

The Recordings at Risk program administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources awarded grants totaling more than $500,000 to support preservation of audiovisual materials documenting minoritized communities in the United States. The African American Museum and Library in Oakland, CA received an award of just under $20,000 to digitize ninety-eight films that depict Black Panther Party protests, as well as anti-Vietnam War and labor activism. Footage from the collection is slated for online release next spring. Another key collection dealing with social movements of the sixties and seventies, a cache of audio and video recordings documenting the American Indian Movement held by the University of California, Davis, will also undergo digitization with funding from CLIR.

Two additional grants from Recordings at Risk are to support projects that highlight the linguistic and cultural diversity of US radio. In partnership with the University of Maryland, National Public Radio will digitize close to 500 hours of the newsmagazine Enfoque Nacional (1979-1988), the broadcaster’s first Spanish-language program. CLIR awarded close to $50,000 to the University of Oklahoma to digitize 152 open-reel tapes of the Indians for Indians Radio Hour, a Native American-run program broadcast weekly from 1942 to 1976 and make them available online.

A full list of grants awarded through this year’s Recordings at Risk program is available here.

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Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive to Digitize Top Value Television’s Free-Form Documentaries with National Endowment for the Humanities Funding

Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive to Digitize Top Value Television’s Free-Form Documentaries with National Endowment for the Humanities Funding

Top Value Television collective member Doug Michels recording in the field.

Source: Top Value Television.

Hundreds of hours of footage shot by the Top Value Television collective, early adopters of the lightweight Sony Portapak video camera who developed a spontaneous and meandering documentary style, will be digitized by the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive. Donated by the collective’s co-founder Allen Rucker almost two decades ago, the cache of half-inch analog tapes will be preserved with the support of a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant totaling over $220,000. In addition to finished versions of Top Value Television’s best-known works—such as Four More Years, a “guerilla” document of the 1972 Republican Convention—the collection contains extensive outtakes and documents relating to the group’s activities. These paper materials will be scanned and made freely available online alongside the digitized footage. Additional coverage of the project can be found here and here.

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ONLINE RESOURCES

New York University Releases Fifty Years of Recordings from the Flaherty Seminar Online

New York University Releases Fifty Years of Recordings from the Flaherty Seminar Online

A 1969 promotional booklet entitled “The Flaherty Film Seminar: A Week of Total Involvement with Films.” Source: Flaherty Film Seminar.

Over 700 audiotapes from the Flaherty Film Seminar, a yearly event that pairs screenings of independent and documentary film with in-depth discussions were made accessible online by NYU’s Fales Special Collections Library in May. Dated between 1958 through 2011, the tapes feature conversations with prominent directors like Satyajit Ray, Agnès Varda, John Cassavetes, and Mira Nair. The audio can be accessed through the collection’s online finding aid. Learn more about the project here.

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The Fondation Chantal Akerman and Belgium’s National Cinémathèque Launch Digital Archive of Akerman’s Works

The Fondation Chantal Akerman and Belgium’s National Cinémathèque Launch Digital Archive of Akerman’s Works

Production stills from Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 2300 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Source: Fondation Chantal Akerman.

At the Cannes Film Festival in May, the Fondation Chantal Akerman and Belgian national film archive CINEMATEK announced the creation of an online archive dedicated to the life and work of the renowned filmmaker, who died by suicide in 2015. Currently under construction, the online portal will feature scripts, posters, press clippings, and photographs drawn from Akerman’s personal papers and the archives of her production company, Paradise Films. Information about accessing and exhibiting Akerman’s books, films, and installations is also available on the site.

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Dziga Vertov’s Kino Pravda Newsreels Made Freely Available by Austria’s Filmmuseum

Dziga Vertov’s Kino Pravda Newsreels Made Freely Available by Austria’s Filmmuseum

“Demonstration of an American movie camera” in Kino-Pravda no. 6.

Source: Österreiches Filmmuseum.

Hailed as a laboratory for the experimental formal language of Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov, the rarely seen Kino-Pravda agit-prop newsreels are now available to view on the website of the Österreiches Filmmuseum. The episodes join nearly 2,000 digitized items from the Dziga Vertov collection, including photographs, publicity materials, correspondence, and an earlier series of newsreels produced by Vertov in 1918-1919. Detailed program notes by Yuri Tsivian, originally written for Pordenone’s Giornate del Cinema Muto, accompany the Kino-Pravda episodes.

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Radio Free Europe Films of the 1950s and 1960s Now Streaming on Hoover Institution YouTube Channel

Radio Free Europe Films of the 1950s and 1960s Now Streaming on Hoover Institution YouTube Channel

Narrated by Walter Cronkite, the 1955 propaganda film Towers of Truth promoted the Crusade for Freedom, a fundraising campaign for Radio Free Europe.

Source: Hoover Institution

Twenty newly digitized films promoting Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty—CIA-sponsored initiatives that broadcast alternative news, cultural programming, and anti-communist propaganda to the Soviet Union and Soviet-affiliated countries—can now be viewed on YouTube. The films form part of an extensive collection comprising over 100,000 sound recordings and 10.5 million pages of paper documents held by the Hoover Institution, a library and right-leaning public policy think tank located on the campus of Stanford University. Over 6,700 digitized recordings from the collections are also available online.

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PUBLICATIONS AND DVDS

Classic of Cuba’s Revolutionary Cinema, Memories of Underdevelopment, Released by Criterion

Classic of Cuba’s Revolutionary Cinema, Memories of Underdevelopment, Released by Criterion

An introspective look at bourgeois alienation under socialism that cemented Cuban film’s critical reputation abroad, Memories of Underdevelopment (Memorias del subdesarrollo, dir. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1968) was recently restored through a partnership between the Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinematográficos and the Cineteca di Bologna, with funding from the George Lucas Family Foundation and the Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project. Memories of Underdevelopment is the ninth Latin American film released through the Criterion Collection, which currently numbers 1,265 titles. For a round-up of critics’ comments on the film, see here.

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Kino Lorber Restores, Releases Experimental Soap Opera and Cult Horror Film by African-American Director Bill Gunn

Kino Lorber Restores, Releases Experimental Soap Opera and Cult Horror Film by African-American Director Bill Gunn

Directed by prolific Black director and playwright Bill Gunn, the experimental and non-linear Personal Problems—described as a “meta-soap opera” by its writer Ishmael Reed—remained largely unseen after plans for public television broadcast were scrapped in 1981. Centering on Johnnie Mae Brown (Vertamae Grosvenor), a nurse’s aide embroiled in an extramarital affair, the miniseries was shot on inexpensive ¾-inch U-Matic video tape. The restoration—which included a remastering of the soundtrack that boosted the audibility of dialogue—is available on home video. For more on the restoration, see here.

Kino Lorber has also restored Gunn’s hallucinatory vampire film Ganja & Hess (remade by Spike Lee as Da Sweet Blood of Jesus in 2014) and released it theatrically on DCP. Read more about the restoration here.

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EXHIBITIONS AND FESTIVALS

Fourth Nitrate Picture Show Features Hollywood Classics, European Art Film—and a Few Reels Borrowed from Scorsese

Fourth Nitrate Picture Show Features Hollywood Classics, European Art Film—and a Few Reels Borrowed from Scorsese

A still from Mlhy Na Blatech (Mist on the Moors, dir. František Čáp, Czechoslovakia, 1943), screened at this year’s Nitrate Picture Show. Source: George Eastman House

The George Eastman House, one of a handful of venues in the United States still equipped to project nitrate, hosted its fourth annual festival showcasing the highly flammable film stock and the unique image clarity and contrast it offers. Revealed to the public on the morning of the festival, the program featured original prints of classical Hollywood titles like Holiday (dir. George Cukor, 1938) and Winchester ‘73 (dir. Anthony Mann, 1950) alongside a handful of European films, including Ingmar Bergman’s Sommarlek (Illicit Interlude, Sweden, 1951). For a screening of the Technicolor ballet spectacle The Red Shoes (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, UK, 1948), the final two reels of the print held by the Eastman House were swapped out for segments from Martin Scorsese’s copy of the film due to a sound quality issue. For more on this year’s Nitrate Picture Show, see here and here.

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Il Cinema Ritrovato Marks Anniversaries, Highlights Female Image-Makers

Il Cinema Ritrovato Marks Anniversaries, Highlights Female Image-Makers

A screening of the Mexican melodrama Enamorada (dir. Emilio Fernández, 1946) opens the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore.

Source: Lorenzo Burlando/Sassuolo2000.

The Cineteca di Bologna’s Il Cinema Ritrovato festival marked the centenary of 1918 with rediscovered works from that year by Germaine Dulac and Ernst Lubitsch and commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of 1968’s political upheaval by screening “Ciné-Tracts” by Chris Marker, Jean-Luc Godard, and Pierre Gorin. Alongside homages to two iconic male actors of the 1960s—Italy’s Marcello Mastroianni and Turkey’s Yılmaz Güney—the festival honored Neapolitan silent film pioneer Elvira Notari, pre-Bahaus photographer and filmmaker Ella Bergmann-Michel, and Nouvelle Vague editor and director Cécile Decugis. Other highlights include programs exploring Communist film industries, one dedicated to the flowering of Soviet sound film during a moment of political opening in 1934, the other to the postwar revival of a Chinese cinema marked by critical realism. This year’s program is available here.

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CONFERENCES, SYMPOSIA, AND WORKSHOPS

Home Movie Footage of Albert Einstein, African-American Version of Early “Kiss” Film Among Treasures Brought to Light at 11th Orphan Film Symposium

Home Movie Footage of Albert Einstein, African-American Version of Early “Kiss” Film Among Treasures Brought to Light at 11th Orphan Film Symposium

Albert and Elsa Einstein in a trick shot from a 1931 home movie.

Source: Becca Bender via Twitter.

Showcasing efforts to safeguard films that fall outside traditional genres and conventional preservation mandates, this year’s Orphan Film Symposium placed one-of-a-kind discoveries on display.

The public got its first glimpse of a 1931 footage of Albert Einstein on the set of Warner Bros. in 1931 at the symposium’s opening screening. In the three-minute film, Einstein and his wife Elsa pose in a stationary car that appears to fly through fantastic settings thanks to rear projection. Becca Bender, a student in New York University’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program, discovered the material during processing of violinist Leopold Godowsky Jr.’s home movie collection at Lincoln Center.

A second discovery was sourced outside the archives: University of Southern California film archivist Dino Everett uncovered a remake of the 1896 Edison film The Kiss with African-American performers in a lot of films purchased for $45 on eBay. In collaboration with University of Chicago professor Allyson Nadia Field, Everett identified the fifty-foot film as Something Good – Negro Kiss. Dating from 1898, the film is likely the oldest surviving production of the Chicago-based Selig Polyscope company.

Jennifer Peterson delivered the symposium’s keynote address, entitled “Love, Loss, and Climate Change: Watching the Historical Nature Film Today.” Audio recordings from the symposium can be accessed here; view the Einstein footage and read more about the discovery here.

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19th Northeast Historic Film Symposium Highlights Local and Regional Production and Exhibition, Past and Present

19th Northeast Historic Film Symposium Highlights Local and Regional Production and Exhibition, Past and Present

The protagonist of a “Movie Queen” film shot in Lubec, Maine in 1936 receives the key to the city. Source: Northeast Historic Film

Held in mid-July, the Northeast Historic Film Symposium highlighted overlooked uses of moving images on a local or regional scale, ranging from early twentieth-century magic lantern practices in the Northeast to the series of “Movie Queen” films shot by itinerant filmmakers in cities and towns across the United States in the 1930s. Presentations examining present-day archival endeavors highlighted localized exhibition ventures—screenings of amateur footage documenting New Zealand communities for their present-day residents, organized by Nga Tonga Sound and Vision—and regional partnerships for home movie preservation in Italy. Two additional talks showcased female-focused preservation projects: the Archiving South Carolina Women initiative to chronicle women’s activism in the state, and the Woman Behind the Camera project, a partnership of Northeast Historic Film, the Chicago Film Archives, and the Lesbian Home Movie Project to digitize over 300 hours of home and amateur film shot by women. The symposium program can be accessed 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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