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Archival News
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Archival News 58.2 Winter 2019)
Edited by Rielle Navitski


ACQUISITIONS

Papers of Actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee Acquired by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Papers of Actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee Acquired by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

A portrait of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee circa 1946. New York Public Library.

The joint archives of actors and civil rights activists Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee will be made available for research through the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which announced the acquisition in November. Part of the Home to Harlem project, which seeks to gather the papers of the New York neighborhood’s most prominent African American intellectuals and creatives, the Dee and Davis acquisition joins related collections like the archives of the American Negro Theatre where Dee got her professional start. The company was based at the Harlem Branch of the New York Public Library, which houses the Schomburg Center today.

Beyond Dee and Davis’s personal correspondence and the letters they exchanged with activists like Malcolm X and Coretta Scott King, the collection contains extensive documentation of the couple’s long careers onscreen, which began with uncredited roles in the Sidney Poitier vehicle No Way Out (1950) and extended through joint appearances in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989). (A letter Lee wrote to the pair inviting them to appear in the film is preserved in the archive). The papers also include stills, scripts, and other materials related to the six features directed by Davis, including Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970), an early entry in the “blaxploitation” cycle, and Countdown at Kusini (1976), a thriller considered the first U.S. feature shot in Africa. For more information on the collection, which will become available to the public for research in Spring 2019, see here and here.

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National Film Archive of India Adds Over 2,200 16mm Titles to its Collection

National Film Archive of India Adds Over 2,200 16mm Titles to its Collection

Prakash Magdum, Director of the National Film Archive of India, poses with items from a major new acquisition of 16mm materials. The Economic Times.

In its largest acquisition of 16mm materials to date, the National Film Archive of India has incorporated over two thousand shorts held by the State Institute for Audio-Visual Education in Pune into its collection. The cache of films comprises documentaries on well-known writers and thinkers, historical landmarks, song and dance, education, public health, and development—including India’s first two Five-Year Plans—with a focus on the state of Maharashtra. Other works in the collection include a rare early example of Indian experimental cinema, Raja Nene’s Lalat (1947), and foreign travelogues depicting everyday life in locales like Japan, Russia, Norway, and the United Kingdom. According to NFAI director Prakash Magdum, the preservation status of most films in the collection is critical; the reels are currently being reviewed with the goal of salvaging significant materials. For more on the new collection, see here and here.

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Brandeis Lands Unreleased Film Featuring Controversial Comedian Lenny Bruce

Brandeis Lands Unreleased Film Featuring Controversial Comedian Lenny Bruce


An original print of an unreleased, untitled short starring boundary-pushing comedian Lenny Bruce is now part of Brandeis University’s large Lenny Bruce Collection, which includes correspondence, audio recordings, press clippings, and screenplays by and about Bruce. Bruce, who faced multiple obscenity prosecutions for his profanity-laced anti-establishment humor, plays a newsboy who dreams of owning a leather jacket and meets an unhappy end in a random encounter with a drug dealer and the police. The twelve-minute 16mm film is silent except for a jazz soundtrack, likely composed by Bruce’s close friend Lewis “Count” DePasquale. DePasquale’s family inherited the footage after his death in 2001; it was acquired by Brandeis with support from the Ann and Abe Effron Fund. A digital copy of the short is available for onsite research in the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department. For more information, see here.

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PRESERVATION

Early Walt Disney Short, Presumed Lost, Rediscovered in Japan<

Early Walt Disney Short, Presumed Lost, Rediscovered in Japan

The Disney short Neck’n’Neck (1928), featuring the character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, was marketed in Japan with the title Mickey Manga Spide (Mickey Cartoon Speedy). Asahi Shimbun.

In November, animation historian Yasushi Watanabe announced his identification of an early Disney short featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit—the precursor to Mickey Mouse—which he owned for seventy years without realizing its rarity. Watanabe purchased Neck’n’Neck (1928), labeled “Mickey Manga Spide” (Mickey Cartoon Speedy) at an Osaka market for 500 yen (about six dollars). After reading David Bossert’s Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Missing Disney Cartoons (2017), the collector reached out to the Disney Archive to inquire if the print was among the lost Oswald films made before Disney lost the character’s rights to Universal, prompting the development of Mickey Mouse. In Neck’n’Neck, which was shortened to two minutes from its original five for home viewing on 16mm, Oswald and his girlfriend lead a canine police office in a highway chase. For more on the rediscovery, see here and here.

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A Hundred Years After its Premiere, Dziga Vertov’s The Anniversary of the Revolution Resurfaces

A Hundred Years After its Premiere, Dziga Vertov’s The Anniversary of the Revolution Resurfaces

The Anniversary of the Revolution—a two-hour chronicle of the Bolshevik uprising and ensuing civil war compiled by a 22-year-old Dziga Vertov—returned to public view a century after its premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in November. Commissioned by the Cinema Department of the People’s Commissariat of Education and completed in October 1918, The Anniversary of the Revolution toured the country on propaganda trains equipped for film screenings, but lost its relevance after the conclusion of the conflict. Although the film’s original materials were preserved in the Russian State Documentary Film and Photo Archive, their order could not be effectively reconstructed until the Institute of Cinema’s Svetlana Ishevskaya located a complete list of intertitles at the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art in 2017. Historian Nikolai Izvolov led the team that matched intertitle descriptions to numbered segments of footage totaling tens of thousands of feet to reconstruct The Anniversary of the Revolution’s original form. For more on the restoration, see here and here.

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Academic Libraries Video Trust to Help Disseminate Hard-to-Access VHS Content

Academic Libraries Video Trust to Help Disseminate Hard-to-Access VHS Content


Thousands of films available only on obsolete and deteriorating formats like VHS—an estimated 15 to 20 percent of commercial home video releases—are slated to become more accessible through the Academic Libraries Video Trust (ALVT). An initiative of the non-profit National Media Market, which promotes the distribution of educational media, ALVT is grounded in Section 108 of U.S. copyright law. The provision specifies that libraries and archives may make up to three copies of materials held on obsolete formats if no replacement can be acquired at a fair price, allowing member libraries to pool their digitization efforts. Member institutions—which currently include ALVT’s founding benefactors American University, Duke University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Delaware, Hofstra University, and the University of North Texas—upload digital copies of films available only on obsolete formats. These digital copies may be downloaded by other member libraries that already hold or held a copy of the relevant title. The ALVT project site videotrust.org also includes a running list of close to 3,500 titles evaluated as candidates for digitization under Section 108. See here for more on the initiative.

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Classic French Film Scores Restored through Efforts of Director Bertrand Tavernier

Classic French Film Scores Restored through Efforts of Director Bertrand Tavernier

The reconstructed score for Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937), composed by Joseph Kosma, received its concert premiere in January. British Film Institute.


Reconstructed scores from La Grande Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937) and Mr. Arkadin (Orson Welles, 1955), respectively composed by Joseph Kosma and Paul Misraki, received their first-ever concert performances in January through a project spearheaded by French director Bertrand Tavernier. Tavernier developed an interest in the often neglected work of French composers while working on the documentary My Journey Through French Cinema and the eight-part television series of the same name. Tavernier observed that music for even the most celebrated films often went unrecorded and its sheet music unpublished, due in part to the French industry’s handling of this aspect of production. Typically, film producers did not commission or hold the rights to scores; instead, music editors financed the work of composers in exchange for fifty percent of royalties. Publishers rarely fulfilled the obligation to keep the music commercially available attached to those rights, a provision that facilitated the recovery and performance of the compositions. In addition to unpublished and previously unperformed scores—reconstructed by conductor and musician Bruno Fontaine from DVD copies of the films—the concert at Paris’s Maison de la Radio included more recent compositions like Georges Delerue’s music for Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963) and Antoine Duhamel’s score for Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965). For more on the project, see here and here.

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INSTITUTIONS AND ORGANIZATIONS

Academy Offers Preview of Coming Attractions for its Museum of Motion Pictures

Academy Offers Preview of Coming Attractions for its Museum of Motion Pictures

Concept illustration by Erik Tiemens for the permanent exhibition at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, slated to open in late 2019. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In December, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed key details of the permanent and upcoming temporary exhibitions at its $388 million Museum of Motion Pictures. Slated to open in late 2019, the museum will occupy the former May Company building—renamed the Saban building in recognition of a $50 million gift from Cheryl and Haim Saban—on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. Visitors to the permanent exhibition will first encounter spaces dedicated to precinematic technologies and early cinema, silent film, and the Hollywood studio system. The exhibition’s second floor is split between galleries highlighting cinema’s “Real World” explorations—such as Italian neorealism and the French New Wave—and its “Imaginary World” dimensions, ranging from Georges Méliès A Trip to the Moon (1902) to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

The museum’s first temporary exhibit, presented in partnership with Studio Ghibli and curated by Jessica Niebel, will focus the work of celebrated animator Hayao Miyazaki. The show will be followed in Fall 2020 by Regeneration: Black Cinema 1900-1970, an extensive survey of African-American filmmaking before the era of so-called blaxploitation. Two other temporary exhibits, Making Of: The Wizard of Oz and Transcending Boundaries, an interactive installation created by Tokyo-based art collective teamLab, will also make their debut with the museum’s opening. See here and here for information.

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Library of Congress’s National Film Registry Enters its Third Decade

Library of Congress’s National Film Registry Enters its Third Decade

The recently rediscovered Something Good-Negro Kiss (Selig-Polyscope, 1898) is among the 2018 additions to the National Film Registry. University of Chicago.

In December, the Library of Congress marked the thirtieth anniversary of the National Film Registry, which recognizes “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” films nominated by the public and selected by the Librarian of Congress and the LOC’s Film Board. The 2018 additions to the registry include the noirish classical Hollywood features Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock, 1940), Leave Her to Heaven (John M. Stahl, 1945), The Lady from Shanghai (Orson Welles, 1947), and Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller, 1953), along with more contemporary hits like The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980), Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993) and Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005).

Images of and by people of color figure prominently on this year’s list, spanning cinema’s early years as well as more recent productions. The recently rediscovered Something Good-Negro Kiss (Selig-Polyscope, 1898), believed to be the earliest surviving depiction of Black intimacy onscreen, was recognized by the Registry along with Dixon-Wanamaker Expedition to Crow Agency (1908), an ethnographic film that preserves significant aspects of daily life among the Crow (Apsáalooke) people. The additions of Smoke Signals (Chris Eyre, 1998) and Eve’s Bayou (Kasi Lemmons, 1997) recognize key contributions by Native and Black filmmakers to the heyday of independent cinema in the 1990s, while the work of pioneering Black female animator Ayoka Chenzira was acknowledged with the inclusion of Hair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People (1984). Visit the Library of Congress website for more on the 2018 selections.

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Czech National Film Museum Opens its Doors in Prague

Czech National Film Museum Opens its Doors in Prague

Children spin a zoetrope at Prague’s new National Film Museum.

In December, the Czech Republic’s National Film Museum (NaFilm) opened its doors in a previously abandoned Prague concert hall. Founded by three alumni of the Charles University Film Studies department, Adéla Mrázová, Terezie Křížkovská, and Jakub Jiřiště, NaFilm previously organized two temporary exhibitions in the Palác Chicago and Museum Montanelli, which focused on sound, the illusion of motion, and the Czech avant-garde of the 1920s. While the museum is a private venture, it received support from the Ministry of Culture, the State Cinematography Fund, the Municipality of Prague, and a crowdfunding campaign that raised over 275,000 crowns (more than 20,000 Euros). NaFilm’s focus is on interactive exhibits that let visitors manipulate moving-image technologies, including precinematic optical toys like zoetropes and a modified 35mm projector. For more information on the museum, see here and here.

 

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EXHIBITIONS AND FESTIVALS

Kolkata International Film Festival Celebrates Centenary of Bengali Cinema

Kolkata International Film Festival Celebrates Centenary of Bengali Cinema

A still from Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, which screened in a restored version at the Kolkata Film Festival in December.


Commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the first Bengali-language film Bilwamangal’s public premiere, the Kolkata International Film Festival screened thirteen key works of Bengali cinema in mid-November. Complementing this programming, recent restorations of Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy—Pather Panchali (1955), Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (Apu’s World, 1959)—and the Hindi-language feature Kalpana (Uday Shankar, 1948) screened at the festival. In addition, a new initiative to restore 100 classics of Bengali cinema was announced During the Film Preservation and Restoration Workshop India 2018, hosted by the festival in partnership with Mumbai’s Film Heritage Foundation and the International Federation of Film Archives. For more on the tribute, see here and here.

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NY MoMA’s “To Save and Project” Festival Highlights Female Filmmakers, Black and LGBTQ Images, Barbet Schroeder’s Documentary Work

NY MoMA’s “To Save and Project” Festival Highlights Female Filmmakers, Black and LGBTQ Images, Barbet Schroeder’s Documentary Work

Still from General Idi Amin Dada (1974), part of a retrospective of Barbet Schroeder’s documentary films at NY MoMA.

An eclectic array of restored and rediscovered works screened at the annual festival of film preservation hosted by New York’s Museum of Modern Art in January. The festival opened with a full retrospective of Barbet Schroeder’s documentary work, including his “trilogy of evil” General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait (1974), Terror’s Advocate (2007), a portrait of infamous French criminal defense attorney Jacques Vergès, and The Venerable W. (2017), on Myanmar’s anti-Muslim Buddhist cleric Ashin Wira Thursday. Extending the 2018 festival’s spotlight on female filmmakers, this year’s edition of “To Save and Project” featured screenings of Chantal Akerman’s documentary Histoires d’Amérique: Food, Family, and Philosophy (1989); experimental films by Peggy Ahwesh, Barbara Hammer, and Yvonne Rainer; Doris Wishman’s comic exploitation film Nude on the Moon (1961); and the world theatrical premiere of Ida Lupino’s Never Fear (aka The Young Lovers, 1950). Other programs highlighted the intersections of Black and LGBTQ identities onscreen with screenings of experimental works by gay African American artist Edward Owens and Behind Every Good Man... (Nikolai Ursin, 1967), a 16mm portrait of a Black trans woman, projected at a celebration of NYU’s Orphan Films Symposium.

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Barbara Hammer Retrospective Showcases Major Series of Restorations

Barbara Hammer Retrospective Showcases Major Series of Restorations

Spanning the full five-decade career of the prominent lesbian experimental filmmaker, “Barbara Hammer, Superdyke” featured nineteen new restorations of her works, made possible by a collaboration between the Academy Film Archive, Electronic Arts Intermix, the National Film Preservation Foundation’s Avant-Garde Masters Grant Program, the Film Foundation, the George Lucas Family Foundation, and the Women’s Film Preservation Fund. Charting the queer and feminist preoccupations that have defined Hammer’s output—women’s sexuality, mortality, embodiment—the series also highlighted the range of formats she has utilized, ranging from Super 8mm film to PortaPak video and contemporary digital formats. Several new prints and copies of Hammer’s films from the Academy Film Archive completed the line-up. Presented through a partnership between the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the Hugh M. Hefner Classic American Film Program, the Los Angeles Filmforum and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the series featured two in-person appearance by Hammer and was curated by KJ Relth and Mark Toscano.

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ONLINE RESOURCES

Danish Film Institute to Digitize All of Denmark’s Surviving Silents

Danish Film Institute to Digitize All of Denmark’s Surviving Silents

Asta Nielsen in The Suffragette (Urban Gad, 1913), one of over four hundred Danish silents slated to be digitized by the Danish Film Institute.

In December, the Danish Film Institute (DFI) announced an initiative to digitize all extant works of Danish silent cinema, an era that marked the high point of the domestic industry’s global prominence. Thanks to a 30 million kroner gift from the private A.P. Møller, Augustinus, and Aage and Johanne Louis-Hansen foundations, 415 titles with a combined running time of 350 hours will receive digital transfers. Paper and photographic materials such as posters, programs, and stills will also undergo digitization. The project provides for the creation of a new streaming site that will pair films with scholarly articles, as well as a silent film festival. More information (in Danish) is available here.

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Three Decades of Swiss Film Periodicals Now Freely Accessible Online

Three Decades of Swiss Film Periodicals Now Freely Accessible Online

A 1918 issue of the Swiss film magazine Kinema, the country’s first with a national circulation, now available digitally.

An array of Swiss film magazines dated between 1913 to 1944 are now digitally available through a partnership between the Swiss National Library, the Film Studies Department of the University of Zürich, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, which hosts the magazines’ online portal. Encompassing French, German, and bilingual publications, the portal also allows for a keyword search of the magazines’ contents. For more information (in German) and to access individual titles, see here.

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Radio Preservation Task Force and Association for Recorded Sound Collections Launch Database of Archival Radio Materials

Radio Preservation Task Force and Association for Recorded Sound Collections Launch Database of Archival Radio Materials

Opening credits of the 1955 propaganda film Towers of Truth held by the Hoover Institution, one of twenty libraries and archives whose radio-related collections are indexed in a new online database.

In November, the Radio Preservation Task Force of the Library of Congress and the Association for Recorded Sound Collections debuted a beta version of its online, searchable database of archival materials documenting radio history. The site comprises over 1,700 entries containing metadata for both individual items and collections held by twenty U.S. institutions, and was generated using the open-source software tool Blacklight. Access the RTPF/ARSC Collections Database here

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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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