Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

New Tradition: A Two-Century-Old Festival of Archival Films

Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

New Tradition: A Two-Century-Old Festival of Archival Films

Article excerpt

"Belye Stolby V" Gosfilmofond of Russia, Moskow

The Festival of Archival Films "Belye Stolby" has become a tradition. This year it was organised for the fifth time. A hundred years distance, covered by cinema, has inspired the army of professionals and amateurs for a reconstruction of cinema history which comprised mainstream events as well as a myriad cinema facts, which have long been out of sight and have been considered of little importance. Cinema's centenary brought cinema history into the full light and many people recognised and accepted the major principle of film archives: every cinema fact is significant and deserves to be preserved for the future. The "Belye Stolby" festival once again this year reminded us of this principle by choosing as its slogan the words of Henri Langlois: "all films are born free and equal" (which by the way, provoked a discussion between the film critics participating in the festival).

The program was structured in a number of sections, some of them were traditional. Specifically, "Confrontation VI, the Phenomenon of Communism", which offered to the public polar stereotypes about communism (Vladimir Ilyich Lenin by Michail Romm, La vie est à nous by Jean Renoir, Processo a Stalin by Fulvio Lucisano, I was a Communist for the FBI by Gordon Douglas and others). The polarity of ideological clichés does not, as the section reveals, prevent the authors from using similar artistic devices and plot schemes meant to impress the viewer. Demonstration of the mechanisms of persuasion, exploited by counterparts of different ideologies, calls for keeping perspective, for individual analysis and estimation. Many of our colleagues, young journalists, learn lessons of both film history and history at our festival.

Festival topics usually inspire heated discussions during the round table sessions, that are frequently continued in the media (we should mention that the event is reviewed by major periodicals as well as by specific cinema-related press). Though the topics for the round table discussions stem from archival footage nearly invisible in the dark corners of cinema, they nevertheless revive things from the very distant past, which give rise to arguments as well as commenting on the current social and political situation. The fifth festival offered two topics: "Censorship - the means to preserve the nation or 'gestapo of minds'?" (the words on the Gestapo belong to J.-L. Godard) and "The growth of political terrorism as a historic guilt of cinema".

Many well-known film critics and journalists took part in the discussions, as well as several film directors. As usual, opinions were very different. Vladimir Dmitriev, Deputy Director of the Gosfilmofond, charged cinema with the responsibility for the escalation of political terrorism, while film critic Victor Matizen and film historian Vladimir Utilov claimed that cinema was innocent of this guilt. The most interesting discussion took place at the round table devoted to censorship. Some speakers (Gennadii Poloka and Stanislav Rototskii) who had once come across censorship in the process of filmmaking, meanwhile advocated the necessity of some censorship in cinema - at least religious censorship.

Besides discussions, the festival offered some traditional sections, timed to mark the centenaries of major filmmakers. This year the festival participants paid tribute to Ivan Pyriev by screening Konveier smerti (Death Conveyer, 1933); Russkii vopros (The Russian Question, 1947) by Michail Romm; Pesnia o stchastye (The Song of Happiness, 1934); Stazione Termini (Termini Station, 1953) by Vittorio de Sica; and L'Oro di Napoli (The Gold of Naples, 1954); and finally, a selection of early shorts by Walt Disney. …

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