Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

Spirit of the Times

Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

Spirit of the Times

Article excerpt

Film is changing. The film archive community is changing as well - even a little faster after FIAF's 62nd Annual General Assembly last May in São Paulo. Taking advantage of the ambient energy of one of the fastest growing and most ambitious countries in the world, the more than 200 film archivists gathered at the Cinemateca Brasileira drafted an agenda that should serve them well for at least the next five years.

From the digital invasion to the fundamental issue of fair use, participants, feeling the urgency of the times, left routine questions (the exchange of prints, joint restoration projects, technical problems with new vaults, etc.) until lunchtime, and agreed that the Congress was now the place to address urgent issues.

Nowhere was this feeling more evident than in the morning session devoted to the so-called "Second Century Forum". Prepared and chaired by the Portuguese senior film archivist José Manuel Costa, the Forum was introduced as "A debate on the setting up of a priority plan regarding FIAF's external missions." The issues are hot, and the chairman's questions were hot as well, and addressed in a deliberately aggressive way by using the word "re-foundation" to suggest that it was high time for FIAF and the community it represents to reaffirm its mission and its original character. Most of these issues were already raised by Costa in the interview he gave us a year ago, during the Ljubljana FIAF Congress, when he proposed the Open Forum. (You can read a résumé of the interview in this issue of the Journal of Film Preservation.) But facing a full house composed of people responsible for some of the most important film archives in the world (all continents included) was another ballgame. Many participants reacted strongly. Those who remained silent were often more talkative in private, as is often the case. All went home with a feeling of urgency, convinced, we hope, that the status quo (the "nice guy" approach) is no longer valid.

And urgency there is. As Patrick Loughney - who assisted José Manuel Costa in his difficult task on that morning - insisted, saying "film archives have to be more aggressive" in stating their mission and their needs. It is indeed fine to be good allies to the film industry, but we have a personality of our own, and there is no reason why we should not insist on openly being what we are: the living memory of the film experience (including film-archive history, as demonstrated by David Francis's essay on Ernest Lindgren and the National Film Archive, also in this issue), the curators of the major art form of the 20th century.

The questions raised during the Second Century Forum are vast and demanding, ranging from the identity issue to museum projects, from the film-heritage market to conservation structures, from the prophetic disappearance of film stock to the importance of issuing guidelines regarding digital transfers. All these issues are familiar to everyone who works in the field, as some sort of a works in the field, as some sort of a hidden agenda. This time the agenda has come out of the closet, and hopefully it will be dealt with, with rigour and passion, in many ways and forms, not necessarily only in the traditional and businesslike strategic planning so widely employed today. Film archives are alive and well, and more important than ever. Let us not take it for granted, though. There are still some key battles ahead - as we will see in future issues of this magazine.

[Sidebar]

Visiblement inspirés par le contexte brésilien, les quelque 200 participants de la 62ème Assemblée Générale de la FIAF (São Paulo, 20 au 29 avril) ont consacré une importante partie de leurs rencontres à des questions qui, depuis quelque temps déjà, font partie du quotidien des archivistes du film, de l'invasion numérique à la question déterminante du « fair use ». …

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