Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

Buenos Aires: The Stoessel Expedition

Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

Buenos Aires: The Stoessel Expedition

Article excerpt

The brothers Adán and Andrés Stoessel, accompanied by the mechanics Ernesto Tontini and Carlos Díaz, left their home village of Arroyo Corto on 15 April 1928, with the purpose of connecting Buenos Aires with New York by automobile. Travelling in a 1928 model Chevrolet, the Stoessels' long-distance endurance test took 2 years, 15 days. The mishaps and adventures of these two modern conquistadores are reflected in their book, 32.000 Kilometres of Adventures, published in 1930, and in a film shot on their journey.

The value of these precious images goes beyond the heroic deeds of these two men: they also contain the only recorded views of the old port of Managua, as it was practically destroyed by an earthquake soon after the Stoessels' visit. At the time of their expedition, the capitals of South America still maintained their colonial structure, and the inhabitants of remote regions refused to speak Spanish. In their passage the Stoessels recorded the everyday life of country peasants and the social activities of the people who received them. They endured numerous perils on their epic journey: storms, deserts, rivers, illness, political revolts, and highway bandits. Today we ask ourselves how they managed it all, with bulky film equipment, and film stock which was not only inflammable but had to be transported to Buenos Aires by airmail to be developed. On top of all this, the last shots of the final part of the trip in Mexico were stolen, together with their camera, by the most incredible bandits, who had "more confidence in filming than in cars."

The Stoessels received a hero's welcome in New York, and were invited to the White House by the Vice President of the United States. The General Motors Museum in Detroit kept the car that was used to perform such a heroic deed. The family of Adán and Andrés kept the film that showed what these two brave young men from Arroyo Corto had achieved, with deserved pride. The original 35mm nitrate material, both positive and negative, was deposited in the "Fundación Cinemateca Argentina" (Argentine Cinematheque Foundation) by their descendant, Mrs Clyde Stoessel, who understood the value of these images, knowing that they should be preserved for future generations.

In its 56 years of activity rescuing and preserving Argentina's film heritage, the Argentine Cinematheque Foundation has carried out several international collaborative nitrate restoration projects. In 2003 we reached an agreement to work with the U.S. Library of Congress at its divisions in Washington DC and Dayton, Ohio, to restore the Stoessels' film as part of FIAF's "Reel Emergency Project" international cooperative programme. The preservation of this film is not only an effort among colleagues of FIAF, but in a certain sense it represents the spiritual continuity of the union of the Americas that originally inspired the trip of the Stoessel Brothers. The restored 60-minute film was shown at the 2006 Mar del Plata International Film Festival, with live music by Axel Krygier and Manu Schaller.


Se trata de la copia de una película muda original en nitrato 35 mm blanco y negro, restaurada por la Fundación Cinemateca Argentina en cooperación con The Library of Congress de Estados Unidos.

Es el viaje en automóvil que los hermanos Adán y Andrés Stoessel emprendieron en 1928 y concluyeron en poco más dos años, desde una localidad de la provincia de Buenos Aires, con la intención de unir Buenos Aires y Nueva York.

La película muestra las peripecias, toda suerte de aventuras, obstáculos y peligros de la travesía, que en 1930 fue publicada en un libro 32. …

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