Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

The Dubrovnik Congress (1956)

Magazine article Journal of Film Preservation

The Dubrovnik Congress (1956)

Article excerpt

The 12th Congress of the International Federation of Film Archives, held in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, last September [1956], allowed an excellent overview of the current state of film preservation and the promotion of cinema culture by film archives all over the world.

All over the world. Since the beginning, FIAF's universality has been its most impressivefeature. Until a few years ago, FIAF had its roots primarily in Europe and the USA, and, more modestly, in South America. Currently, Asia is magnificently present, with Japan and China, and the preliminary work performed in Morocco and Egypt signals the integration of Islamist Africa into this great universal movement.

FIAF was founded almost 20 years ago. Two names stand out among those who took part in the first Congress, in 1938: Iris Barry and Henri Langlois, founders, respectively, of the Film Library of The Museum of Modern Art, in New York, and the Cinémathèque Française-Musée du Cinéma, in Paris. The presence, to this day, of these two names among the leaders of FIAF symbolizes the continuity of this cultural movement, and its permanent commitment to its basic task: film preservation.

There were several attempts at cinema culture initiatives, beginning around 1920, in different countries. The reason why these early initiatives were doomed to failure seems very simple and clear to us today: there can be no culture without a historical perspective. And how can anyone learn about the history of cinema if films are not preserved?

From the very beginning, the original activities of the pioneering film archives which comprised FIAF concentrated on searching for and preserving old film footage. The stubborn determination with which these tasks were undertaken naturally brought forth misunderstandings and polemics. How many times did heated arguments arise between film societies and film archives, with the societies simply bent on projecting films without any thought of the future, and archives engaged in preventing the loss of copies while simultaneously safeguarding the rights of producers and distributors? Besides, the necessary understanding has not always been found between producers and distributors and film archives. Producers and distributors sometimes take too long to understand that the film archives' mission does not at all hinder their own interests. On the other hand, film archives become impatient, and do not always understand, with the necessary detachment, the producers' concern regarding the issues of commercial ownership of films. Experience has demonstrated, however, that everything depends on mutual clarification, and that there is actually no conflict between the producers' commercial interests and the film archives' cultural slant. For some time, the basic concern for preserving films has led some circles to view film archives as technical specialization centers limited to the effort of preventing the physical wear and tear of film. The development and enhancement of this work has rendered evident to everyone the breadth of the cultural prospects of film archives. In effect, film preservation was the starting point, the establishing of a solid foundation on which the entire currently flourishing cinema-culture movement is set.

The film archives assembled by FIAF have become a center for the attraction and spreading of cinema studies, not only those of a historical and aesthetic character, but also those connected with the different disciplines of human sciences. This was perfectly clear at the Dubrovnik Congress. The International Cinema Topographical Historical Research Center has not only been developed in parallel with FIAF; university institutes in modern history also seek the collaboration of film archives. Not only have the activities of the International Federation of Films on Art become inseparable from FIAF activities; different ethnographic film committees are also becoming increasingly more closely articulated with film archives. …

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