Classic Film Material Restoration Curriculum at FAMU, Prague

By Urgosíková, Blazena | Journal of Film Preservation, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Classic Film Material Restoration Curriculum at FAMU, Prague


Urgosíková, Blazena, Journal of Film Preservation


In 2005, FAMU (Filmova akademie muzickych umeni), the Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, applied to the Ministry of Education of the Czech Republic for the accreditation of a new study program, "Film, Television and Photographic Art and New Media", to be conducted in FAMU's Centre of Audiovisual Studies. In the document's paragraph entitled "Study Subjects", there appeared a proposal to offer students the opportunity to study archiving and restoration in the sphere of film and photography: "Master Degrees enable to accentuate either individual work in the field of international media or to target the reflection and evolution of scholastic activities in the frame of this subject. To work up and develop qualification in restoration, preservation, and contextual presentation of historic material of audiovisual character, by means of new storage data and presentation media, is one of the offered possibilities." The Ministry of Education approved the request and the accreditation was granted.

Prague's Film and TV Faculty approached us at the end of 2005, asking whether the NFA (Národní Filmovy Archiv / National Film Archive) could prepare an instruction program dealing with classic film material restoration. The range of study was set for Second Degree students over two semesters, 112 hours in total. The NFA, which has been engaged in restoration activity since the end of the 1960s, prepared a proposed course of studies, including a detailed breakdown of the content of individual lessons. FAMU agreed with the content of this study project, and left responsibility for theory and practice lessons to the experienced staff of the National Film Archive, who had pursued the aims of classic film material restoration for decades. The following year FAMU bought for the project a Debrie HDC 352OC Dual Series two-screen editing table (enabling work with two kinds of material at once, including nitrate), which was installed in the NFA's restoration workshop. The use of this table, along with other apparatus belonging to the NFA(rewinder, multitrack rewinder, etc.), would be shared by the NFA's restoration team and FAMU students.

The "Classic Film Material Restoration" course was divided into two parts, theory and practice. The starting point for considering the content of both these parts was the determination of the goal of this program. We expected the participation of 1-2 students, who would culminate their studies by presenting part of a restored film (a short film and/or part of a feature film) and their final protocol. In the first class, however, we had 7 (later 6} students, which is why we were obliged to partially change the practice subject, because we were limited by the availability of the NFA's technical equipment.

During the first lessons, 2 hours weekly from October 2009 - universities in the Czech Republic always open in October - the students were familiarized with the history of the restoration of works of art, modern approaches to their restoration, and basic works in this sphere (Alois Riegl, Václav Wagner, Zdenëk Wi rth, Cesa re Brandi), as well as new trends in restoration in the 20th century, when photography and film entered the realm of cultural heritage. The program also worked in the comparison of film restoration to the restoration of classic works of art (what is film, its specific character and structure, the place of film works in the past and their meaning for the present, questions of originals in cinematography, etc.). The students were also informed about the existence, tenor, and sense of the International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monumentsand Sites (Venice, 1964), and other recommendations of international organizations such as UNESCO and FIAF, etc.

We thought it just and important to introduce this specialized branch into a deeper cultural and artistic context for many reasons. The National Film Archive's restoration activity, begun more than 40 years ago in the pursuit of bringing it out of empirical experience into a more solid practical base, drew from the very experience, theoretical conclusions, and results of the restoration of works of art and architecture, where there was already the recognized practice of centuries. …

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