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TO RESTORE AND PRESERVE THE CLASSICS

Sangeetha Devi Dundoo

8/19/2019 12:00:00 AM

Film Heritage Foundation and Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation to conduct the fifth Film Preservation and Restoration Workshop India in Hyderabad

Imagine being able to watch Telugu classics such as Pathala Bhairavi, Devadasu or Sankarabharanam on digital streaming platforms, in high quality. This is possible only if the original (film negatives in the case of old films) have been preserved well.

However, anyone who has had the chance to visit a film lab will disclose how the old negatives and prints lie in neglect. But, what if there’s a chance to train film enthusiasts to restore and preserve archival material?

This December, the Film Heritage Foundation (FHF) and the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) will be conducting ‘Saving India’s Cinema Heritage’, the fifth Film Preservation and Restoration Workshop India, in Hyderabad, at Annapurna Studios, in partnership with Viacom18.

The week-long workshop will have hands-on training sessions in film and photography preservation and restoration, conducted by experts from around the world. The workshop will be held with the support of Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation (TFF) and is open to anyone keen to learn to preserve film and allied materials. The application will up on filmheritagefoundation.co.in from August 25. FHF will be announcing this workshop through an event in Hyderabad, in the presence of actor Nagarjuna and director K Viswanath, among other dignitaries, on August 20.

 

The beginning

While making the film Celluloid Man (on film archivist PK Nair), Shivendra discovered the magnitude of the loss of Indian film heritage. Film Heritage Foundation (FHF) was formed in 2014, to help archive old and new films. Amitabh Bachchan came on board as the foundation’s brand ambassador. Members of the advisory board include Jaya Bachchan, Shyam Benegal, Gulzar, Kamal Haasan, Kumar Shahani and Girish Kasaravalli. Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Film Foundation’ began supporting restoration workshops of FHF since 2015.

Says Shivendra, “When we started FHF in 2014, saving India’s film heritage was an obscure cause with most people asking us ‘what is film heritage?’ and ‘do films really need to be preserved?’ We began with a focus to preserve what remained of our film heritage and to create awareness among the film fraternity about the urgency of the situation as well as change attitudes in India that treated films as commerce, and not as art.”

 

Film handling and preparation

Film handling and preparation   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

 

What FHF does

Since 2015, FHF has conducted four workshops on film preservation and restoration (in Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Kolkata) and published two books on film preservation and restoration the subject and also reached out to different film industries in India to urge the importance of preservation.

The FHF has a collection of nearly 300 films on 35 mm, 16 mm and 8 mm formats, preserved in a temperature-controlled storage facility. “We maintain the films of leading film personalities like Amitabh Bachchan, Shyam Benegal, N N Sippy, Mani Ratnam, Vishal Bhardwaj, Kumar Shahani, Farhan and Zoya Akhtar, Govind Nihalani, Chitra Palekar, Onir, Shaad Ali, Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar,” reveals Shivendra. The films are periodically checked, cleaned and repaired.

Shivendra hopes to build a world-class centre for the moving image which will incorporate a conservation centre, a library, training and research facilities, a museum, exhibition spaces and screening rooms.

Telugu classics FHF hopes to restore

  • Malapilla (1938), Raithu Bidda (1939), Sumangali (1940), Swarga Seema (1945), Pathala Bhairavi (1951), Malliswari (1951), Devadasu (1953), Rojulu Marayi (1955), Missamma (1955), Mayabazar (1957), Dr Chakravarty (1963), Nartanasala (1963), and Sankarabharanam (1979).

 

The Hyderabad focus

In summer 2019, Shivendra did a recce in Hyderabad. Shivendra is aware of the work done by pioneers such as Raghupati Venkaiah Naidu, H M Reddy, B N Reddy, Akkineni Nageswara Rao, L V Prasad, D Ramanaidu, Ramoji Rao and N T Rama Rao, among others. He met the core team of Annapurna Studios and Ramanaidu Studios, apart from veteran directors who showed an interest in restoring old films.

Shivendra recalls an incident from 2014 that made him realise the dearth of film preservation in Telugu cinema, “George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY, requested my help to acquire a 35 mm print of Magadheera (2009) for archival purposes. I got in touch with S S Rajamouli and Allu Aravind, but we were not able to locate a Telugu print and finally had to ship a dubbed Tamil version to the museum. This got me thinking about the state of preservation of Telugu films. If we could not find a 35 mm original Telugu language print of a blockbuster like Magadheera, what could be the fate of the earlier classics?”

Shivendra observes that like the other film industries in India, Telugu cinema also has a poor record of film preservation, “Original camera negatives have either disappeared or are in terrible condition due to poor storage; the same applies to the prints.”

He asserts that it’s important to preserve the original camera negative since even in the digital age, one needs to go back to the original celluloid source to get scans of the best resolution and quality. “Many people discarded the original celluloid material after scanning it at 2K not realising that if they need digital copies of a higher resolution, they will need to go back to the original celluloid. Celluloid is still considered the best archival medium with a proven longevity of over a 100 years,” he explains.

 

What to expect?

 

From the previous film restoration and preservation workshop

From the previous film restoration and preservation workshop   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

The intensive week-long workshop to be conducted in Hyderabad, certified by FIAF, will cover both lectures and practical classes in the preservation and restoration of both films and film-related paper and photographic material. Participants can opt for one of four streams of specialisation — film, digital, cataloguing, photo and paper conservation.

The past workshops have helped to train and build a resource of local film preservers. A faculty of expert trainers from institutions like the British Film Institute, Imperial War Museums, Cinematheque Francaise, Academy of Motion Picture, Arts & Sciences, George Eastman Museum, Cineteca di Bologna, L’Immagine Ritrovata, Austrian Film Museum, EYE Filmmuseum, Museum of Modern Art, Bundesarchiv, ARRI, Indiana University Library of Moving Images Archive, the Criterion Collection, conduct the sessions. Classes are followed by daily screenings of restored films.

In 2017, Tata Trusts came on board with a grant that has enabled a majority of the participants to do the course free of cost since then.

Apart from creating awareness about preserving film heritage, the workshops have promoted the idea of film preservation as a viable career opportunity, says Shivendra.

(For details, check www.filmheritagefoundation.co.in)

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THE FILMS RESTORED FOR VENICE CLASSICS

7/24/2019 12:00:00 AM

Director and screenwriter Costanza Quatriglio (Sembra mio figlio, Terramatta, Con il fiato sospeso) will chair the Jury of Film Students which – for the eighth year in a row – will award the VENICE CLASSICS prizes for the respective competitions for BEST RESTORED FILM and for the BEST DOCUMENTARY ABOUT CINEMA.

VENICE CLASSICS

The 76th Venice International Film Festival will be held on the Lido from August 28th to September 7th 2019, directed by Alberto Barbera and organized by La Biennale chaired by Paolo Baratta.

Venice Classics is the section that since 2012 has presented world premiere screenings at the Venice Film Festival of a selection of the best restorations of film classics carried out over the past year by film archives, cultural institutions and production companies around the world. Curated by Alberto Barbera with the collaboration of Stefano Francia di Celle, Venice Classics also presents a selection of documentaries about cinema or its authors. The Jury chaired by Costanza Quatriglio will be composed of 22 students, each of them recommended by professors of film studies from various Italian universities, DAMS and from Ca' Foscari University in Venice.

The restorations in Venice Classics will include, to be screened on the Lido, Lo sceicco bianco (The White Sheik) by Federico Fellini, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 1952, presented today with a view towards the 100th anniversary of the director' birth in 2020; a "double bill" for Bernardo Bertolucci with La commare secca (The Grim Reaper), the director's debut film at the 1962 Venice Film Festival, and Strategia del ragno (The Spider's Stratagem), presented at the 1970 Venice Film Festival; the surprising film debut of Giuliano Montaldo, Tiro al piccione (Pigeon Shoot), which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 1961; a great film produced by RAI (Radio Televisione Italiana) that deserves to be rediscovered, Maria Zef (1981) by Vittorio Cottafavi; the masterpiece by Manoel de Oliveira, Francisca (1981); Out of the Blue (1980) by Dennis Hopper;New York, New York (1977) by Martin Scorsese, in a new 35mm copy, courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) on the occasion of United Artists centennial anniversary. The new copy, printed especially for the Venice Film Festival, is presented by the famous producer Irvin Winkler, who will also hold a masterclass after the end of the screening.

THE SELECTED FILMS

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN 
by JACK ARNOLD (USA, 1957, 81’, B/W)
restored by: Universal Pictures

LA COMMARE SECCA (THE GRIM REAPER)
by BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI (Italy, 1962, 92’, B/W)
restored by: CSC-Cineteca Nazionale in collaboration with RTI-Mediaset

STRATEGIA DEL RAGNO (THE SPIDER'S STRATAGEM)
by BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI (Italy, 1970, 110’, Colour)
restored by: Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and Massimo Sordella in collaboration with Compass Film

ENSAYO DE UN CRIMEN (THE CRIMINAL LIFE OF ARCHIBALDO DE LA CRUZ) 
by LUIS BUÑUEL (Mexico, 1955, 92’, B/W)
restored by: Cineteca Nacional México in collaboration with Sindicato de Trajadores de la Producción Cinematográfica

LE PASSAGE DU RHIN (THE CROSSING OF THE RHINE) 
by ANDRÉ CAYATTE (France, Germany, Italy, 1960, 125’, B/W)
restored by: Gaumont

MARIA ZEF
by VITTORIO COTTAFAVI (Italy, 1981, 122’, Colour)
restored by: Rai Teche in collaboration with Cineteca del Friuli, Fuori Orario (Rai3) and Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino

CRASH
by DAVID CRONENBERG (Canada, 1996, 100’, Colour)
restored by: Recorded Picture Company and Turbine Media Group (with the supervision of David Cronenberg and DOP Peter Suschitzky)

FRANCISCA 
by MANOEL DE OLIVEIRA (Portugal, 1981, 167’, Colour)
restored by: Cinemateca Portuguesa - Museu do Cinema

KHANEH SIAH AST (THE HOUSE IS BLACK)
by FOROUGH FARROKHZAD (Iran, 1962, 21’, B/W)
restored by: Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and Ecran Noir productions, in collaboration with Ebrahim Golestan. With the support of Genoma Films and Mahrokh Eshaghian

LO SCEICCO BIANCO (THE WHITE SHEIK)
by FEDERICO FELLINI (Italy, 1952, 86’, B/W)
restored by: Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna in the context of “Fellini 100” project, in collaboration with RTI-Mediaset and Infinity

SODRÁSBAN (CURRENT) 
by ISTVÁN GAÁL (Hungary, 1963, 85’, B/W)
restored by: Hungarian National Film Fund – Film Archive

TAPPE-HAYE MARLIK (THE HILLS OF MARLIK)
by EBRAHIM GOLESTAN (Iran, 1964, 15’, Colour)
restored by: Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna and Ecran Noir productions, in collaboration with Ebrahim Golestan and the National Film Archive of Iran. With the support of Mahrokh Eshaghian and Genoma Films

LA MUERTE DE UN BURÒCRATA (DEATH OF A BUREAUCRAT) 
by TOMÁS GUTIÉRREZ ALEA (Cuba, 1966, 85’, B/W)
restored by: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Archive) and Cinemateca de Cuba

OUT OF THE BLUE
by DENNIS HOPPER (Canada, USA, 1980, 94’, Colour)
restored by: Discovery Productions (John Alan Simon and Elizabeth Karr)

EXTASE (ECSTASY) 
by GUSTAV MACHATÝ (Czechoslovakia, 1932, 87’, B/W)
restored by: Národní filmový archiv (National Film Archive in Prague), thanks to the support of Milada Kučerová and Eduard Kučera and the collaboration of the Film Servis Festival Karlovy Vary

MAURI
by MERATA MITA (New Zealand, 1988, 100’, Colour)
restored by: New Zealand Film Commission

TIRO AL PICCIONE (PIGEON SHOOT)
by GIULIANO MONTALDO (Italy, 1961, 115’, B/W)
restored by: CSC-Cineteca Nazionale in collaboration with Surf Film

NEW YORK, NEW YORK
by MARTIN SCORSESE (USA, 1977, 163’, Colour)
New 35mm print courtesy of Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM), on the occasion of United Artists centennial anniversary

KALINA KRASNAYA (THE RED SNOWBALL TREE) 
by VASILIY SHUKSHIN (URSS, 1973, 107’, Colour)
restored by: Mosfilm Cinema Concern (Karen Shakhnazarov producer of the restoration)

WAY OF A GAUCHO 
by JACQUES TOURNEUR (USA, 1952, 91’, Colour)
restored by: Twentieth Century Fox and The Film Foundation


Completing the Venice Classics section will be the screening of a selection of documentaries about cinema and its authors. The complete line-up for the section will be announced during the press conference to present the programme of the Venice Film Festival, to be held in Rome on Thursday July 25that 11 am (Cinema Moderno).

COSTANZA QUATRIGLIO -
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Costanza Quatriglio (Palermo, 1973) is a director, screenwriter and the Artistic Director of the Sicilian branch of the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia dedicated to documentary film. She made her debut with the award-winning film L'isola, presented at the 56th Quinzaine des Réalisateurs at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003. That same year the making of Racconti per L'isola was invited to the Venice International Film Festival in the Nuovi Territori section. She has won two Nastro d'Argento awards for best documentary: for Terramatta in 2013 and Triangle in 2015. Among the documentaries she has presented at the most important international film festivals, winning many acknowledgments, are: Écosaimale? (2000), Il bambino Gioacchino (2000), La borsa di Hélène (2000), L’insonnia di Devi (2001), Raìz (2004), Il mondo addosso (2006), Il mio cuore umano(2009), Terramatta (2012), Con il fiato sospeso (2013), Triangle (2014), 87 ore (2015). In 2018, she presented her film Sembra mio figlio at the Locarno Film Festival.

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Restoration Gives New Life to Lost, Forgotten, or Dismissed Films

Margaret Bodde

7/17/2019 12:00:00 AM

Never has it been truer that there are no old films, only ones that have yet to be seen—or discovered. We are living in an era when cinematic treasures of all kinds are being unearthed—films that have been lost, forgotten, or dismissed. It has been my good fortune to be a part of Martin Scorsese’s grand vision for the Film Foundation, the nonprofit organization that has made possible the excavation and resurrection of so many of these films, including many long overlooked and endangered because they were made independently by and about marginalized groups, including women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community.

 

Med Hondo’s Soleil Ô, 1970
Shadi Abdel Salam’s Al Momia (The Night of Counting the Years), 1969
Mario Soffici’s Prisioneros de la Tierra, 1939
Barbara Loden’s Wanda, 1970
Barbara Hammer’s Double Strength, 1978

Among the hundreds of titles preserved and restored with funding from the Film Foundation are such diverse treasures as Shadi Abdel Salam’s Egyptian masterpiece Al Momia (The Night of Counting the Years); independent filmmaker Barbara Loden’s only feature, Wanda; Marcel Ophüls’ monumental documentary on the Nuremberg Trials, The Memory of Justice; Med Hondo’s exposé of racism in France, Soleil Ô; Mario Soffici’s powerful Argentinian social drama, Prisioneros de la Tierra; and experimental films by lesbian cinema pioneer Barbara Hammer. The list goes on and on—and each restoration enriches cinema history in unexpected ways.

Marcel Ophüls’s The Memory of Justice, 1976

A few years ago, TFF had the opportunity to join forces with a small archive and an independent preservationist to help rescue a completely unknown film. The project began in 2014 when Amy Sloper, then manager of the film collection at the Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research (WCFTR), discovered the only existing print of The Juniper Tree (1990). Created by two formidable artists, writer/director Nietzchka Keene and actress/musician Björk (credited as Björk Guðmundsdóttir), the film was inspired by the macabre fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm and filmed in 35mm black and white in the ethereal, barren landscape of Iceland. The Juniper Tree premiered at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews that described it as hypnotic, haunting, and surreal. But, as is all too often the fate of many independent productions, The Juniper Treefaded from memory. After Keene’s untimely death in 2004, the film seemed doomed to be forgotten.

Björk in Nietzchka Keene’s The Juniper Tree, 1990

Sloper had studied with Keene as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin and wanted to see her former teacher’s film restored. Fortunately, in graduate school at UCLA she met acclaimed archivist Ross Lipman. “It felt like an ideal first project for the WCFTR to start a partnership with the Film Foundation, and Ross was the perfect person for the restoration work,” she explains. Like filmmaking, restorations are a collective effort and The Juniper Tree was preserved thanks to TFF, Amy Sloper, Ross Lipman, the stewardship of the WCFTR, and the generous support of the George Lucas Family Foundation.

Since its 2019 theatrical release by Arbelos, The Juniper Tree has received attention in the New York Times, LA Times, New Yorker, IndieWireFilm Comment, and other publications. By bringing the film into the public consciousness, TFF and its partners have made it possible for audiences and scholars to enjoy and assess Keene’s work as part of the larger cinematic canon: previously, there was shockingly little information available about the films she produced, wrote, and directed. With this restoration, we have restored not only the physical materials of the The Juniper Tree, but an independent filmmaker’s legacy. And it is wonderful to note that as part of the DVD and Blu-ray release of The Juniper Tree, Arbelos has also restored and included three of Keene’s short films.

Discoveries like these inspire us to keep digging and remind us that as we continue to advocate for preservation, one film at a time, we are also expanding and rewriting cinema history.

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The City Stars: In the Streets

Margaret Bodde, Sean Yetter

7/15/2019 12:00:00 AM

Two short films find inspiration in the alleys and avenues of New York City.

“There’s never been a film made in New York City that doesn’t feature New York as a character.” –Margaret Bodde

Whether it’s Little Italy in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973), Brooklyn through the lens of Spike Lee, or the Upper East Side socialites of Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan (1990), the richness of life on New York City’s streets shapes the mood and message of these iconic movies. For generations, filmmakers have roamed the City’s alleys and avenues searching for the details, sounds, and personalities to inspire new works. MoMA’s recent restoration of two shorts in our collection deliver both narrative and documentary examples of early 20th-century filmmakers taking to the streets to shape and tell their stories. In this installment of The City Stars, our online film exhibition highlighting shorts made in NYC, Margaret Bodde, executive director of The Film Foundation, joins us to discuss an early silent classic, D. W. Griffith’s The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912), and In the Street(1952), a silent documentary by Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb, James Agee, made long after talkies were popularized in 1927. Bodde is well versed in such titles; The Film Foundation, established by Martin Scorsese in 1990, supports the preservation of older films and works to remind us that the cinema of yesterday still resonates today.

The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912)

The Musketeers of Pig Alley, an early film by director D. W. Griffith, is thought to be the first gangster film ever. In it, a married couple’s lives are upended when the husband’s wallet is stolen by a gangster. The wife was played by silent star Lillian Gish, who pioneered many early screen acting techniques, adapting the skill set from Vaudevillian and stage approaches. She is later saved by the same gangster, complicating the couple’s relationship with both these shady characters and law enforcement. As Bodde explained in her interview, “The unique qualities of cinema are cinematography and editing. The Musketeers of Pig Alley uses those two powerful tools to tell the story in a way that couldn’t be told through any other artform. It’s not a literary work. It’s not a theatrical work. It’s purely cinematic, visual storytelling. Within every frame, you’re aware of the rest of the story playing out. It’s really a precursor to many performances and many styles that followed it.”

In the Street (1952)

In the Street is a silent documentary short, directed by photographer Helen Levitt, filmmaker Janice Loeb, and writer James Agee, that explores Spanish Harlem. As the film was originally shot in 1948 and rereleased in 1952, long after the introduction of sound into movies, choosing to forgo sound was an artistic choice. The filmmakers used hidden 16mm cameras to capture the everyday lives of Harlem residents in the neighborhood. Bodde commented on the energy of the past that Levitt’s powerful cinematography reveals: “[Levitt] really knows these streets. She was born in Brooklyn and worked in New York City her whole career. For her, the lens was a window into the souls of the people that she was photographing, whether it was still images or moving pictures. The gaze is just so soulful and deep.” Levitt’s imagery is so engaging that, for Bodde, the lack of sound becomes unnoticeable, or even an enhancement. She states, “I find personally, when I’m watching In the Street, that I go into a bit of a trance. I feel like I’m inhabiting those streets with those characters, and can almost hear the voices, the laughter, the shouts of the children.”

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