Explained: What is Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project?

M.J Fleury

12/5/2022 3:00:00 PM

Martin Scorsese is one of the world’s most well known film directors. Throughout his long and vast career, Scorsese has accumulated a number of prestigious accolades, honors, and nominations including an Academy Award for Best Director for the film, The Departed. Arguably one of his best achievements is The Film Foundation's World Cinema Project.

The World Cinema Project, founded in 2007, “has maintained a fierce commitment to preserving and presenting masterpieces from around the globe, with a growing roster of dozens of restorations that have introduced moviegoers to often overlooked areas of cinema history” (via The Film Foundation). The Project has released four collections in conjunction with the Criterion Collection. So far, Scorsese's efforts have yielded the accumulation of a number of underrepresented films, including those from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Central America, South America, and the Middle East.

World Cinema Project No. 1

This first collection from The World Cinema Project is composed of six films from Senegal, Turkey, Mexico, Bangladesh/India, Morocco, and South Korea. Touki Boukireleased in 1973 and directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty, is a Senegalese film about two lovers, Anta and Mory, who leave Senegal to pursue a better life in France. The WCP restored this African drama in 2008 as part of its first collection.

Dry Summer, restored in 2008, won the Golden Bear at the 1964 Berlin International Film Festival. The film, directed by Metin Erksan, follows a tobacco farmer who constructs a dam to prevent excess water from flowing downhill to his neighbor's field. According to the WCP, Dry Summer is "a benchmark of Turkish cinema" and "a visceral, innovatively shot and vibrantly acted depiction of the horrors of greed." This first collection from the WCP also features the films Trances (Morocco, 1981), The Housemaid (South Korea, 1960), Redes (1936, Mexico), and A River Called Titas (1973, Bangladesh/India).


World Cinema Project No. 2

Project No. 2 of the WCP takes us to the Philippines, Thailand, the Soviet Union, Brazil, Turkey, and Taiwan. This collection's list of films evokes themes of crime, revenge, and melancholy. One of the most notable works in this collection is the experimental film, Mysterious Objects at Noon. Filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul "brought an appetite for experimen­tation to Thai cinema with his debut feature, an uncategorizable work that refracts documentary impressions of his homeland through the surrealist concept of the exquisite corpse game." It initially released in 2000 and restored in 2013 by the WCP.

Insianganother notable work from WCP's second collection, is a film by Lino Brocka that was initially released in 1976. The film follows Insiang, who "leads a quiet life dominated by household duties, but after she is raped by her mother’s lover and abandoned by the young man who claims to care for her, she exacts vicious revenge." Collection No. 2 also features the films Revenge (1989, Soviet Union), Limite (1931, Brazil), Law of the Border (1966, Turkey), and Taipei Story (1985, Taiwan).

World Cinema Project No. 3

The Project's third collection restored films from Cuba, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran, and Mauritania and contains themes such as "revolution, identity, agency, forgiveness, and exclusion." According to the Criterion Collection, Lucía is "a formally dazzling landmark of Cuban cinema" that "recounts the history of a changing country through the eyes of three eponymous women." The film was originally released in 1968 and was directed by Humberto Solás.

Downpour is a 1972 Iranian film about a schoolteacher who begins a new job in an unfamiliar city in pre-revolutionary Iran. Over the course of the film he falls in love with an underprivileged, uneducated, hardworking woman in his new city. Downpour was directed by Bahram Beyzaie and was "painstakingly restored from the only known surviving print." This collection also features the films After the Curfew (1954, Indonesia), Pixote (1981, Brazil), Dos Monjes (1934, Mexico), Soleil Ô (1970, Mauritania).


The World Cinema Project No. 4

The most recently released collection of films from Scorsese's World Cinema Project includes restorations of films from Angola, Argentina, Iran, Cameroon, Hungary, and India. Prisoneros de la tierra was released in 1939 and directed by Mario Soffici. In this film, "desperate men are entrapped into indentured labor on a yerba maté plantation under the brutal foreman Köhner — a situation made tenser by the fact that both Köhner and a worker named Podeley love Andrea, the sweet-spirited daughter of the camp’s doctor, and that eventually boils over into an explosive rebellion led by Podeley."

Directed by Dikongué-Pipa and released in 1975, Muna Moto is "a delicate, emotionally resonant love story." Because he is too poor to fulfill the traditions of courtship in his Cameroon village, Ngando is unable to marry the woman he loves. When his would-be wife, Ndomé, is forced to marry Ngando's uncle while raising their child without him, Ngando takes matters into his own hands by kidnapping his own daughter. The most recent WCP collection also contains the films, Sambizanga (1972, Angola), Chess of the Wind (1976, Iran), Two Girls on the Street (1939, Hungary), and Kalpana (1948, India).


Film Preservation Workshop Returns to India After COVID Hiatus

Patrick Frater

11/13/2022 3:39:00 PM

A seventh edition of the Film Preservation and Restoration Workshop India is to be held Dec. 4-10, 2022, at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay museum in Mumbai.

The seven-day workshop designed by David Walsh, training and outreach coordinator at the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), will include theory and practical group sessions in the best practices of the preservation and restoration of celluloid and digital films and film-related material like paper, photographs, and 3D objects.

There will also be daily screenings of restored classics from around the world screened at Regal Cinema, Mumbai. These include “Behula,” a 1921 Indian silent film starring Patience Cooper, that plays on the big screen for the first time. Others include “A Hard Day’s Night,” (1964), “Raging Bull” (1980), “In The Mood For Love” (2000), “Il Conformista” (1970) and “Thamp” (1978).

The event is backed by the Film Heritage Foundation in partnership with Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation and FIAF, in association with Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project. The FHF’s activities complement those of the Indian government’s National Film Archive of India.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be back after a gap of almost three years due to the pandemic with the 7th edition of our film preservation and restoration workshop – in-person, hands-on and at an advanced level. It’s been a monumental task to put the workshop together this year with very limited resources and climbing costs. But we knew we had to make up for the lost time and the lost momentum that we built up over six years travelling around the country and training over 300 people in India and the neighboring countries,” said Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, director, Film Heritage Foundation. “Our workshops have had a tremendous impact and are crucial for building up a pool of archivists to save our film heritage.”


Seven Films to be Preserved Through Avant-Garde Masters Grants

11/2/2022 9:00:00 AM

A portrait of a drag artist by Heather McAdams, a structural film by Lawrence Gottheim, two evocations of city/ landscapes by Paul Downs, and three works by Carolee Schneemann will be preserved and made available through the 2022 Avant-Garde Masters Grants, awarded by The Film Foundation and the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Chicago-based alternative cartoonist Heather McAdams assembled her films from found footage, viewing pop culture’s scraps through an anarchic feminist lens. While teaching in Lexington, Kentucky, McAdams befriended Bradley Harrison Picklesimer, owner of a drag bar/nightclub on Main Street. Assembled “like a crazy quilt,” to quote McAdams, Meet…Bradley Harrison Picklesimer (1988) scrambles found and direct footage to cover its subject’s personal ups and downs, along with his thoughts on gender-bending. The film, praised as a “hilarious collaboration with its eponymous star” by Manohla Dargis in the Village Voice, will be preserved by the Chicago Film Society.

Lawrence Gottheim’s Your Television Traveler (1991) will be preserved by Binghamton University, whose cinema department Gottheim founded and chaired. Its first part presents the image of a NASA rocket falling away from a spacecraft to reveal the earth. On the soundtrack are fragments from an interview Gottheim conducted with a Cuban woman in Havana. The film’s second part repeats the first but with superimpositions of a religious ceremony in Havana and sound from a record on early space travel, which features astronauts identifying with the stereotyped comedic character José Jiménez. Part three superimposes on the previous section the sounds and images from a “Television Traveler” TV show about St. Petersburg, Florida.

Electronic Arts Intermix, working with the Carolee Schneemann Foundation and Anthology Film Archives, will preserve three films by groundbreaking performance and multidisciplinary artist Carolee Schneeman. Viet-Flakes (1965) compiles a wide-ranging set of images of Vietnam War atrocities from foreign magazines and newspapers; within them Schneemann “travels” by using drugstore magnifying glasses. Red News (1966) was described by Schneemann as a found footage “compendium of disasters…one explosion after another,” including car crashes and war footage. Plumb Line (1968–71), the second part of what scholar Scott MacDonald called Schneemann’s “autobiographical trilogy,” is a portrait of the end of a romantic relationship, assembled from scrap diary footage, with a soundtrack of pop music, birds and cats, and a monologue by Schneemann lamenting the Vietnam War and lost love. She tinted, scratched, and collaged 8mm celluloid before using a step printer to reprint the frames onto 16mm.

The Walker Art Center will preserve two works by Minneapolis-based Allen Downs (d.1983). A professor of photography and film at the University of Minnesota from 1950 through 1977, he started the University’s film program in 1952 and its study-in-Mexico art program in 1972. His films emphasized rhythm, color, and movement; no less a figure than Bruce Baillie credited Downs with teaching him everything he knew about filmmaking. In The Color of the Day (1955), Downs journeys through St. Paul and the West Bank of Minneapolis, capturing urban landscapes through the moments of a summer’s day. Influenced by the street photographers of the era, the film makes use of window reflections and the bright colors of advertisements. Love Shots (1971), the only film by Downs screened nationwide, uses optical printing, time lapse photography, rapid editing, and direct animation to capture the colors and feel of the mountains of Mexico and springtime in Minnesota.

Over the course of 20 years the Avant-Garde Masters Grant program, created by The Film Foundation and the NFPF, has saved 214 films significant to the development of the avant-garde in America. Funding is provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. The grants have preserved works by 83 artists, including Kenneth Anger, Shirley Clarke, Bruce Conner, Joseph Cornell, Oskar Fischinger, Hollis Frampton, Barbara Hammer, Marjorie Keller, George and Mike Kuchar, and Stan VanDerBeek.


Olivia Harrison is Awarded the UNAM Film Library Medal at the 20th FICM

Gustavo R. Gallardo

10/27/2022 4:00:00 PM

At the 20th Morelia International Film Festival (FICM), the producer, writer, curator and philanthropist, Olivia Harrison, received the UNAM Film Library Medal for her support in restoring, among others, El (1953), by Luis Buñuel, thereby contributing to keeping Mexico’s filmographic memory alive.

Attended by the president, vice-president and director of the festival, Alejandro Ramírez, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Batel, and Daniela Michel, as well as the executive director of The Film Foundation, Margaret Bodde, the director of Distribution of the UNAM Film Library, Jorge Martínez Micher, and Hugo Villa Smythe, who was there on behalf of the director of the Film Library.

"Personally, it's my favorite movie in the history of cinema, so sharing with all of you is a very magical moment for me," said Daniela Michel.

"We also want to give a very special thanks to Guillermo del Toro, who was unable to join us, but has been instrumental in restoring this film," he added.


EL Luis Buñuel

The Material World Foundation, headed by Olivia Harrison, has collaborated with The Film Foundation, an organization created by Martin Scorsese, in the restoration of invaluable classic Mexican films such as Enamorada (1946), by Emilio Fernández; Dos monjes (1934), by Juan Bustillo Oro; and Redes (1936), by Fred Zinnemann and Emilio Gómez Muriel, which have been presented at past editions of FICM.

For this reason, Martínez Micher said, reading from the document delivered by the UNAM Film Library, that the UNAM Film Library Medal was awarded to Olivia Harrison for her contribution "to enriching the world's film heritage and keeping it alive in our collective memory," and added: "Olivia, my dear, with this medal you take a little piece of Mexican cinema with you."


Medalla Olivia Harrison

Olivia Harrison thanked FICM and the UNAM Film Library for the award, and said that Mexican cinema "brings back great memories of my family."

“My family loved the classic movies so much that they were always playing in the background. We always had a Mexican movie or soap opera on TV. For us, this was very important,” she said, also sharing that George Harrison loved the cinema and that she encouraged him to watch Mexican films “even without subtitles”. 

In Él, Francisco Galván de Montemayor is a wealthy man with a serene appearance; a religious conservative and a virgin. He meets Gloria at the Holy Thursday foot-washing ceremony. Later on, at a party in his mansion, he woos her and then marries her. But from the wedding night on, his jealousy transforms him into an obsessive and paranoid being who sees murder and mutilation as a solution to his madness



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