Collectieblog

  • FORWARD: The rights assessment of films

    donderdag 26 januari 2017

    Gloria Transita

    In recent years, there has been an increasing tendency of audiovisual archives to make their film heritage accessible through publication on various online platforms. A complicated part of this process is the rights assessment of film works. Many older films, produced before 1940, are orphan works. This means that they are copyright protected, but the rights holder(s) cannot be identified and/or located. In Europe, hundreds of thousands of orphan works are preserved in film heritage institutions. What are they to do with these orphans? In 2012, with a new European law, the Orphan Works Directive, the EU has made an exception to the copyright. If a film heritage institution cannot find the rights holder(s), it can still make use of the orphan work.

    Within the FORWARD project, involving the national film archives from 10 European countries, The EYE Filmmuseum has made an important leap forward in tackling the rights assessment issue. With the help of a sequence of questions (we call this the decision tree) the rights status of film works can be determined in a systematic way.  Through the performance of a diligent search- for which a long list of sources and databases is available- we try to find the creative makers and their life dates on which the protection term is based, and other possible rights holders. If the film results to be an orphan work, we register it with the orphan database of the European Intellectual Property Office. After that, the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands declares the film work officially orphan. With this declaration, as a non-profit institution EYE is allowed to publish the film online.

    In the last seven months of the FORWARD project the new program for rights assessment made it possible for me, as a film scholar without a juridical background, to clear the rights for 750 films. A part of those resulted to be orphan works, others turned out to be in the public domain or the rights holders were found. To give an idea of the practice of rights assessment, I will give an example of three different films I researched, with three different outcomes. It shows that the rights assessment can resemble the work of a detective in some cases, but can also be very simple in other cases.


    1. Gouvern. proefrijstbedrijf 'Selatdjaran' Palembang

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    A special part of EYE’s collection consists of films that were recorded in the former Dutch East Indies. Gouvern. proefrijstbedrijf 'Selatdjaran' Palembang is a short documentary film from around 1922, which is, as the title already shows, commissioned by a government company. It shows the modernization of agriculture techniques that were used in the rice company Selatdjaran.

    First of all, the question is: who are the creative makers? In the Dutch copyright law, there are four so-called ‘protection term roles’ on which the protection period of 70 years depends: the director, the composer, the screen writer and the dialogue writer. The credits of this film reveal the names Charls en Van Es & Co, Weltevreden (present-day Jakarta). From our Collection Database (CE), I learn that they are the directors and that they owned a photo studio together.

    For the diligent search, I need to find their full names, which helps to find their birth and death dates. Because the film was made in the Dutch East Indies and Charls and Van Es were photographers, I search for them in the database of the Dutch Museum of World Cultures. This museum appears to have their photos in its collection and a copy of an article about the photo studio from the Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad of May 14, 1934. This article gives a historical overview on the occasion of the photo studio’s 50th anniversary. It notes that Charls and Van Es handed over their studio in 1920 to two gentlemen, named Theobald and Kraus.

    Even though Charls and Van Es are on the film credits, in practice the company was thus run by others, of which we can assume they also made the films. These new photographers turn out to be hard to find. I find the most on mister Theobald: His complete name is Heinrich Theobald and he was born 26/1/1883 in Frankfurt. In 1913, he married a girl ten years younger than him from The Hague, named Maria Theresia Schipperijn. According to a newspaper from the Dutch East Indies, in 1942 she settled alone in Surabaya. Did Heinrich Theobald die before? Did they divorce? Or was he interned in a Japanese camp? These questions remain unanswered; I cannot find anymore traces of him.
    Mr. Kraus remains almost a complete mystery. I only find a few advertisements with his name in it from the 1920’s and 30’s from the photo studio.

    Because this is a company film, the company is assumed to be the rights holder. On Delpher, an online directory which contains the digital archives of millions of texts from Dutch newspapers, books and magazines, I find an article from 1923 that describes the liquidation of the Proefrijstbedrijf. From this diligent search we can conclude that the makers could not be located and the rights holder has ceased to exist. We do not know whether the rights were transferred. The film can thus be considered an orphan work.
     

    2. Glasconserven

    Glasconserven consists of silent documentary footage from 1946 directed by Herman van der Horst and Allan Penning in which we see, among other things, the work in a glass factory. I cannot find the film title in Bert Hogenkamp’s book De Documentaire Film 1945-1965, but our Dutch collection specialist, Rommy Albers, tells me that this is working material for the film Rotterdam aan den slag, which was released in the same year. Working material has the same legal status as the published film. EYE owns two copies of Rotterdam aan den slag, but in the database of Beeld en Geluid (the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision), which also has many documentaries in its collection, I find that they have a copy as well. Of the well-known director Herman van der Horst, the birth and death date are submitted in CE- he died in 1976-, but of Allan Penning these dates are missing. I find his death announcement on Delpher, dating the 6th of June 1957. The term of 70 years hasn’t passed yet, so we know that the film is in any case copyright protected.

    The next step is to find out who the rights holders are. Because this is a commissioned film- just as is the case in the previous example- the rights holder is usually the commissioner. Rotterdam aan den slag is part of a series of short documentaries about the rebuilding of the Netherlands after WWII. It could be described as a propaganda film commissioned by a government committee for public works. Beeld en Geluid acquired its copy of this film from the RVD (the Netherlands Government Information Service) and also manages the RVD’s  film rights. Therefore we know that this film is copyright protected (needless to say, we cannot post a digital copy of the film here) and we have located the rights holders.
     

    3. Gloria transita

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    The third and last example I will give here, is also the easiest search. This silent feature film from 1917 about a street singer who made a short career as an opera artist was directed by Johan Gildemeijer, a cinematic jack-of-all-trades, who was also responsible for the screenplay and the production. It was a silent film, but the famous opera fragments that were shown in the film were sung by a choir behind the screen. Information about the film can be found in Geoffrey Donaldson’s famous book on silent film, Of Joy and Sorrow, and in CE, which also mentions that Gildemeijer died on the 31st of January, 1945. The protection term of 70 years has thus passed, so the film becomes a part of the public domain.

     

     

     

    collectie, collection, rights assessment, FORWARD
  • FIAF Congress, Summer School and Digital-Born Film

    maandag 8 augustus 2016

    [Official 72nd FIAF Congress program]

    The 2016 Il Cinema Ritrovato festival was not the only filmic event in Bologna where EYE was present. Partially overlapping with the festival, the 7th FIAF Congress was held from June 22 – June 26. A great opportunity for the Cineteca Bologna to showcase its plans and ambitions, as an institution that joined the FIAF in 1989 and since then hosted the Congress in 1994. Moreover, it was host to the most recent FIAF summer school editions.

    This might seem like a strain for interested archivists, curators and other parties to divide their time over all these interesting events, but it actually helps to combine important yearly film preservation events like these. They attract more or less the same audience, so when these events coincide, attendees can kill two birds with one stone. Moreover, seeing films, joining tours through the Cineteca’s collections and the L’Immagine Ritrovata film lab, and theorizing at the same time can be inspiring. For Bologna and its Cineteca, it solidifies the city even further as an important site for film archiving and restoration.

    The congress consists not only of the conference, but also involves a symposium with a specific theme on which case studies are presented. This year, the theme was 'New life for cinema's past'. This is a very broad theme, which makes for a broad set of case studies from the partaking institutions and experts. It not only forms a platform for case studies from archives all over the world, but moreover workshops are held and ideas and projects are being discussed for future cooperation between archives, institutions and independent experts. Not only were there presentations and discussions about the many FIAF members’ restorations and changing workflows due to the expanding amount of born-digital films, EYE’s director Sandra den Hamer gave a presentation on the newly built Collection Centre. Other presentations concerned for example the rise of historical theaters and of film heritage screenings at a time when general theaters seem to be closing. Another session was that of The Reel Thing, which is a semiannual event curated by founders Grover Crisp (Sony’s Film Restoration & Digital Mastering) and Michael Friend (UCLA Film & Television Archive). EYE will be hosting The Reel Thing in the spring of 2017, more specifically from Sunday 28 to Tuesday 30 May. This follows up on the yearly EYE Collection Day on Saturday 27.

    Besides the film festival and congress, FIAF’s Summer School took place at the same time but went on after the festival, until July 15. This Summer School has been organized yearly  by FIAF since 1973 and has been hosted by many FIAF members, from the Reichsarchiv in Berlin to George Eastman House in New York. The course consists of three steps: starting with an online theory course in May, then having hands-on theory lessons at the Cineteca and attending the festival as well as the congress.

    [Photo by L’Immagine Ritrovata]

     Then, after the festival wraps up, restoration classes took place at L’Immagine Ritrovata. Participants from all over the world are selected, but all have a background in film archiving, be it as working in institutions such as film archives or studying in this specific area. Also, scholarships by FIAF and ACE are granted to eight participants yearly in order to help them with the program’s 3000 euro fee. This might be considered a high price, but with the extensive hands-on program and the involvement of many well-known archivists and technicians from the field, the Summer School is a steady vehicle of the training of new film archivists.

    EYE’s Film Conservation and Digital Access department was represented at this year’s Summer School by head of the department Anne Gant. Not only did she give a glimpse into an interesting case study that is the management of born-digital films, but it was also a good opportunity to interest young film archivists in EYE’s archive, museum, and the EYE Study for researching its collection. She made sure to not give a glamorous view of the life of an archivist, but rather show that it is often a matter of arranging, rearranging, conserving and maintaining objects: “only a small percentage of the items really get the big treatment of a full restoration” (Anne Gant, Summer School Presentation June 2016).

    Moreover, the large EYE vaults in which over 210.000 cans are kept are really breathtaking, but it is the growing digital-born collection that needs our attention just as much. This especially since we are still figuring out what standards to use and how to process everything efficiently. Although born-digital films still make out a small portion of EYE’s collection compared to the analog material, they require much work and the numbers are increasing at a fast pace:

    1 born-digital film in 2009
    88 born-digital films in 2011
    125 born-digital films in 2016


    This is not unique for EYE, and therefore other institutions and people like Anne Gant had to come up with digital workflows and plans to fit these into the collection more swiftly. Maybe more importantly, since EYE is to collect, protect as well as provide access to Dutch film heritage, criteria for filmmakers, distributors, producers and other people who submit their films to the archive are to be agreed upon so that the depositing runs smoothly. Dilemmas that were never there before, such as questions like: should I backup first, then harmonize/fix the data structure, and then back up again? Also, where before things could physically get lost because parts of a film were not put together on one shelve, now the problem gets more complicated if all metadata is not catalogued properly. This might be something often mistaken by people when thinking about digitization: it is not necessarily less labor-intensive.

    In her presentation, Anne Gant stressed that archives, although new to the digital born issue, need to see this issue as an opportunity. The archives should skill their employees so that they can deploy not only a Steenbeck viewing table, but also a digital scanner and know how to cope with difficult file systems. Needless to say, with the collection that EYE has, it will always be important to have specialists in analog film restoration, and no one can be an expert in both that and digital processes. Also, at some point in time it will be hard to find people that still know how to restore analog film, so we have a duty as film archive to maintain and teach this craft.

    Last but not least, as department of Film Conservation and Digital Access but also on an institutional level for EYE in general, new policies had to be developed. In this, we are working together with other film institutes since we are dealing with similar issues everywhere and benefit from each other’s experiences. If you are interested in how this is voiced by EYE, see the 2014-2017 Collection Policy here.

    [Both photos by EYE staff]

    FIAF, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Cineteca de Bologna, restoration, L'Immagine Ritrovata, FIAF Summer School, born-digital film, collectie, collection, The Reel Thing, metadata, digitized, digitization, digitalisering, film labs, filmfestival
  • EYE and Il Cinema Ritrovato

    zaterdag 23 juli 2016

    [Official poster Il Cinema Ritrovato 2016]

    It has been over two weeks since this year’s Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, Italy, came to an end. The screenings of films from EYE’s collection were a great success, with the whole festival welcoming over 100.000 visitors, both with the enchanting screenings on the Piazza Maggiore as in the cinemas throughout the day. The setting for the festival and its well-known classics might lure one in at first, but the rich and varied program is what keeps both professionals and cinephiles coming back year after year.

    The program ‘Cento Anni Fa’ (Hundred Years Ago 1916) is a yearly returning program that focuses on films that were released a century ago. With titles from the EYE archive such as Artiestenzomerfeest (NL) and Staalfabrieken Krupp (DE), the program with short films from the silent era not only portrays filmmaking during that time, but moreover life during WWI throughout the world.

    In the program celebrating the 100th birthday of the Dada Movement, Bankroet Jazz (NL, 2006) was shown. This film – a co-production of EYE – is based on a film script that came to be known as the first script written in Dutch. It was written by Flemish poet Paul van Ostaijen between 1919 and 1921. Writing from Antwerp and Berlin about a worldwide crisis, the Dadaistic script combines both the chaotic Spartacist revolts in post-war Berlin as well as other tumultuous happenings of the time. The script filmed by Leo van Maaren in 2006, as a found-footage film of 45 minutes, using exclusively material from EYE’s archive. In the light of the global political and financial crisis and particularly the Brexit, the film proved to be surprisingly topical.

      [Piazetta Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bologna, photo by Lorenzo Burlando]

    The carbon projections on the Piazetta Pier Paolo Pasolini, where the Cineteca’s library is situated, were another noteworthy part of the program. In this projector type, a carbon arc (Dutch: booglamp) provides the light for the projection, which was a common practice between roughly 1900 and 1960. The true cinephile could often be found sitting on the cobbles (still smoldering from the Italian summer heat), enjoying not only what happens on screen, but maybe even more so the purring projector behind him.

    [Lumière exhibition entrance, Palazzo Ronzani on background. Photo by me]

    As Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi (EYE's Silent Film curator) mentioned in her blog before the festival started, the opening of the Lumière Brothers exhibition coincided with the festival. This elaborate exhibition can be visited until January 2017, and is housed below the main street of Bologna, right next to Piazza Maggiore. This exhibition is not only full of the Lumière brothers’ inventions, but gives a peek into their family history as well as that of their family business.
    Right next to this underground exhibition space stands a building with grandeur: Palazzo Ronzani. Facing the famous Gothic Palazzo Re Renzo, Palazzo Ronzani was constructed between 1913-1915. The basement of this building is currently being restored to its previous function: a theatre that seats 2000 people. Scheduled to open at Il Cinema Ritrovato’s 2017 festival, this Cinema Modernissimo will mean an immense expansion of capacity. The underground exhibition space will be connected to this new cinema, being on the same level.




    [Source (3x)]

    As you can tell, the city of Bologna, though moderate in size, is interwoven with the festival and its visitors. This can be seen as remarkable since Bologna does not hold a special place in Italian film history. We have to explore the past 30 editions of the festival  to understand how the city  by now has become synonymous with presentation of archival films.

    Starting out as one of several festivals focusing on archival discoveries and film preservation worldwide, Il Cinema Ritrovato was not immediately among the biggest players. Over the years, not only the festival but also its organizer, the Cineteca de Bologna, has become known throughout the world of film preservation. Starting out as a humble city archive, this is certainly praiseworthy. In this, Bologna’s film lab L’Immagine Ritrovata has been of great influence too. Being one of the most acclaimed film labs worldwide, it has worked as a key player in restoring several films for Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation. This non-profit foundation, founded by Scorsese in 2007, makes it its mission to “preserve and restore films from around the world, particularly those from countries which lack the financial or technical means to do so themselves” (source).

    [Scan of 1998 program cover, EYE Collection]

    For many years, EYE Filmmuseum (then the Netherlands Filmmuseum) was a major partner of the Cineteca in organizing the Il Cinema Ritrovato festival each year. This program book from the 1998 edition is an example of that. Both institutes benefited from their joint work on this project and gained international recognition during these years.  EYE continues to be of great importance to the festival and vice versa, with Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi on its artistic committee, and many films from the EYE collection that are part of form the festival’s program each year. To stay on top of what is going on in the field and meet with international colleagues, EYE’s curators, archivists, restorers and other staff members attend Il Cinema Ritrovato yearly.

     [Taken from Il Cinema Ritrovato program – 1995 edition, EYE Collection]


    Peter von Bagh (artistic director of the festival from 2001 until his death in 2014) also played a defining role in the growth of the festival. As a Finnish filmmaker and critic, he worked almost exclusively with archival material (for more about this, see Olaf Müller’s hommage). The 2015 edition of the festival opened officially with a grand gesture: a dedication to Von Bagh’s memory by many friends from the field. Under the title of ‘The 1000 eyes of Dr Von Bagh’, they celebrated his life by exchanging personal memories. Also, Aki Kaurismäki, a friend of Von Bagh’s, introduced his own film Le Mains as a tribute. In previous years, Von Bagh had unsuccessfully tried to get the film for the festival, giving the tribute a personal touch. Being witty though merciless when critiquing films, as an artistic director Von Bagh was first and foremost a cinephile who attracted other cinephiles to the festival. During this year’s festival, a documentary by Tapio Piirainen about the man himself was shown, introducing Von Bagh as “the festival’s forever best friend.”

    Another important influence on the festival and the Cineteca was Vittorio Martinelli (1926-2008). As a collector of Italian silent film and film historian, he worked tirelessly researching the Italian silect film history for his 21 volumes of Il cinema muto italiano (co-edited by Aldo Bernardini). Martinelli inspected many archives around Europe as well as in South America, Mexico and Russia and thereby contributing to the recovery and repatriation of hundreds of both Italian and other films. As a Napoletano, one of his ongoing projects was to find and preserve Naples’ silent films.  For EYE, Martinelli’s help was particularly essential during the identification of the Desmet collection.

    In his name, a fund within the Cineteca library has been set up to protect his rich collection of films, scripts, essays, stills, postcards and festival catalogs. More information on Martinelli, his work for Il Cinema Ritrovato and future projects carried out in his name, see this Cineteca page in Italian.

    Based on these firm fundaments,  today, Il Cinema Ritrovato has become perhaps the most important yearly event for the curators, archivists, preservationists, critics, historians, students and other film aficionados to come together. They attend the festival not only to discuss possible new projects that transcend local or national collaborations, but most importantly to celebrate cinema.

    Many thanks to Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi for helping me with the research for this blog.
     

    collectie, collection, filmfestival, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Desmet Collectie, Desmet Collection, Peter Von Bagh, Vittorio Martinelli, Lumière, exhibition, tentoonstelling, carbon arc projection, cinephilia, Bankroet Jazz, Martin Scorsese, World Cinema Foundation, film labs
  • NANG - Issue 0

    dinsdag 12 juli 2016

    The EYE Study magazine collection has gained a new gem: NANG. This brand new magazine has just issued its first edition: “0” (Zero). This “cinema-related publishing project”, as publisher & editor-in-chief Davide Cazzaro calls it, focusses in-depth on specific themes related to cinema in Asia. The plan is to publish just 10 issues: one issue every six months. Remarkable as this might sound, in the light of cinema it makes perfect sense. Cazzaro: “as every true storyteller would tell you, a story should always have a beginning, a middle, and an end – no matter how anticipated or abrupt.”

    By all means, NANG seems the manifestation of a new sort of cinema magazine, right from its first issue. The choice for a paper magazine without any digital counterpart, is admirable: a deliberate choice for a tactile and permanent medium. Much like film perhaps?

     Even more notable is the choice  that is made for terming NANG’s focus as ‘cinema in Asia’ instead of coining the maybe more eminent term ‘Asian cinema’. In line with tendencies we have seen throughout filmmaking worldwide genres, styles, methods and geographical distinctions  have been blurring. Less and less filmmakers have been labeling themselves by the distinctions we were taught in film history class, nor have they been asked to do so. For NANG this means that, as Cazarro explains:

    “Asia, and cinema in Asia, are not singular and fixed but rather plural and fluid (not to mention that what defines “Asia” and “cinema in Asia” in the first place is far from evident or universal). (…) A short note on semantics: cinema in Asia and  Asian cinema will be used interchangeably. Overall, however, preference tends to go to the former particularly when thinking that the latter is often reduced to a catch-all marketing label or a shorthand descriptor for a cinema that is associated with certain feelings of “Asian-ness.”).”

    Although not openly part of NANG’s focus, dealing with issues around exoticism and orientalization in the 21st century is something that might be promising for coming issues and articles by guest writers. Acknowledging the ever present difficulties around this head on, NANG takes a refreshing editorial stance without sacrificing any of the plans it has set out for itself. Interesting in this light is moreover the choice for English and moreover how NANG accounts for this by stating this is purely for an accessibility reason, not a political, cultural or linguistic one.
     

    The magazine’s title, NANG, stands for more explanations than one. Coming from the Thai language, it can simply refer to skin or leather, but moreover can it be explained as to refer to the shadow puppets made from translucent leather used for shadow plays, one of the earliest forms of moving images. Nowadays, ‘nang’ is still used in Thai language to refer to any performance involving light and screen. In this way, the magazine marks itself clearly in the history of cinema in Asia, where shadow plays lay deeply embedded the joint histories of countries such as Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. This historical trace can directly be seen from the magazine's cover: the title is formed by letters that are pressed out of the paper, through which the light falls and plays a shadow game on the first page. Here, history comes together with current day cinema.

    Leafing through a beautifully laid-out, print-only cinema magazine, one could not be any more excited about the coming issues. NANG’s issue 0 gives a glimpse of what the coming three issues will contain: the first (September 2016) will revolve around the theme of screenwriting, the second (April 2017) around the vitality of cinema in current day media environments and the third (September 2017) around fiction.

    Feel welcome to browse through this and forthcoming issues in the EYE Study, opening October 2016. If you are interested in film magazines focusing on cinema in Asia, do check some of the other sources in our library, such as Bioscope: South Eastern Screen Studies and
    the discontinued Osian’s Cinemaya: the Asian Film Quarterly.

    EYE Study, Collection Centre, collectie, collection, collectie-informatie, magazines, tijdschriften, Asia
  • FoFA in het Journal of Film Preservation nr. 94/April 2016

    vrijdag 10 juni 2016

    The EYE Study is slowly but steadily taking shape in the new Collection Centre. An important part of its rich collection are the film journals and periodicals. One of these, both in print and digitally available at EYE, is FIAF’s Journal of Film Preservation. FIAF stands for the International Federation of Film Archives and was established in 1938 in Paris. Its founding institutions are the British Film Institute in London, the Cinémathèque Française in Paris, the MOMA in New York City, and the Reichsfilmarchiv in Berlin. All were relatively new institutions at the time, with different ideas and goals about film preservation. (The Dutch Filmmuseum was only to be established in 1943, and joined FIAF in 1947). Of the four founders, the Reichsarchiv was the oldest, inaugurated by Hitler in 1933. Not coincidentally, Joseph Goebbels was known to be a film enthusiast with an understanding for its cultural and political and is therefore believed to be one of the motivators behind the Reichsarchiv’s founding.

    In the following years, the war had far-fetching consequences for the cooperation between the FIAF members. Fortunately, after the war, the FIAF members (excluding the Reichsfilmarchiv) re-established their contacts and welcomed new archives as members. These new archives were often set up in the hausse of the post-war years in which national heritage became an important political issue. In the decades that followed, FIAF expanded both in activities and recognition. In 1973 the first FIAF Summer School was held. Ever since, these regular events have helped train archival personnel. In 2015, the number of 155 affiliates was reached, in 74 countries worldwide.

    In 1972 the first issue of the FIAF Information Bulletin was published, which would in 1993 be renamed the Journal of Film Preservation. With issues published twice a year, it provides an international forum for current-day film preservation discussions that range from theoretical to technical and historical aspects of moving image archival activities (source). In the latest issue, EYE and the EYE collection play a prominent role. Ulrich Ruedel, Professor for Conservation and Restoration in Berlin, wrote a review on Jean Desmet’s Dream Factory: The Adventurous Years of Film (1907-1916). This book was published by EYE in 2014 and coincided with EYE’s exhibition by the same name. Ruedel takes readers through the different sections and contributions of the book while at the same time hinting to the importance of the Desmet collection for EYE. Not only did the Desmet films for a great part lay the foundation of EYE's collection in the fifties, it moreover was of great importance for films such as Peter Delpeut’s Lyrical Nitrate (1991), which was reissued on DVD at the time of the exhibition and book launch.

    EYE’s head of Film Conservation and Digital Access Anne Gant has written a case study for a more elaborate article on the FofA group. This group first came together in 2012 and was formed by nine film preservation experts from the field, amongst them Giovanna Fossati, but also preservationists from Cinématheque Française and Library of Congress. Within an informal setting, the group gathers on a yearly basis, and have been discussing the many challenges that film-archiving community is faced with since the move to digital film production.  Examples of this are the availability of raw stock, continuation of laboratory services (for example film lab Haghefilm Digitaal next to the former EYE Collection building at Overamstel) and the manufacturing of film digitization equipment. Other important issues are the imperatives of long-term preservation and staff training. By keeping to its original 2012 agenda (Raw stock; Laboratories; Scanning; Storage; Training and Succession; Formats and Materials), revision and continuous discussion makes for all kinds of impact and results. For more information on FoFA and its agenda, goals and debates, do read the main FoFA article in the latest Journal of Film Preservation issue, written by FoFA’s chair and BFI’s Head of Conservation Charles Fairall.

    Interesting for people curious as to what EYE does regarding these preservation challenges, is Anne Gant’s case study that is one of three to follow Fairall’s text in this issue. Together with Jon Wengström from the Swedish Film Institute, PhD researcher Guy Edmonds from Australia and German conservation & restoration professor Ulrich Ruedel , she shows what digital film production and other facets of the fast-changing field of film preservation can mean for an organization such as EYE. Specifically, she speaks of the shifts in workflows that have come about both in digital and analogue activities. This is directly connected to the project “Images for the Future”, she explains, which had an enormous impact on how the department functions on a daily basis. The other case studies involve early cinema and cognitive creativity (Edmonds), moving image preservation studies at HTW Berlin (Ruedel) and sustaining photochemical laboratory processes in Sweden (Wengström).

    When the EYE Study is up and running in October, feel free to reserve a desk and indulge yourself in this Journal of Film Preservation as well as the rest of EYE’s periodicals collection.

    [For more about the history of FIAF, click here and here.]

     Carpet in EYE Study (still from Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov, 1929)

    FIAF, EYE Study, Collection Centre, collection, collectie, Dziga Vertov, restoration, technology, collectie-informatie, digitalisering, digitization, Tweede Wereldoorlog
  • Introduction to the life and work of Joost Rekveld

    zaterdag 14 mei 2016

    Joost Rekveld (1970) is a Dutch artist and experimental filmmaker. Since 1991 he has been making abstract films and light installations. In his early days he worked intensively with the medium of film, experimenting with all aspects of the process from printing, to manipulating, to developing the images himself. In 1994 he was already using a computer to make an animation film by writing his own software; a practice he returned to later on in his career.

    #2 by Joost Rekveld VRFLM by Joost Rekveld

     

     

     

     

     

    His works display an intimate and embodied understanding of our technological world. They are deeply inspired by science and technology and the systematic dialogue between man and machine. By exploring the various spatial and sensorial aspects of light projection his works intrinsically relate to the early history of optics and perspective and, in many ways, can be understood as a type of visual music. His animated films are often mechanical compositions whereby the computer acts as a controller, orchestrating the precise movement of each optical element of the film-work or installation. Rekveld’s current works-in-progress include a number of projects that relate to his interest in the nature of “Open-Ended Machines,” the philosophy of technology, and the sensory nature of our material environment.

     

    Over the past three decades Rekveld’s works have been presented at many international festivals. Most of his recent films have premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and His film “#11, Marey <-> Moire” was the first Dutch film to ever be shown at the Sundance Film Festival. As well as festivals he has screened works at a wide range of venues for experimental film, animation and short film including the ICA and the Tate Modern in London, The Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. He has presented a number of programmes about the history of abstract animation and light art, most prominently the 9th edition of Sonic Acts: Sonic Light 2003. Rekveld has a long history of curating programmes about abstract animation, visual music and the interaction between art and science and he is a regular guest at our weekly EYE on Art series where we present the history of the avant-garde. He has been giving lectures since 1993, and has been teaching interdisciplinary art since 1996. From 2008 to 2014 Rekveld was head of the ArtScience Interfaculty of the Royal Conservatoire and the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. He is currently a board member of Sonic Acts (Amsterdam) and of the Centre for Visual Music (Los Angeles).

     

    The Filmmuseum’s relationship with Joost dates back to 2004 when he was commissioned to curate a program and an installation called “A House in 4 dimensions”. In 2015 Rekveld’s films were added to EYE’s collection and we began the restoration and preservation of a number of his early works. These included #2, 1993, VRFLM, 1994, #5, 1994, and #7, 1996.  The restoration work has been a joint venture between Joost, Simona Monizza, curator of experimental film and Gerard de Haan, the digital grader of Haghefilm Digital; the lab we used for this work. From the beginning we decided to opt for digitally restoring these films as well as producing digital projection copies. Two factors informed this choice. The first is that for most of Joost’s early films there were already existing negatives in relatively good condition; these form good elements for long-term preservation. The second reason was the wish to enhance the screening possibilities of these films in an era where 16mm projection becomes more difficult or unreliable.

    #7 by Joost Rekveld

    In light of the premiere of these restored works, which will take place at EYE on Tuesday 17th May at 19.15 as part of our regular EYE on Art series, Ruth Sweeney asked Joost Rekveld to share his thoughts on the process of preserving his early film works. We’d like to share this short interview with you.

    RS: How do you feel about having your work preserved by a National archive? What is the importance to you of preserving the works in this way?

    JR: Hmm..How do I feel? I feel old! No but seriously…during the preservation process we talked a lot about one of the things that I found rather confronting. That was, especially with my first film #2, that I was more or less forced to revisit the mistakes I made 20 years ago. I mean it was my first film so I had no idea about lots of stuff. Technical things especially I had no clue about at that time. What came across during the preservation is that many parts of the original source material is really underexposed so in the lab you have this experience where somebody is looking at the material and saying “Oh that’s really underexposed!”. So yes, that’s very confronting.

    In general I am very happy that people are interested enough to actually go through with this restoration and preservation work. For me, as a maker, what I like about film is that when they're finished they're really finished. I’m not really keen to be involved again. These are old films. I’m not distributing them myself and I’m happy to leave that to others so I can focus on new work. Im happy that other people can take control of preserving these films in order to keep them alive and make sure they can still be shown. In that light, however, one thing I do find difficult is that preservation is very archive centric. I want to make my work accessible. That’s very important to me.

     

    RS: How did you feel about revisiting your early work with two other people in the room, the curator and the technician, who may have different perspectives and judgments as they are not filmmakers themselves?

    JR: It did feel for me that in some way the restored films are indeed reinterpretations but the aim for me was always to stay as close as possible to the original material and my original intentions. In terms of  preservation the goal for me was always about making these works accessible again in a world where technologies have shifted and evolved quite dramatically. Film used to be an easy choice as a medium but now it’s something that is actually rare. 16mm projections are hard to come by now.

    Back to your question…the preservation process itself was very technical for me. It was about identifying obstacles and looking for solutions. In that sense I didn't feel that the perspectives of the curator and technician were alien, but rather I was happy to use their expertise. I used to be scared of the grading process because it was so expensive but now I know what I want and there has been some progress in my dialog with graders over the past 25 years.

     

    RS: How do you feel about giving over your film cans to the archive and not having the physical film object with you and in your presence?

    JR: I don’t mind really. I’m happy to not have to care so much! If you take the baby metaphor.. the children leave the house and they're on their own. I might be in touch once in a while but yeah..it’s OK they're out the house!

     

    RS: Your early work is defined by the use of the film medium with its laws, rules and flaws, all inherent to the process of filmmaking. With this in mind how do you feel about having these early films now made available on digital format?

    JR: That’s a good question! The thing is they also still exist as prints and these are good enough to project. I wouldn't hesitate if people wanted to show those print versions. I see the digital format as a new version of the film but not a replacement. I also understand that in 25-30 years from now it could be just these digital versions that are the ones that are available. Naturally I have thought about this. What I will say is I used to see myself as a film fundamentalist but that has changed. I now realise that these things are not at all binary. For a long time I've made films writing my own software and code so it isn't necessarily a historical progression for me, but instead this transition to digital is much more fluid.

     

    RS: What were your original expectations when we started with the digital restoration?

    JR: Well not so long ago I had DCPs made of some of my more recent films, for example #11, Marey <-> Moire which was originally shot on 35mm and had a certain aesthetic. I was actually really happy with the results. I will say I do miss the hummmm of the projector with a digital projection but visually, I’d say it’s different but I don’t miss anything.

     

    RS: More specifically, how do you feel about the digital version of #7, one of the more complex films you made as it involves a hand painted roll?

    JR: Yes - that’s a different story! The thing with this film is that it was basically an original that I had given up! I remember bringing it to EYE and thinking you can have it if you want it but to me it looked like a tree trunk because of the way it was all packed together. The paint was totally stuck! I thought I’m never going to touch this myself. I assumed that if we were ever going to restore this that it would have to be from the print copies I made back when I produced the original. In the end we did use the original though and I’m a bit ambivalent about this because unpacking it did do some damage. Sometimes I think maybe we should just roll it up and keep it as a tree trunk! I remember when I made this film. I didn't have money and I wanted to make a 30 minute film as cheap as possible which is why I arrived at this technique with the paint. I was only thinking about production rather than how the film would be stored or preserved. I didn’t store it properly at all and also hardly screened it. The original isn't the most audience friendly film!

     

    RS: Would you say that since you've been through this process of restoring and preserving these early films that you now think more about preservation when making current works?

    JR: Yes. I think I do. With the digital stuff, all the code etc I definitely think about it but I don't have secure practices in place. I lose stuff. Things disappear. Actually it’s hopeless. There’s a media artist called Rafael Lozano-Hemmer who makes very complicated installations involving technology and he has an amazing guide on how to preserve your work as a media artist. It’s amazing, very wise. I do think about formats too. I only use open source formats because this is advantageous for preservation.  I remember talking to Bart Vetger about code and this open source thing. He was already working in a certain software environment. I remember at some point thinking specifically about what code language I would choose to work with and what would be the best long-term option.

     

    RS: Can you say something about the changing of formats that took place due to the restoration and preservation process of for instance #2, which was originally shot on Super8. Do you regard this as an ethical issue?

    JR: No, not anymore. I have done in the past but, like I said, I’m no longer a film fundamentalist. I remember when it was irresponsible and unethical for a programmer to ask an experimental filmmaker to provide a video version of a film work. That was unthinkable! In the beginning when films were scanned to video the quality was a load of crap! It was terrible! Now with HD screening digital versions are much better. What I have also noticed over time is that 35mm is much more stable than 16mm now. It’s more reliable to screen films on 35mm because 35mm projectionists are all trained and know exactly what they're doing. The 35mm projectors are all standardised and I rarely have trouble with 35mm projections. 16mm it’s a totally different story! It is rarely perfect. The reality now is that 16mm projections are mostly crappy so digital projections are preferable because they are much better quality.  I see that there are still pockets of film fundamentalism that remain but for me, I now see working with film as a passing phase in my career. I do think about how to make work accessible online. I think it would be great to do, and platforms like vimeo are making this easier but still…what is made available online simply is not the film. It’s so far from the visual experience I want people to have.

     

    RS: In your 2010 essay “Conversations with Machines” you talk about expanded cinema as compositions: “Many of the historic expanded cinema projects are compositions for two or more projectors in which the focus is on the compositional opportunities of several film “voices”, analogous to musical voices. These films necessitate a conscious focusing of attention, so that each spectator has his or her own experience.” How do you feel the restoration of #5 and the conversion of the work to a single-channel piece has effected the nature of the work?

    #5 by Joost Rekveld

    JR: The thing is with #5 is that it was originally made to be shown in a gallery space, not in a cinema. What I liked then is that I could sort of reconfigure the work and adapt the screening format to the space. This posed an interesting challenge when the piece started to be integrated into film programmes, either with my other work or other single-channel works. I then found myself needing to present the work in the standardised space of the cinema. After some trials and experimenting I found that this single-channel screening is actually the optimum way to screen the work in the cinema space. I see this preservation as a way of freezing that choice in time in a way. The prints do still exist so it can still be shown in different ways and we also talked about making digital copies of each of the individual “tracks” as it were so there could still be various screening options. In a gallery space for example it still makes most sense for it to be screened as a three-channel work. I like to keep these possibilities open!

     

    RS: Also in relation to #5, you mentioned before that you like the hummmm of the projector. With this in mind how important was it for you to consider the lack of the 16mm projector in the new digital version? 

    JR: For me, presenting #5 was always so exciting! However, it’s an excitement that I know the audience wouldn’t have experienced because for me it was about the anticipation. When I would screen this work using three projectors I would do a test run and figure out delays and syncs. There was always a lot of tension for me then. I would be anxious about if the projectors were running at the same speed. It was exciting in the same way a horse race can be! The projectors are three horses approaching the finish line and will they be in sync?! This moment gave me a sort of nervous excitement! Like I say this is purely personal and the audience don't know about this element or experience that tension. For that reason now when I think about the digital version of the film which is perfectly synced it’s actually just boring! I’m totally aware that there is no change here for the audience…for the audience it’s boring all along!

     

    RS: So the final question is how do you feel these early works - in their restored form - relate to your current work?

    JR: That’s an interesting question. If we go back to the baby metaphor;  the child leaving the house and starting a new life of their own etc but then, at the end of the day, they're still family! That’s how I feel about my films. I can definitely learn a lot from revisiting the films but it’s a new kind of interaction, and of course I still have a strong connection. If I take #2 for example, a film which, until very recently, I hadn't screened for a very long time. Just before we started the preservation process I screened the film in Japan as part of a retrospective type programme and it was the first time i’d seen it again in maybe 15 years. It triggered a lot of thoughts. I was writing a lot of proposals at the time I revisited it and I realised then that this film captures something that I've tried to do in all my films. Something I didn't realise until that moment. I thought in some sense I have always been making the same film, and actually continue to do so! What I mean by this is that I have a fascination with processes where forms emerge and structures come into being. I see that I was doing that in #2 and it’s basically what I'm always doing. I always think my projects are completely different but in fact they're not. In that sense revisiting the films has been very interesting.

     

    RS: Which restoration do you feel happiest with?

    JR: I think I would say #5. Thinking of how Tuesday will go I feel very confident and I feel like it’s going to be really nice and thats not easy to do with 16mm screenings. My films were made at a time when you could just rent film projectors but thats becoming more and more exotic. Preserving films gives them a new life. I’m happy that this preservation process makes my films more accessible. This is so important to me! I want my films to be seen!

    #5 by Joost Rekveld

    Blog post by Simona Monizza, curator Experimental Film EYE & Ruth Sweeney, student intern.

    collection, experimental film, Rekveld, restoration, EYE on Art
  • Moving to the Collection Centre: the technical move

    dinsdag 26 april 2016

                                                                                                                                          

    It has been well over a month since my first collection blog about the move to the new Collection Centre in Amsterdam Noord. Last week was an important and extensive stage in the moving process, as the technical move was carried out. Amongst the technical devices that needed to be rehoused carefully, were Steenbeck’s flatbeds and the Scanity  filmscanner. These heavy machines  were hoisted out of the Overamstel building by crane.

                          
    As you can see from the pictures, this was a great operation. Luckily, the Steenbeck company was present to prepare the flatbeds/viewing tables for the move. On these tables, varying from rewinding tables to editing tables with two screens and speakers, film and sound can be run individually and matched to synchronize. The originally German-based company was taken over by one of its former Dutch dealers in Venray, in 2003. Besides the maintenance that is involved with the delicate mechanisms of these machines, the company’s focus remains with developing viewing and editing tables as it has been for the last 60 years. (For more information on the history of Steenbeck, see their company's history page).
     

             

                                                                                            

    Film scanning: Scanity's technology

    Scanity is another machine of great importance to the EYE archive and the Film Conservation & Digital Access department. With this, we have the possibility to scan 16mm and 35mm analog film image (and sound) up to a 4K digital format at a high pace. The demand for analog film scanned digitally is high. As digital born films are issued in 4K, the demand on historical film - and its gatekeepers - is changing because of it. The European Broadcasters Union (EBU) has set up guidelines that apply here, as quoted by Giovanna Fossati in her book From Grain to Pixel: The Archival Life of Film in Transition:

    Technology is now available to scan and digitize the full information available in film images. Experience with such equipment shows that a pixel pitch of 6 μm (about 160 pixels per mm) is considered sufficient to reproduce current film stocks. This corresponds to a scan of 4k x 3k (actually 4096 x 3112) over the full aperture on 35 mm film. If film is scanned at lower resolution (corresponding to a larger pixel spacing), less information is captured and more aliasing artefacts are introduced” (EBU 2001 in Fossati, p. 77).

    Besides the advantages of Scanity in high-paced scanning of EYE’s archival films for use within and outside of EYE, it has some other features that are most important for the sort of film the archive holds. Scanning film is often a precarious undertaking because of the state of many archival films. Scanning film is often a precarious undertaking because of the state of many archival film footage. It can suffer from shrinkage, warping, loose splices, rips, mold, etc. The process can be stressing the film and deteriorating the film’s state ever further. If we for example look at the perforations of a certain film copy, they can be torn in many ways, such as on this image (left). The perforations are used for the transport through most projectors, editing tables, and other machines. These systems, as well as many scanning systems, pick up the film by sprockets or pins that go through the perforations. Because of this, the perforations have a tendency to wear easily. Scanity on the other hand, does not use the perforations for transporting the film through the machine for the scanning process.

    (Source: DFT Film)

     The technique Scanity uses instead is based on a capstan and roller gate transport system. This entails that the film is not guided through the machine by fixed guides, but instead goes through the scanning process on a number of rollers.The capstan on the machine makes for a relaxed move of the film through the process. Still, for scanning the film it is essential to identify the film per frame. This because if the perforations are not located, the image stability of the digital scan will not be up to standards. To make this possible, Scanity uses a camera technology dedicated to detect the perforations without having to physically use them. This makes for a steady digital scan in the end. For more information from DFT’s perspective on digitization of analog film and how Scanity works, see DFT's datasheet.

    At this point in time, gathering the EYE collection in this new Collection Centre has proven to be a great success: from February until today, about 85% of the 200.000 cans that needed to be processed and barcoded have found their new place into the shelves. It has been great to find titles that inspire your inner film geek to re-watch, not to mention the beautiful and/or completely ruined film cans. The film in the can below is for example taken out and put into a new can, left from the corroded one on the picture. Under the right circumstances, these cans are archived under the same roof as the Film Conservation & Digital Access department, the EYE Study and other departments that work closely with this collection. To keep updated on the different stages of the move to the Collection Centre, keep an eye (...) on this collection blog!

    archief, archive, digitalisering, digitization, technology, Collection Centre, Steenbeck, Scanity, barcoding project, collectie, collection
  • Moving to the Collection Centre

    maandag 14 maart 2016

    An interesting time lies ahead of us. Lots has already happened since the move to EYE’s new Collection Centre was announced. The EYE library will be moving too, therefore many considerations have to be made. Especially given that more and more material is requested through the online catalogue instead of being consulted in the library. Needless to say, it is still key to hold on to the great collection of books and magazines. EYE has been focussing on its core task of maintaining the Dutch film heritage more and more. How does this affect what is moved to the Collection Centre and what isn’t?

    Foreign magazine and book duplicates make up a significant part of the library collection. They have for long been stored elsewhere since they are the duplicates of material available. Since the first week of February, all these boxes with magazine duplicates have moved into the Overamstel library.  In teams of two, EYE employees and volunteers have been going through over 90 cardboard boxes with material from all over the globe.  This ranges from numerous Variety issues, to Finnish and Russian magazines, as well as beautifully designed Dutch Kunst en Amusement issues from the 1920s. The latter is of course kept and it will make the move to the new Collection Centre. These magazines are put in new boxes and registered on title. The foreign duplicates are certainly not thrown away, but are given to another film museum.

    Kunst en Amusement (Nr.1, 1923)

    As an intern at EYE, it has been really interesting handling all these beautiful magazines and preparing them for a place in a brand new building. As we are working meticulously over the next couple of months until reopening in October, these gems as well as others, are digitally available in the BIBIS library catalogue. This specific magazine gives a concrete overview of the Dutch commercial cinema circuit throughout the 1920s, and is one of numerous examples in EYE’s collection from throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century. Kunst en Amusement’s primary focus could be described as promoting the cinema circuit and caring for its future, for example by discussing the “Ontwerp Bioskoopwet” as well as dismissing the idea for restricting cinema admission for children. The latter was thought to be unnecessary, since the nationally centralized "filmkeuring” commission kept track of providing cinemas with decent films suitable for all ages. Moreover, the advertisements in the Kunst en amusement magazines offer a glimpse into the countless film businesses that were around in the 1920s.



    From October onwards, it is possible to reserve a spot in the Collection Centre's EYE Study, where magazines such as this one can be consulted close to the main EYE Museum building. It will be more condensed and complete than ever: both the film collection and film-related collections under one roof. Sorting out these duplicates to make use of the new Collection Centre as efficiently as possible is only one of many tasks needed to prepare for the move. During the move, I will occasionally update this blog with interesting moments in the process. 

    collectie, collection, Collection Centre, EYE Study, collectie-informatie, filmkeuring, Nederlandse film, Kunst en amusement, digitalisering, digitized
  • Collection H. Rider Haggard: Imperialist adventure fiction in silent and sound film

    maandag 7 maart 2016

    In the early 2000s the EYE Filmmuseum received a large amount of film-related materials (in particular about Dutch silent film) through the estate of film collector and historian Geoffrey Donaldson (1929-2002). In a previous blog entry we already talked about the archive of the Kinsbergen family which was created from the materials from this particular archive. Another part of the collection which has recently been inventoried consisted of 2 boxes containing 8 binders with material about the British author Henry Rider Haggard. Six of which contained information about films adapted from Haggard's works. Haggard, who is most widely known for his adventure stories set in exotic locations (predominately the jungles of Africa), is widely regarded as one of the first people to popularize the so-called “Lost World” literary genre.

    Henry Rider Haggard was born in Bradenham (Norfolk) on June 22nd 1856 as the eight of ten children. As the son of a barrister he was educated at Ipswich Grammar school and by private tutors. At age 19 he was sent to southern Africa as part of the staff of Sir Henry Bulwer, the governor of the South African province Natal. He was present during the signing of the treaty with the Boers (settlers in that region who had predominately Dutch ancestry) and the annexation of the Transvaal region by the British government. He later became head of his own government department. On August 11, 1880 he married Mariana Louisa Margitson and returned to England after the Transvaal gained independence in 1884. They had four children, one son (who tragically died from measles at age 10) and three daughters who he named after characters from his books. His first commercial success came with his fourth book, “King Solomon’s Mines”, an adventure novel in the vein of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island”. Among his most popular creations were Allan Quatermain, the hero of “King Solomon’s Mines” (and it's sequels), and Ayesha, the title character of his fifth book “She” (the novel that was most frequently adapted to the screen, at least 13 adaptations according to Donaldson).

    Donaldson collected everything he could find about films made from Haggard's books ranging from the earliest silent versions till the most recent film adaptation of "Allan Quatermain", “Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold” (USA, 1987) with Richard Chamberlain and Sharon Stone. The latter a sequel to the 1985 film "King Solomon's Mines" which tried but failed to reach the same level of success as Spielberg's Indiana Jones movies. The meticulously research contained personal notes in which Donaldson gave further details about the cast and crew and discussed whether the film should be considered part of the Haggard filmography. In some cases, as with the Méliès film “La Danse du Feu” (France 1899) he concluded that the film should not be considered as a adaptation of “She”, as some other film historians had suggested.

    Among the materials collected were more than 300 photographs and (vintage) postcards aquired from a number of archives around the world as well as a few original publicity items such as brochures, pressbooks and posters. 

      

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

      

    Donaldson's research included information about some of the more obscure versions of Haggard adaptations such as a Musical version of "She" called "Malika Salomi" (India, 1953) from India and a TV version of "King Solomon's Mines" from South Africa as well as a variety of photographs from lost silent films such as two US films from 1917 "Heart and Soul" and "Cleopatra" starring the famous Vamp Theda Bara.

     

    Those familiar with Dutch silent film might be particularily interested in the Austrian silent film "Die Sklavenkönigin" (1924), a version of the novel "Moon of Israel". One of the stars of the movie was the Chilean actor Adelqui Migliar who is most famous for appearing in a great number of Dutch productions. This connection is quite remarkable given the fact that Donaldson was particularily interested in Dutch film, spoke out against the claim by earlier Dutch filmscholars that the Netherlands had not been very prolific during the silent film era  and is well-known for writing "Of Joy and Sorrow" an indepth filmography about the Dutch silent film period.

     

    Dana Pastor, intern filmrelated collection

     

    silent film, sound film, Geoffrey Donaldson, H. Rider Haggard, stille film, archief, collectie, collection, archive, lost films, adaptation