Collectieblog

  • 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