The Dutch Central Film Archive
In September 1919, the Vaderlandsch Historisch Volksfeest, a folkloristic festival, was organised in Arnhem. Haghe Film, Willy Mullens’ production company, recorded this national festival on film. Inspired by these films, the amateur historian D.S. van Zuiden wrote a letter to the editor in which he proposed setting up a national film archive. Such an archive would be the place to store films that were about the social, cultural and historical life of the Netherlands. The preservation of these images of the Netherlands for later generations would be the purpose of this archive.
The proposal was received favourably and, in October 1919, the Nederlandsch Centraal Filmarchief (‘Dutch Central Film Archive’) was established. Van Zuiden became the secretary of the Archive; the head of the Public Record Office, R. Fruin, and David van Staveren were also members of the Film Archive, and Willy Mullens was an advisor to the Archive.
The plans for the Archive fit in with another project Mullens had begun some time earlier. In the March 1919 issue of De Film-Wereld, Mullens had placed an advertisement calling for municipalities to collaborate with him in making films of many Dutch cities. If the municipalities would finance the film, they’d receive a copy of the film in return for their investment, which they could then use to promote their area. Mullens, in the meantime, kept the films in his own archive.
With the founding of the Nederlandsch Centraal Filmarchief, Mullen’s plans became concrete and were officially supported by the Dutch government.
The reason why Mullens never became a member of the board of the Film Archive, instead choosing to remain an advisor, was a practical one. Mullens saw that his company, Haghe Film, could play an important role as the producer of films for the Archive, and didn’t want to be accused of a conflict of interest. In July 1921, he signed a contract with the Archive for an exclusive partnership: Haghe Film would deposit all of its negatives in the Archive, and in return, the Archive would try to persuade municipalities and other governmental bodies to support Mullens financially and logistically.
Mullens, in the meantime, had not been idle: immediately after signing the contract, he delivered his first series of films to the Archive. These were current event films, short documentaries and 23 city films. In 1922 and 1923, he delivered 99 new city films.
Other filmmakers and agencies were also asked to deposit their negatives in the Archive. Of these, it was other filmmakers in particular – competitors of Haghe Film – who were somewhat hesitant to do this, but after Mullens decided to forego the exclusivity clause in his contract, they too delivered their negatives to the Archive. The partnership with Orion Filmfabriek, founded in 1925, resulted in an especially large number of films. Orion would later serve as a development laboratory for the Archive.
Officially, the Nederlandsch Centraal Filmarchief existed until 1933. After it was closed, the collection – which consisted of more than 1,100 reels of film – was transferred to a new foundation. The films are kept in the safes of the Algemeen Rijksarchief (General Public Records Office.)