FIAF Congress, Summer School and Digital-Born Film
[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]