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Film Heritage and Archival Practices: Past and Present Transcontinental Encounters

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - TRANSARCHIVES (Film Heritage and Archival Practices: Past and Present Transcontinental Encounters)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-09-30

TRANSARCHIVES aimed to study the interactions and exchanges of films between the French Cinematheque and the Cinematheques of Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Sao Paulo from the immediate aftermath of the Second World War until the end of the 1950s. During these years, several institutions that were part of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) entered an exchange circuit that had not been researched in depth. Film archives and cinematheques have tended to be studied regarding their conservation and preservation policies. However, they have played an important part in the circulation of film, the construction of cannons and the writing of film history through both the organization of their own screenings and the selection of films to be screened in partner institutions. Problems with copyrights holders did not help to keep visible the lists of the films that entered this circulation circuit. However, there are still many administrative documents held in distant archives that could help in the writing of this history.
The main objectives were:
1. To cross documents from the archives of the participant cinematheques and those of the FIAF to retrieve the titles which have crossed the Atlantic Ocean during this decade.
2. To analyse the interests behind the interactions between these institutions.
3. To explore the cultural impact that the contributions made by each institution had on local screens and has today on the current availability of these films.
4. To acknowledge the efforts of these institutions to disseminate films in remote institutions at a time in which the travelling of films required a difficult set of logistics to be implemented.
Becoming aware of the interactions between these heritage institutions allow us to reflect more broadly on the cultural links that have been implemented at a key moment in history, in which a divided world was struggling to recover. This historical information would help us promote a more critical response to today’s cultural influences and exchanges, and therefore evaluate their ability to build bridges between distant societies.
"TRANSARCHIVES led to:
1. the writing of three articles in three different languages: English, French and Spanish.
a. “Tracing Past Exchanges between European and South American Cinematheques: a Key to Understanding the Impact of Sharing” has already been published (https://hal-univ-paris3.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02294982). In addition to providing a brief history of the creation of the South American institutions, this article studied specific titles that travelled between France, Argentina and Uruguay. On the one hand, it explored how films that arrived from the south allowed for the recovery of titles thought to be lost and contributed to the programs of the French cinematheque. On the other hand, it examined how the selection that was sent from the north contributed to both the perpetuation of a canon of classics and the circulation of versions that have an impact on current access and restoration projects.
b. “Echange de Films avec l’Amérique du Sud : une étude de séances envisagées par la Cinémathèque française et le ministère des Affaires étrangères au cours des années 50” (Exchange of films with South America: a study of the séances programmed by the French Cinematheque and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the 1950s) has been accepted for publication and will be soon available. This article approached the French concept of séance through the study of programmes sent by Henri Langlois to some South American cinematheques and cine-clubs at the beginning of the 1950s. These programmes, made of 16 mm copies, were part of an agreement between the French Cinematheque and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In tracing how these programmes were actually sent to Argentina and screened in Uruguay, this article analyses different interests at the core of these interactions.
c. “El Festival de cine de San Pablo de 1954: análisis de un nudo de difusión, circulación y acopio de películas clave en la región"" (San Pablo’s 1954 Film Festival: Analysis of a key event for exhibition, circulation and gathering of films in the region) is under review at the moment. This article analyses Sao Paulo’s 1954 International Film Festival beyond its unquestionable importance as an exhibition phenomenon. This article analyses how this festival promoted the links between neighbouring South American cinematheques to develop a film circulation circuit within the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), which was largely supported by the French Cinematheque. It also contributes to the study of film festivals focusing on a precise case which presents clear crossovers between dissemination, gathering of copies and promotion of film circulation.
2. the creation of a database that shows the list of films that have travelled between the four cinematheques studied in the project, which is accessible here: https://transarchives.nakalona.fr/.
3. the participation in conferences, seminars and screenings has allowed TRANSARCHIVES to reach both the academic and non-academic communities. Screenings and presentations have been organised at the University Cinematheque of Sorbonne Nouvelle–Paris 3, with the presence of students and the general public; different results have been presented throughout the two years in international conferences such as FIAF (2018 and 2019), SCMS (2018), and NECS (2019), and several seminars and workshops have been given in French institutions such as the INHA, École Nationale de Chartes, the Unviersity of Lyon 3 and University Paris-Diderot. My research trips in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay were also accompanied by seminars and enriching meetings with colleagues.
4. the organisation of two symposiums followed by screenings
a. “Des allers-retours transcontinentaux: Interactions entre la France et l’Amérique latine à travers le cinema” (Transcontinental comings and goings: Interactions between France and Latina America through cinema) took place in November 2018 and was followed by the screening of Raoul Ruiz, contre l’ignorance fiction ! in the presence of the director Alejandra Rojo.
b. the symposium “Cinémathèques, Ciné-clubs et Panthéon dans les années 1950” (Cinematheques, cine-clubs and film canons during the 1950s) in September 2019 in conjunction with the École Nationale de Chartes and was followed by the screening of a 16mm print of Battleship Potemkin.
5. Last but not least, the organisation in April 2019 of a round table of Cinematheques of the Rhône-Alpes region was organised at the University Lyon 2 with the presence of the Cinematheque of Saint-Etienne and that of Grenoble."
TRANSARCHIVES has unearthed and analysed documents that have been scattered for over seven decades. The different ways in which the project has presented the results throughout dissemination activities, oral presentations and articles have allowed diverse communities to gain contact with them. Learning about the selection processes made by the pioneer generation of film archivists gives tools to understand current restoration projects and cultural heritage policies on both sides of the Atlantic. Moreover, the information gathered and studied in this project can inform new decisions at a key time of technological transition, in which many European Union founded projects are helping to give access to several collections of film archives, museums and cinematheques.