A Season of Classic Films: Albanian Film ‘THE DEATH OF A HORSE’

The Albanian National Film Archive offers free online access to the drama The Death of a Horse (Vdekja e Kalit) on its YouTube channel between 19 May and 26 May.

Based on a true story, The Death of a Horse (Vdekja e Kalit) carries the distinction of being Albania’s first dramatic fiction film made after the end of its communist era.

Thirty years later, very little is still known about Albanian cinema. During the country’s communist period (1946-1991), movie makers in the Soviet-built Kinostudio complex produced 232 fiction features, thousands of documentaries, newsreels and hundreds of animated films.

In 1991, many Albanian filmmakers confronted the legacy of Enver Hoxha’s dictatorship. One of the most prolific of the former Kinostudio directors, Saimir Kumbaro (b. 1945) and screenwriter Nexhati Tafa (b. 1952), along with some of Albania’s most iconic acting talents, crafted The Death of a Horse, a feature film that would have been unthinkable a year earlier.

Speaking about the film, Iris Elezi, Director of the Albanian National Film Archive said, “The low-budget conditions during the making of The Death of a Horse reflected many of the tremendous social and economic challenges Albania faced in the 1990s. But since the Balkan nation had only just emerged from the traumatic Hoxha era, The Death of a Horse has a fierce vitality, its story literally torn from the pages of its recent history”.

The drama takes place in 1974, a year in which the Albanian regime accused the military of treason. The Defence Minister was executed along with a high-ranking General, Petrit Dume.

The main character in The Death of a Horse, the horse trainer Agron, parallels the story of Petrit Dume. However, the fictional Agron is not a General but a military horse trainer who does all he can to save his beloved racehorse. But as he tries to rescue the white horse, Agron and his family get caught up in a series of tragic events.

In the context of preserving Albania’s endangered cinema heritage, the Albanian National Film Archive’s has acquired the 35mm original film elements, which showed signs of material decay. The film has been scanned under the supervision of restoration expert Shai Drori and the digital restoration has been completed by filmmaker Steven Kastrissios.

The restoration and free online release of The Death of a Horse are made possible thanks to A Season of Classic Films, an initiative of the Association des Cinémathèques Européennes (ACE) with the financial support of the EU Creative Europe programme. The goal of A Season of Classic Films is to encourage the restoration of European film art and, through free-admission screening events online and in cinemas when possible, to draw attention to the work of European film archives. Twenty-two institutions from all over Europe, including the Albanian National Film Archive, are taking part this year in the initiative, connecting the public with cinema history and the preservation of film heritage.

Vdekja e Kalit (The Death of a Horse) (Albania 1992, 81′)

Director: Saimir Kumbaro. Producer: Albafilm Studio. Cast: Timo Flloko (Agroni), Rajmonda Bulku (wife), Niko Kanxheri (Estrefi), Fitim Makashi (Vangjeli), Luan Qerimi (father), Tinka Kurti (mother), Bedri Ashari, Agron Mema, Ferdinand Radi, Darling Capeli, Harilla Vjero (investigator), Milto Mina, Lutfi Zyko, Luljeta Sallaku (sister). Director of photography: Bardhyl Martiniani / Scriptwriter: Nexhati Tafa / Music composer: Rene Aubry / Editing: Nerman Furxhi / Sound designer: Ilir Gjata / Set design: Arben Basha. Physical characteristics of first release: 35mm, 81’, sound, colour, Albanian. Film copy screened during A Season of Classic Films: New restoration – world premiere. DCP, 81’, sound, colour, Albanian. Available subtitles: English. Copyright: AQSHF.

Live stream direct access link – TBA




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ACE members’ cinemas are slowly reopening

During the past weeks, many film archives from all over Europe are reopening their doors and starting to offer their audiences screenings of new titles or curated retrospectives. This is a brief panorama of the ACE members’ offer (this article will be updated as soon as more film archives reopen):

  • British Film Institute: on May 19th, following government guidelines, the BFI will finally be able to reopen and offer their audiences 4 curated collections as well as new releases. The four collections are Dream Palace (a selection of famous cinema gems presented or accompained by filmmakers or film critics), a retrospective dedicated to Robert  Altman, a selection of big screen classics and Her Voice (an homage to the artistry of black women). You can discover more here
  • Cinemateca Portuguesa: the film archive is currently offering many different cycles: Cinemateca Júnior is dedicated to the younger audience, while The Seas of Europe explores the importance of the sea in cinema. Other offerings include Korean Cinema Classics, an homage to Deborah Kerr, a retrospective dedicated to the way writers approached film and many others. Find out more here.

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A Season of Classic Films: Bubble Bath (Habfürdő) – online debut of the musical animation to the rhythm of a heartbeat

The National Film Institute Hungary – Film Archive (NFI – Film Archive) is presenting the recently restored animation cult film Bubble Bath (Habfürdő) online. The film will be free-to-view worldwide with English and French subtitles on two occasions on the NFI – Film Archive’s YouTube channel: the first screening starts at 7 pm on 15 May, birthday of the director György Kovásznai, and there is a repeat screening the next day, also at 7 pm.  

Live stream direct access link

The new restoration in 4K and online release of Bubble Bath (Habfürdő) is made possible thanks to A Season of Classic Films, an initiative of ACE (Association des Cinémathèques Européennes) with the financial support of Creative Europe. The goal of A Season of Classic Films is to encourage the restoration of European film art and, through free-admission screening events online and in cinemas when possible, to draw attention to the work of European film archives. Twenty-two institutions from all over Europe, including the NFI- Film Archive, are taking part in the initiative, connecting the public with cinema history and the preservation of film heritage.

György Kovásznai (1934–1983) is a pioneer of Hungarian animation. His animated short films working with boldly expressive graphics and experimental soundscapes carved a niche in the genre traditions in Hungary. His first and only feature film, Bubble Bath debuting in 1980, is one of the most remarkable highpoints on the domestic and international animation palette, which now has a serious fan base.

Bubble Bath went radically against the cartoons of the day made for children and based on classical literary foundations, which was launched in Hungary with János vitéz (Johnny Corncob, 1973) and Lúdas Matyi (Mattie the Goose-Boy, 1976). It is not surprising, therefore, that Kovásznai’s film, with a contemporary setting and designed specifically for an adult audience, was received with incomprehension by contemporary viewers, it divided opinion among film professionals and was taken off cinema programmes after just a few weeks. At the same time, the ground-breaking style of Bubble Bath still influences younger generations of animation directors to this day.

In an approach ahead of its time, numerous film forms (musical, romantic comedy and sociological documentary) are mixed up in the hybrid-genre experimental film, the subtitle of which is ‘musical animation to the rhythm of a heartbeat’. The action takes place in Budapest’s downtown and it reveals the story of a love triangle: Zsolt, the middle-aged window shop decorator, runs away on his wedding day, fleeing to Anni, colleague of his attractive, worldly bride-to-be Klári, who works as a nurse and is preparing for her new role as housewife. At the moment Zsolt bursts in, Anni is studying for her fifth medical entrance exam in her rented room. Zsolt persuades Anni to call his fiancée and tell her he has changed his mind, he won’t be marrying her after all. Through the characters’ dissatisfaction with their own social situations, the film portrayed the disillusionment of the young generation of the 1970s in an extremely entertaining and yet grotesque way with a sociographical element. The characters were shaped on the basis of real models (the three main figures were drawn on the basis of fashion model Géza Girardi and actresses Kati Dobos and Irén Bordán), but in their movements an eclectic way of representation ranging from realism to complete abstraction prevails.

Bubble Bath achieved its documentary effect using the unusual solution of applying animated socio-reports based on genuine interview footage into the film’s fictional fabric. These reports were made in the waiting room of an actual mother and infant clinic. Kovásznai himself wrote the lyrics to jazz songs performed in the music segments, which were set to music by János Másik Jnr., who made his debut here as a film composer. The principal dubbing and vocals parts were made by opera singer Albert Antalffy, jazz singer Kati Bontovics, and actresses Kati Dobos and Anikó Papp.

Restoration of Bubble Bath, which is the third Hungarian full-length animation, was carried out within the film restoration and digitization programme of the National Film Institute in 2021, with the support of ACE and Creative Europe. Around 30 staff members of the Film Archive and Filmlabor functioning as directorates of the National Film Institute took four months to complete the full, 4K restoration of the film. Ethical issues of restoration were even more evident in the case of such a special film as Bubble Bath. The prolific visual elements, the figures created from rippling lines, the pop-art lights and colours pulsating to the rhythm of the music posed the restorers with a challenge even greater than in other films: how far could they intervene in the image without violating the original concept; flicker-free technology should not eliminate the original flicker, software should leave untouched all the original, constantly evolving mass of lines. Luckily, the film’s cinematographer Árpád Lossonczy and its composer, the outstanding figure of Hungarian alternative music János Másik, were available to restore the tonal palette and optimal audio of the film according to the original, assisting the work of the colourist and audio restorer.







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Migrating Archives of Reality – Conference website now online!

The digital turn, which has created new modes of access and circulation for films, underscores and amplifies what has been the fate of non-fiction film since the beginning of its existence – it has always been, and continues to be, a migrating archive of reality. Driven by the mass digitization of cultural heritage and possibilities of content sharing platforms and new streaming services, which enable non-fiction film content to constantly migrate across venues, platforms, but also cultures, geopolitical barriers, artworks etc., these movements intensified in the digital media ecology.

The conference “Migrating Archives of Reality: Programming, Curating, and Appropriation of Non-fiction Film” (6/7 May 2021) represents an important part of a large international research project “Visual Culture of Trauma, Obliteration, and Reconstruction in Post WWII Europe” funded by HERA into which researchers from all over Europe with background in film history, critical theory and visual studies are involved.

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Il Cinema Ritrovato returns in person this July

Good news for cinema lovers! The 35th edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato will take place in person – from July 20 through 27 – in the theatres and open air venues of Bologna. The rich program is  full of discoveries from across the world, the festival appears an invitation to rediscover the thrill of being part of an audience, watching and sharing film masterpieces.

For this year, for all those who will not be able to attend in person, a selection of films from the festival will be available online through the MYmovies streaming platform.

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ACE’s latest activity report

Since the FIAF General Assembly is approaching, we would like to share with the ACE members and the general public a brief report of what the film archives that compose ACE have accomplished in the past six months and our plans for the future.

The ACE Executive Committee has continued its regular meeting schedule. Our communication tools are growing, and other networking meetings are planned for the near future to further strengthen them. We also hope to showcase our Members by posting their trailers and other promotional materials, such as virtual tours and digital offers, and perhaps filmed interviews with key staff members.

Since March 2020, film archives from all over Europe have been mostly closed because of the pandemic. Many of them have continued to offer a digital program to stay connected to their audiences at home. From online screenings to digital platforms and exhibitions, ACE members have adapted quickly and with creative solutions to the current situation. You can find on our website a selection of the online offer from our ACE members.

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A framework for digital preservation of cinematographic works

Invitation to comment on the draft document

A framework for digital preservation of cinematographic works

Dear colleagues,

Technical Committee CEN/TC 457 (Digital Preservation of Cinematographic Works) of the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) has been working for some time now on a project to define and standardise a long-term archive format for cinematographic works. The standard will apply to both digitised analogue films and born-digital content. Reference software for guaranteeing interoperability among vendors and heritage institutions will be developed. The project has received financial support from the European Commission. Most of the members of the Technical Committee are country representatives of the European Film Archives. The membership of the Committee was recently extended to include a liaison officer from ACE in the person of Mikko Kuutti (ACE Secretary General and Deputy Director of KAVI).

The Technical Committee has set up a Project Team that has been tasked with producing a proposal for standardisation. The Project Team recently published a draft document entitled A framework for digital preservation of cinematographic works, which has now been sent for comment to the members of the ACE.

The Executive Committee would like to invite you to comment on the draft document. Please use the following procedure to access the document and make any comments you wish to make:

  • Log-in to the ACE members’ area;
  • The members’ area contains a draft PDF document entitled A framework for digital preservation of cinematographic works and a template for comments (in MS Word);
  • Download the template in order to make any comments you may have (in English).
  • Please send the document with your comments to Walter Swagemakers (email: walterswagemaker@eyefilm.nl, with cc to Mikko Kuutti (email: mikko.kuutti@kavi.fi) by Wednesday 26 May at the latest.

If you have any questions about the draft document, please contact the Project Team at: cen-pt457@iis.fraunhofer.de. One of the members of the Project Team will then answer your question.

Many thanks in advance for your cooperation!

Best wishes,

Walter Swagemakers

EFA Young Audience Award 2021: an online edition for the biggest European jury

The European Young Audience Award, organized by the European Film Academy (EFA), is returning soon for the eighth consecutive year, in an online edition due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic.

Hundreds of young film lovers between the ages of 12 and 14 from all over Europe will act as a jury on Sunday 25 April 2021 to choose which film will receive the EFA YOUNG AUDIENCE AWARD.

Hundreds of boys and girls will take part this year to the largest European jury, with representatives from 38 countries: Germany, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain , France, Georgia, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey and Cyprus.

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A Season of Classic Films: She Didn’t Say No!

Digitised from the vaults of the IFI Irish Film Archive, the 1958 film ‘She Didn’t Say No!’ will be free to view worldwide on the IFI Player and via the IFI Player suite of apps between 15 and 22 April.

Based on the true story of an unmarried mother of six children by five different men (Moll McCarthy), the film was considered so immoral that it was banned in Ireland on its release.

The film is presented alongside an introduction from Head of IFI Irish Film Archive Kasandra O’Connell, and a pre-recorded post-screening conversation with scholar Ann Butler, contextualising the real life story behind the protagonist and the original censorship of this controversial film.

The digitisation and free online release of the film are made possible thanks to A Season of Classic Films, an initiative of the Association des Cinémathèques Européennes (ACE) with the financial support of the EU Creative Europe programme. Twenty-two film institutions from all over Europe, including the Irish Film Institute, are taking part this year in ‘A Season of Classic Films’. The initiative offers free access to European archival films, connecting the public with cinema history and the preservation of film heritage.

Speaking about the film’s digitisation and digital exhibition by the Irish Film Institute, Kasandra O’Connell said, ‘The IFI Irish Film Archive is delighted to be part of A Season of Classic Films which has afforded us the opportunity to digitise and share She Didn’t Say No, a film that playfully comments on Irish societal attitudes to non-traditional family structures. It’s also a beautifully made film employing a rich Technicolor palette and a strong cast of Abbey Theatre actors.

The IFI preserves a 35mm film print of She Didn’t Say No!, which had been struck from the negative held in Technicolor, in 2003. The excellent quality of the source material meant that following digitisation, few interventions were necessary. A small amount of surface dirt and a few scratches to the emulsion of the film (acquired during cinema screenings) were the main concern and these were easily digitally removed by the restoration team resulting in this beautiful digital print which is presented as part A Season of Classic Films.

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Digitraining: Open call for European cultural heritage institutions

DigiTraining, Digital & Audiovisual Capacity Building for Accessible Heritage, a project co-funded by the European Commission under the Creative Europe Programme, has launched an Open Call for European cultural heritage institutions.

The digital shift in the cultural heritage sector is important but can be quite challenging: successful applicants will receive training and support in the process to innovate and integrate new technologies in their organisations. For some this means personalised and
tailor-made support and digital production services directly adapted to their needs and mission to facilitate accessibility to culture.

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