Cinema is global, as is cultural heritage. Both have recently been insulted, humiliated and seriously damaged by the Brazilian authorities. Beyond any question, the government should be held accountable for leading the Cinemateca Brasileira into such a crisis which has culminated in the fire of the Cinemateca’s vaults on 29 July 2021.
Fires are always a tragedy, no matter to whom they happen. However, no organization, public, state, or private, responsible for the care of collections of cultural value should be plunged into such a crisis like we have been following in Brazil. This recent fire is number five in the history of this Brazilian film heritage institution and the most devastating one.
Cinemateca Brasileira is a much-respected member of the family of film archives. Since last June, representatives from numerous film heritage institutions from Europe and the World have expressed their concerns regarding the future of this respected institution. We, international representatives, can attest that the management and staff of Cinemateca Brasileira are the last who should be considered accountable for this disaster. We have known this for far too long. The federal government has been treating the Cinemateca with such disregard that in 2020 the institution became starved: funds were frozen, the employees unpaid and fired, activities halted – including conservation of the collection. The government took over the administration of the Cinemateca, with no one in charge of these fundamental responsibilities.
During all those months of this crisis, the employees of the Cinemateca were not silent. Now is the time for us all to speak more loudly for them and their mission — for it is ours as well. And, it is time to look carefully at any other situation in any other country where authorities also treat their cultural and heritage institutions with such shameful indignity. We stand with our colleagues and demand immediate action from the responsible authorities.
2 August 2021
Sandra den Hamer, Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam, president of ACE
Michal Bregant, Národní filmový archiv, Prague
Thomas C. Christensen, Det Danske Filminstitut, Copenhagen
Anna Fiaccarini, Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna
Ellen Harrington, DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum, Frankfurt
Mikko Kuutti, National Audiovisual Institute, Helsinki
Tomas Leyers, Royal Film Archive of Belgium, Brussels
Rui Machado, Cinemateca Portuguesa / Museu do Cinema, Lisbon
Jugoslav Pantelić, Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Belgrade