Archival Research in Print: From Grain to Pixel

A presentation concerning the recently published Italian translation of Giovanna Fossati’s From Grain to Pixel: The Archival Life of Film in Transition (Dai grani ai pixel. Il Restauro del film nella transizione dall’analogico al digitale- Casa Editrice Persiani) took place on Monday, July 26th as part of a series of talks from DAMSLab and the Department of Arts at the University of Bologna

The new edition widens access and provides updated research developments following the original 2009 publication and significant, expanded second and third editions in 2011 and 2018 from Amsterdam University Press. New research projects featured in the volume include Beyond the Rocks (Sam Wood, 1922, with Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino), Doctor Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964), and We Can’t Go Home Again (Nicholas Ray, 1973.)

Fossati’s work is concerned not only with the technical aspects of the pivotal transition from analog to digital film, but the implications of this material change in the broader context of the medium. Through an integrated, multidisciplinary approach, the volume recognises, in Fossati’s words, the ‘increasing estrangement between theory and practice,’ exploring film heritage and the role of archives through the lens of both film scholars and archivists working in laboratories and conservation institutions.

Giacomo Manzoli of the University of Bologna introduced the work and the author, while Fossati herself joined virtually from Amsterdam, where she serves as chief curator of the Eye Filmmuseum and the chair of Film Heritage and Digital Film Culture at the University of Amsterdam. She is also the author of and a contributor to numerous other publications.

Both Fossati and Rossella Catanese, research fellow at the University of Udine and translator of the Italian edition spoke to the importance of the text as both a professional and pedagogical resource in a constantly adapting field, as well as the need for continued additions and revisions. The author notes that despite the wide breadth of the volume, it has its limitations, expressing a desire to expand the content past its current Western focus to become a truly international resource. Catanese detailed the challenges of accurately translating a work with such a specialised lexicon. 

Michele Canosa, also of the University of Bologna, succeeded the author’s presentation with an illuminating speech which provided additional historical context, as well as information on the book and its contribution. Further remarks were made by Diego Cavallotti of the University of Cagliari on the academic relevance of the text and its application. The presentation was concluded with the showing of excerpts of films featured in the book Fantasia of Color in Early Cinema published in 2015 by Amsterdam University Press. 

A recorded livestream of the Italian language talk is accessible on Facebook and YouTube. 

The talk was presented by: Giovanna Fossati (author), Rossella Catanese (translator), Giacomo Manzoli and Michele Canosa (University of Bologna), Paolo Persiani (Persiani Editore), Diego Cavallotti (University of Cagliari)- With the support of: Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna, Ministry of Culture, Emilia Romagna Region- In collaboration with: Eye Filmmuseum, AIRSC – Italian Association for the History of Cinema Research, Persiani Publishing House, DAMSLab, La Soffitta, Municipality of Bologna, “Umberto Eco” International Center for Humanities, Almae Matris Alumni Association


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