Category: Preservation

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

A SEASON OF CLASSIC FILMS: PROGRAMME UPDATES

A SEASON OF CLASSIC FILMS: PROGRAMME CATALOGUE

 

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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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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

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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A Season of Classic Films: Discover Czech silent films

A Season of Classic Films at NFA

From April to June, the Czech National Film Archive will offer free online access to seven silent films with contemporary music, in the frame of ‘A Season of Classic Films’. The selection includes some of the first movies shot in the Czech lands, Karel Lamač’s films and performances by Vlasta Burian and Anna Ondráková. Some screenings will be followed by live discussion on topics related to silent film and its presentation.

The first screening of the Czech retrospective is Karel Lamač’s Bílý ráj (White Paradise, 1924, 73’) with music by multi-instrumentalist Tomáš Vtípil on Thursday 8 April, starting at 17:00 CET. In this film, Nina falls for the good heart and piercing eyes of an escaped prisoner and decides to help him visit his dying mother for the last time. An ingeniously written script and the involvement of ‘The Strong Four’ – one of the most distinctive creative teams to come out of Czechoslovak cinema: director and actor Karel Lamač, cameraman Otto Heller, actress Anny Ondra and screenwriter Václav Wasserman – contributed to the international success of the film and established Lamač and Ondra as major forces of early cinema. Other prominent figures of early Czech cinema participated in the production, such as Martin Frič and Gustav Machatý. The new film digitisation originates from a 35mm coloured restored print, for which a unique tinted and toned nitrate film provided source material.

The premiere screening of White Paradise is followed by the discussion ‘Classics Today’, which provides a framework for the entire Czech retrospective. What the term ‘classic’ means in architecture, music, literature and why using this term, are some of the questions discussed by guests from various cultural fields and moderated by the General Director of the Czech National Film Archive, Mihal Bregant.

Films with new musical accompaniments will be added to the online series on a bi-weekly basis. The full programme and access link are provided below.

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A Season of Classic Films: free worldwide screening of ‘Sanz and the secret of his art’

Sanz and the secret of his art, an unusual hybrid between documentary and fiction displaying animated human-like dolls, will be screened on Friday 5 February at 18:00 CET with live music, in the frame of the 2020-2021 edition of ‘A Season of Classic Films’.

The screening will be freely accessible worldwide with English subtitles via the YouTube channel of the Institut Valencià de Cultura, and at the same time a limited audience will have the opportunity to attend the event at the Filmoteca’s cinema in Valencia.

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Murnau’s Tabu and Deutsche Kinemathek’s work on the outtakes

Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s last film Tabu (USA 1931) is a particularly interesting case study for what concerns the protection of audiovisual cultural assets due to its unique history. In addition to the different versions of the film, there is a stock of around 17,500 meters of film material: alternative or unused takes of the film, the so-called outtakes.

The KUR Programme for the Conservation of Moveable Cultural Assets – initiated by the Federal Cultural Foundation and the Cultural Foundation of German States – made it possible for the Deutsche Kinemathek, in cooperation with the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation and the Österreichisches Filmmuseum, to produce these nitrate films, which are threatened by decay in the long term, safeguard materials by copying them and publish them in digital form. In addition, the script for Tabu as well as the daily reports of the shooting have been published on the Deutsche Kinemathek’s website.

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European Classic Documentary Film Meetings

Seeking for new restorations of documentary films for distribution:

The 2nd edition of the European Classic Documentary Film Meetings will take place on March 19th 2021 as part of ParisDOC, the professional section of Cinéma du réel, France’s oldest creative documentary film festival.

A complete one-day program had been put together for the 1st edition last March, which unfortunately had to be cancelled because of the first lockdown in France. We are now very determined to prepare the 2nd edition for our next festival in March 2021 (adapting to the evolution of the pandemic, naturally).

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A Season of Classic Films: online premiere with the newly restored ‘Sinner without a sin’

The second edition of A Season of Classic Films will premiere on Friday 4 December at 19:00 CET with a free online worldwide streaming of the newly restored 1930 film Sinner without a sin. Yugoslovenska Kinoteka will provide the streaming service via its YouTube channel, while the screening at its premises in Belgrade, Serbia, will take place at a later date based on the latest COVID-19 measures.

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A Season of Classic Films – Programme Catalogue

This publication presents the film titles selected for the second edition of A Season of Classic Films. It provides a colourful palette of European cinema history which aims to be a source of inspiration for cinemagoers and film programmers around the world. The films are presented by 22 members of the Association of European Cinematheques (Association des Cinémathèques Européennes – ACE).

The 22 partner institutions selected a total of over 50 short and long-feature films, showcasing distinguished titles and less known treasures. Most of the films are new digital restorations and some screenings include exciting elements such as live performances and experimental electronic music.

 

Download: A Season of Classic Films – programme catalogue

 

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