Atlanta Mail

Preserving the Past for Future Generations: an in-Depth Look at Film Preservation

MOVIE REVIEW
Film, The Living Record of Our Memory

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Genre: Documentary
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 59m
Director(s): Inés Toharia
Language(s): English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Catalan, & Arabic w/English subtitles
Where To Watch: opens in Chicago on March 10, 2023, at The Gene Siskel Film Center.


RAVING REVIEW: Lights, camera, preservation! In a world where our audiovisual heritage is constantly at risk of disappearing forever, FILM, THE LIVING RECORD OF OUR MEMORY, directed by Inés Toharia and presented by Kino Lorber, offers an eye-opening exploration of the importance of preserving film as a medium for cultural and historical memory. And let me tell you, this documentary is one for the ages.


The film takes us on a behind-the-scenes journey with several film professionals, including archivists, curators, technicians, and filmmakers, who work tirelessly to safeguard and restore films that hold our collective memory. The documentary offers insights into the unique challenges preservationists face and the surprising risks of digital preservation. It pays tribute to their tireless work and acknowledges their dedication to preserving our collective memory.

Toharia's work takes us beyond the US, highlighting the disparities in available resources for archivists outside America. It shines a light on the challenges faced by those working in areas with minimal political, financial, or cultural support—simple things such as creating the cooler conditions necessary to preserve film and restoring film as a luxury. The documentary also touches on the issue of analog/digital preservation; this includes the need for digital systems, a costly process due to constant data migration.

The documentary provides a fascinating insight into the history of film conservation, including the birth of the first film libraries in the 1930s. It also highlights the critical work of organizations such as The Film Foundation, founded in 1990 by Martin Scorsese and a group of prominent directors, in raising awareness of the need to preserve film material and restore it to its original condition. With contributions from archivists working in America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa, the list of participants in the documentary is extensive.

Toharia's documentary is not just informative but reflective. It highlights the importance of preserving records as an account of events forgotten or purposely written out of history and collective memory.

FILM, THE LIVING RECORD OF OUR MEMORY, is an essential watch for anyone interested in film and its preservation as a medium for cultural and historical memory. It allows for a better tomorrow, where learning from the past and our shared memory might build a better future. Our audiovisual heritage is invaluable, and we must do everything possible to preserve it for generations.

In conclusion, FILM, THE LIVING RECORD OF OUR MEMORY, is not just a documentary. It is a love letter to unsung heroes who dedicate themselves to preserving our collective memory. So, grab the popcorn, settle in, and prepare for a cinematic journey that will make you appreciate the power of a film.

I’m a big supporter of film preservation. I believe that films should be preserved in their original form as historical documents. Some may disagree, but examples like Disney hiding away the film SONG OF THE SOUTH doesn’t do anyone any favors. It shows how the world has changed, and it must remain available. We may not have had a blemish-free history, but these films and “text” are essential to persevering our pasts, good, bad, or otherwise.

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[photo courtesy of KINO LORBER]