Preservation and restoration of films: Open Forum at Mumbai Film Festival
A n Open Forum was held on the 4th day of the 14th Mumbai Film Festival to discuss film preservation and restoration. On the panel were Schawn Belston, Senior Vice President and Executive Director of Film Preservation, Twentieth Century Fox; Margaret Bodde, Executive Director, The Film Foundation; Michael Pogorzelski, Director, Academy Film Archive; Kimball Thurston Reliance Media Works, LA, Shivendra Dungarpur, Filmmaker and David Pozzi, Cineteca Bologna.
The discussion was moderated by Ian Birnie, a noted film historian. Amid discussions on the best way to go about preserving and restoring the films from the past and present, the forum was replete with the screening of clippings from the films that have been restored.
Filmmaker Dev Benegal and P.K. Nair, founder-director of National Film Archive of India, Pune were also present for the forum.
Michael Pogorzelski shared how the idea of restoring films started at the Academy. Satyajit Ray was honoured with the Special Oscar for lifetime achievement in filmmaking in 1992. On his death, a few months after the award ceremony, the Academy decided to make a film on Ray’s works. Soon they realised that it was difficult to lay hands on the footages shot by Ray and they sent an archivist to India to research on the available material from Ray’s works. And thus started the Satyajit Ray Preservation Programme, under which out of the 28 films made by Ray, 19 have been restored and preserved in the Academy library.
David Pozzi who has contributed in the restoration of the 1948 Indian classic Kalpana by Uday Shankar said that preservation of the film is the first step towards its safe keeping for generations to come. According to him it is not the costs of the technology that is a hindrance in the restoration process but the manual labour hours that goes. For example, it took 1,500 hours of manual digital cleaning in the restoration of Kalpana. He also shared the different defects that a film develops over time, like shrinking, flickering, dimness, etc.
When asked about the future of the technology that is used to restore prints, Kimball Thurston asserted that as time passes computers will get better and storage of films will get cheaper. Although his advice to the film makers would be to shoot films in high colour resolution in order to capture as much as colour details as possible. This helps in retaining the quality of the films for longer time and also simplifies the restoration process to a certain extent.
Magaret Bodde stated that it is always better to save the footage and the film on films rather than going totally digital in the library. This view was supported by each panelist. They unanimously said that films survive longer than digital copies.
Dev Benegal, from among the audience, asked the panelists a question each film maker in India would want to know. Where does one go to restore films outside the studio? And where to send these films to preserve them for future? The questions met with varied responses. Bodde suggested film makers take their film to archivists and not laboratories that boasts of restoration, as archivists are more equipped in analysing the film’s condition.
P.K. Nair, the silent observer until now commented that the National Film Archive of India is well equipped to preserve films. The Pune division of the NFAI is the right place to go for film preservation for private film makers, while the Mumbai division stores most of the state funded films.
The next interaction at the festival is on the 23rd October, 2012. A master class in Creative Production by Gary Kurtz, moderated by noted film producer Julian Alcantara.
Date: Tuesday 23rd Oct
Venue: Experimental Theatre, NCPA
Entry: Free, open to all, first come first serve seating
See here for the list of all events and workshops at MFF 2012