A docu on film preservation, “Keepers of the Frame” treads similar ground to last year’s “Race to Save 100 Years.” Whereas that film was wistful in its outlook, new pic takes a more scientific approach to conservation and includes fascinating footage of archivists working to restore film. Like earlier pic, “Keepers” would be a valuable educational tool on the museum and college film studies circuit.
Docu effectively alternates testimonials from a wide range of participants with clips of rare and deteriorated films and images of archivists in the process of preservation. Pic makes the simple but profound point that while film is among the most modern of art forms, a greater percentage of Renaissance paintings survives than do films from the silent era. (Historians estimate that four-fifths of those films are gone.) Institutional figures, critics and actors (Jean Picker Firstenberg, Leonard Maltin, the late Roddy McDowall) help to contextualize the need for preservation. As valuable as these testimonials are, the films themselves are the best evidence: A clip from “Meet John Doe” shrivels and disintegrates before your eyes; an Al Jolson “soundie” has nothing left but the sound.