The Lumière Festival’s Classic Film Market (MIFC) in Lyon, France, is spotlighting efforts in Portugal to digitize and preserve the nation’s film heritage as part of this year’s country focus.
Portugal is a good representation of what is happening in Europe, according to MIFC program coordinator Gérald Duchaussoy.
The Cinemateca Portuguesa has agreements with rights holders and distributors, organizes events, promotes Portuguese cinema at festivals, digitizes and restores films and also offers a digital platform with more than 900 titles from the first half of the 20th century.
Cinemateca Portuguesa’s José Manuel Costa is presenting three restored works during the market: Perdigão Queiroga’s musical romance “Fado, História d’uma Cantadeira” (1947), Paulo Rocha’s “Change of Life” (1966) and Leitão de Barros’ “Lisboa” (1930).
While the cinematheque’s work focuses mainly on digitization and preservations of Portuguese films at its in-house lab, it also carries out restoration work on specific films when needed, as was the case with “Change of Life” and Rocha’s 1963 drama “The Green Years,” according to Rui Machado, deputy director of the Cinemateca Portuguesa. Filmmaker Pedro Costa (“Vitalina Varela”) oversaw the restorations of both works for the cinematheque.
The cinematheque also carried out color restorations for Manoel de Oliveira’s 1959 documentary “O Pão” and the 1981 historical drama “Francisca.”
For many of the cinematheque’s digitization projects, restorations are not necessary “because the original materials, or the film materials that were digitized, some through interpositives or internegatives, were still in good condition,” Machado explained.
The cinematheque also preserves works on film.
“In addition to the digitization work, which is a very important task for the dissemination of this cinematographic heritage originally produced on film, we continue to preserve films in this format through our photochemical laboratory, one of the most specialized and complete in Europe,” Machado added.
With regard to digitization, the cinematheque is currently working on Portuguese silent cinema, producing new DVD editions with musical accompaniment. Through a partnership with the Portuguese Cinema Academy, it is also launching a DVD collection of Portuguese feature films produced in the 1970s and ’80s.
In addition, the cinematheque is starting a major digitization project financed by the European Economic Area (EEA) Grants program that comprises cinematic Portuguese works with thematic elements relating to the sea.
While the Cinemateca Portuguesa mainly focuses on Portuguese cinema, it also occasionally receives orders from countries in Europe and America, particularly from cinematheques and film archives that no longer have or never had laboratories, Machado noted.
The cinematheque owns some rights to classic works but also collaborates with other rights holders on digitization projects with the aim of ensuring easier access to heritage films, he explained.
Expanding access to Portugal’s film heritage was the idea behind Cinemateca Digital (www.cinemateca.pt). The platform offers users access to more than 900 preserved and digitized cinematic works, most of them documentary short films from the first half of the 20th century. Cinemateca Digital launched in 2011 as part of the European Film Gateway project.
Machado describes Cinemateca Digital as “one of the more successful initiatives” of its kind due to the hundreds of works on offer free of charge, more than 12,000 minutes, including documentaries, propaganda films and newsreels.
The Cinemateca Portuguesa also set up another platform, albeit temporarily, during the COVID-19 lockdown that provided access to recently digitized Portuguese feature films in cooperation with rights holders.