Institutions working on film restoration around the world are deploying remarkable creativity to get the films they’ve restored into theaters – the Lumière Institute’s eponymous film festival currently running in Lyon being a prime example.
“Here at the festival, we show a lot of restored films, but we also generate many: some films are restored specially to be shown here. That allows them to get a theatrical release; it grows from a cultural project into an economic project,” says Lumière programmer Maelle Arnaud, who adds that organizers are working on a traveling festival with films bearing the “Lumiere” label.
“The work the institutions do is colossal,” says Jean-Fabrice Janaudy, head of indie outfit Les Acacias, which specializes in independent and heritage films, and manager of the independent cinema theater Le Vincennes, near Paris.
“Being able to work with them on an event is an amazing opportunity for us,” he adds, naming two events by the French Cinemathèque, which have benefited both his outfit and his theater: the current Dino Risi retrospective and the Jean-Paul Gaultier-curated exhibition, CinéMode, which has garnered widespread media interest.
“Take a film like Jacques Becker’s ‘Falbalas’ (1945), which features in the exhibition,” he says. “This is the time to release a film like that, so it’s important to have a constant dialogue between the institutions and the distributors.”
It is events like these that help open heritage film to a wider audience, according to François Aymé, president of the French Association of Art House Cinemas (AFCAE). “But what really makes a difference is having someone who accompanies the films and presents them to the public – that has true added value,” he says.
That is exactly what the Hungarian National Film Institute is doing with its ongoing exhibition marking the 120th anniversary of Hungarian cinema, by inviting local celebrities to present the films to a younger audience.
“How do you bring kids to this exhibition?” asks György Ráduly, director of the institute’s film archive. “One of our ideas is to ask famous rock stars and slam poets to come and speak to them about what cinema means to them, and what films marked their youths – and it works!” he says, adding that the initiative has drawn a lot of media attention.
Another initiative launched by the Hungarian Film Institute is the annual Classic Film Marathon, that runs in September. Launched in 2017, it draws thousands of cinemagoers to screenings of heritage films across the capital, Budapest, including many youths at morning screenings organized in collaboration with schools.
“What is difficult is that under the Communist regime, films from before 1945 weren’t shown, so people hadn’t seen them,” explains Ráduly.
Systematic film restoration only started after 1990 in Hungary, “so we need to educate the public,” he says. “We work actively with cinematheques and festivals outside of Hungary – we helped organize a beautiful retrospective of silent Hungarian cinema with the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé in Paris by providing them with trailers and subtitles.”
Besides its VOD website, the Hungarian Institute is also actively involved in educational programs for young people, with its Core platform (Alapfilmek.hu) providing free material and film clips of some 450 Hungarian titles. The user-friendly website allows searches by director, genre or historical period. The goal, says Ráduly, is eventually to offer free access to teachers and school children to the 250 films available on the institute’s VOD site – this should be up and running from November this year.
“It is possible to do this,” explains Ráduly, “because under Hungarian law we have the rights to these films so we can give free access to teachers and students in a closed-circuit password-protected network. As the whole education system is digitized, each teacher and student has their own ID so they will be able to use this to access the films as educational material.”
The Hungarian Institute’s Film Archive is an active member of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), whose 2022 congress is scheduled to take place in Budapest.