Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan will be the 2021 recipient of the annual award presented by the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF).
The FIAF Award was introduced in 2001, when it was presented to Martin Scorsese for his film archival efforts. It has since recognized personalities from outside the archival scene who have worked to advocate the cause of film preservation.
Past winners include Ingmar Bergman (2003), Mike Leigh (2005), Hou Hsiao-hsien (2006), Peter Bogdanovich (2007), Rithy Panh (2009), Agnès Varda (2013), Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (2016), Christopher Nolan (2017), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2018), Jean-Luc Godard (2019), and Walter Salles (2020).
The award will be conferred upon Bachchan in a virtual ceremony on March 19 by Scorsese and Nolan. Bachchan was nominated by the FIAF-affiliate Film Heritage Foundation, a Indian film archival organization founded by filmmaker and archivist Shivendra Singh Dungarpur (“CzechMate: In Search of Jirí Menzel”).
“FIAF has very been active in India and South Asia, thanks to its close collaboration with Film Heritage Foundation, since 2015,” said FIAF president Frédéric Maire. “By presenting our prestigious FIAF Award to Amitabh Bachchan, we want to show the world how rich and diverse, but also how fragile, this unique film heritage is, and we want to publicly thank Bachchan for his role as a high-profile advocate for the rescue of this heritage, in India and beyond.”
Dungarpur points out that India’s track record in film preservation is dismal. By 1950, India had lost almost 70% of its films, and of the 1,338 silent films made in India, some 29 survive, many only in fragments. He said that Bachchan “constructively wielded his influence to amplify the cause on a war footing,” in South Asia, and that he was the unanimous choice of the 172 FIAF-affiliated archives for the award.
“Amitabh Bachchan’s advocacy for preserving India’s film legacy has been exceptional,” said Scorsese.
“As a past recipient of the FIAF Award, I know how imperative it is that representatives of the film industry around the world come together to ensure that we preserve our film heritage,” said Nolan who is a staunch supporter of celluloid over digital. Congratulating Bachchan, Nolan said, “he has played an essential role in putting the cause of film preservation on the map in India and the subcontinent.”
At the opening ceremony of the 2018 Kolkata Film Festival, Bachchan delivered an impassioned speech on film preservation, saying that most films of Indian filmmaking legends have “gone up in flames or have been discarded on the scrap heap.”
“Very little of this great film heritage survives, and if we do not take urgent steps to save what remains, in another hundred years there will be no memory of these films and nothing left to celebrate,” the actor had said.