Thursday, 10 February 2011

Recovery of a film archive

Anyone who has delved into the Internet Movie Database seriously will sooner or later come across the legend "lost-film". There are TV series (episodes of Dr Who, notably) and even some post-war cinema films which come into this category, but by far the largest component comprises early silent films, including some which are regarded as significant. Regarded as expendable, nitrate film stock was often recycled. It was also flammable, and, over time, tends to dissolve itself into an unprojectable soup. We are lucky in Wales to have at least some of the multitude of short films produced by William Haggar, but in the case of other pioneers, like England's Hubert von Herkomer, we may have no more than a scenario and the names of one or two of the participants.

Even in Hollywood, the work of some of the greats was thought to be lost because of poor preservation. Ironically, as the Independent reports today, Soviet Russia was more careful with the prints which it imported from the capitalist USA. As a result, Gosfilmofond has now been able to hand over to the Library of Congress the first of 200 digitally-preserved films, previously thought to be lost.

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