A Fantastic Documentary That Explores Film Preservation and History

By Ivan Gomez

Brownsville, Texas (The Hollywood Times) 5/13/2023 – There is no doubt that movies are important to human history; the medium is a gateway to learning other cultures, showing what values were common in many different eras, and they have provided countless hours of entertainment to numerous people, and FILM, THE LIVING RECORD OF OUR MEMORY by Inѐs Toharia tells why the preservation of film is more important than you realize.

This documentary is about the long and arduous struggle to preserve film, detailing environmental, age, and historical factors that cause many difficulties and how film preservation is a great cause. Many people are interviewed throughout this documentary, from film archivists to movie directors and even historians, to present the case of film preservation and why it is a cause worth helping. I believe FILM does an incredible job of explaining why film preservation is important by being an informative and interesting look at the historical side of cinema that doesn’t get talked about much.

We are all aware that objects like CDs rot and decay due to age and environmental factors, and FILM shows just how much this concept complicates the preservation of, well, film. Throughout the documentary, we are shown numerous images and scenes that show just how badly a film, especially those made of nitrate, decays due to age and improper storage; one such image is a roll of film covered in yellow crust and the process of trying to salvage the film (using a knife to scrape the crust out). The narrators also put forward the fact that a common enemy to humanity, bad luck, has a hand in hampering film preservation, citing that the Fox Film Corporation lost a bunch of silent films thanks to a fire in 1937. A percentage is given to show how much has been lost thanks to these factors (specifically, 50% of silent films are gone to the ages) to show why film preservation is a struggle.

Jonas Mekas, a Lithuanian filmmaker, poet, and artist, founder of the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, Film Culture magazine, and Anthology Film Archives

“Why is film preservation so important that archivists are willing to do so much work just to save some film?” You might be asking. The answer put forward by the narrators and Inѐs is that these films recorded human history and are significant to many cultures as an expression of their values.

Footage from a home movie in Vienna dating back to World War II shows the dangers of severe antisemitism and the far reaches of the Nazi ideology as it shows Jewish family stores vandalized by Nazi thugs. This material has seen use in numerous documentaries on the Holocaust in Austria and helps educate viewers about the horrors that the Nazi ideology popularize throughout the era.

Movies can be a celebration of culture that can be significant to the people in said culture, and a great example of this is an old Chinese film, Pan Si Dong. This film held great significance to Chinese culture because it was the first film adaptation of the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, a centuries-old story that has been enduringly popular in its country and has elements of Chinese folk religion, mythology, and philosophy throughout the tale.

These are just a few examples of just how informative FILM is. All the people interviewed show a professional level on film preservation and history and do an excellent job explaining the importance of preserving film. I recommend watching this documentary as it’s a deeply interesting look into the history of film that will leave you more knowledgeable about this aspect of the movie industry.

(Photos: Kino Lorber)

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7mjM_X8cm4