May 24, 2019 | Articles

Though it may seem that a job as film preservation and restoration comes from a certain nostalgia for the past, it has in fact its glance fixed in the future. The work of preserving films has to do with making valuable things endure for the times to come. This year we dedicate in the (S8) a special focus to this field, with an emphasis on the peculiarities of experimental and avant garde film preservation. A whole universe in itself, in which the rules are different from the rules for preserving conventional cinema, since there are very specific elements that come into play.

Being cinema such a young art (and some experiments in avant garde are even younger), it is necessary to invent new forms of preserving films. One of our guests have a lot to say in that sense: Bill Brand, filmmaker, artist and film preservationists, almost an involuntary pioneer in small gauge film preservation. Brand has been working in this field more than 40 year in his company, BB Optics, and its trajectory began informally by blowing up super to 16mm for some friends filmmakers (among them some friends, as Saul Levine). His dexterity with the optical printer and his technical imagination (still a student, Brand helped Paul Sharits to bring his ideas to life) pushed him towards film preservation, job in which he is an eminence thanks to his deep understanding of experimental cinema. Something that is fundamental in this field in which it is necessary to know the intentions, processes and aesthetics of every filmmaker. Bill Brand will visit us in a master class on his work as a film preservationist and as a filmmakers, both fields that feed each other, that will be completed with a program of his own films.

Brand shares with Ross Lipman his creative drive, that in Lipman’s case has been expanded in the last years to the divulgation of the creation and restoration processes of the works he has been dealing with. Lipman, that has restored both independent and experimental cinema cinema works (he has restored film by artists such as Shirley Clarke, John Cassavetes, Kenneth Anger, Bruce Conner and Thom Andersen), has a long trajectory in the divulgation of his works as a film preservationist through lectures, a divulgation that has reached the audiovisual work in films as Notfilm (on the restoration of Film, by Samuel Beckett) and The Exploding Digital Inevitable, that we will have the chance to attend during the festival. In this performative lecture, Lipman uses all kind of materials to talk about one of his recent restorations: Crossroads, by Bruce Conner. An enjoyable, witty and enlightening conference in which he reveals how and what was the film made of, as well as the peculiarities of its restoration in this digital times. After that, we will see the glorious and splendid new print of Crossroads.

Mark Toscano is another one of the figures visiting us this year. Toscano has been more than 15 years working as a film preservationist in the Academy Film Archive in California (in the same Academy that organizes the Oscars), and he is the one that makes possible that we can watch in its greatest splendour the films of some of the more relevant artists of American avant garde. But his explosive preservation passion (or Preservation Insanity, as he says in the title of the blog where he writes about his works) has lead him further: Toscano researches and brings into light essential films through a field work that has no limits, an active role that also leads him to disseminate these works in his labour as a curator. In this case Toscano will bring us a carte blanche of his restorations full of both canonical and obscure names to discover, as well as a master class in which he will talk about his work.

The Canadian researcher and curator Janine Marchessault is the fourth pillar in this focus. She will put the spotlight in a crucial topic in film preservation: what is preserved, and the hegemonies that have conditioned this work across history (and how this has conditioned the national narratives of her country), puting into oblivion wide collectives. Her project “Archive/Counter Archive” moves across these paths, besides of the ones of digital media preservation, still a problem to be solved.
These four specialists will meet on Saturday June 8th in a panel in which two key Spanish figures in the field will also participate: Miguel Fernández Labayen (Director of the Master in Audiovisual Archives Preservation of the Spanish Cinematheque) and Clara Sánchez-Dehesa (Coordinator of Archival Studies in the Elías Querejeta Zineskola). A meeting point to exchange points of view and urgent topics around this labour of fabricating times capsules for the earthlings from the future.