6th Orphan Film Symposium
Last week, Raj, Lucy and I were in New York for the 6th Orphan Film Symposium organised by NYU Cinema Studies and its Moving Image Archiving and Preservation programme.
One of our volunteers, Adam Habib who taught at Ngee Ann told me about this great symposium 2 years back. He was from the University of South Carolina where the symposium was birthed. This biennale event attracts orphanistas, consisting of scholars, artists, archivists, collectors, curators, conservators and enthusiasts. The organisors even called the collection of such films - the orphanage. So when does a film become an orphan (from 5th Symposium):
1. one deprived of protection or advantage (orphans of the storm).Outtakes, like his mother's home movies, deteriorated because no archive would store or preserve them.orphan
2. an item not developed or marketed because its limited use makes it unprofitable (an orphan drug).Charles Burnett's "Killer of Sheep" became an orphan film for twenty years because no distributor would pick up this challenging work.orphan
3. a discontinued model (an orphan automobile). The aviatrix recorded some remarkable aerial footage, but she found herself with a set of orphan films when no lab would develop her 9.5mm footage.
Picture courtesy of 6th Orphan Film Symposium
It's a great honour to open the symposium with our presentations after the keynote address by Paolo Cherchi Usai.
Karen, our archivist, and I developed a paper on the independence of Rajendra Gour's films. Like many early filmmakers, Gour was not native to Singapore. He came here from India after graduating from the Pune Film Institute. However, he was brought in to train the television industry and never a studios director. He stinged to make his films on 16mm in the 60s and 70s with his own money. Despite gaining international recognition, there wasn't much government support for his works. In 1981, he made a national appeal on Straits Times for funding to preserve his films. That did not happen until 2005 when the Asian Film Archive and the National Archives of Singapore, in a private-public partnership, come together to preserve Singapore and Asian cinema. Gour attended the event to present the audio-restored version of Labour of Love, made possible courtesy of the Overseas Travel Grant by the Singapore Film Commission.
Two of our former interns, Lucy and Pauline, developed a paper on the Film Act and its implication on the Asian Film Archive preserving banned films using the case study of Martyn See's political works which are critical of the state.
Other presentors include the Ross Lipman (the inspiring archivist who almost single-handedly established a tradition of preserving avant-garde and independent American film, including the complicated and demanding preservation of Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep), Rick Prelinger, Professor Charles Musser (who directs the film studies programme at Yale), Professor Howard Besser (who directs NYU's Moving Image Archiving and Preservation programme), Dan Drasin (filmmaker who made Sunday in 1961 at the age of 18) and many more. I also chanced upon the illuminious film historian Harvard Professor Scott Macdonald, author of The Garden In the Machine that I was reading a while back.
There were alot of films restored for the symposium and presented (sometimes even newly scored by the NYU film students). Two films stuck to mind: Sam Fuller’s Falkenau liberation footage (1945) about the Nazi concentration camps and Representations of Disability in Scientific and Educational Films presented by Laura Kissel.
The symposium ended with the state dinner on the 10th floor of the Kimmel building with a grand view of the New York City. From left, here's me with Rick Prelinger (who spent his life building the Prelinger Library and fighting against copyrights laws that are against public benefit - see Kahle/Prelinger vs. Ashcroft), Rajendra Gour (who was in U.S for the first time to attend a screening of his works which received two awards there in the 60-70s) and Dan Streible (the illuminous organisor of the symposium who was such a wonderful host and put together the most marvelous programme).
While in New York, I also met up with Singapore filmmakers - Yen Yen and Colin, as well as Amrin, who volunteered with AFA as our legal consultant in our first two years before he left for NY.
- Bee Thiam
Sunshine Singapore for World Day for AV Heritage
This is a backdated post on something that was done in Oct 2007. In conjunction with the Audio-Visual World Heritage Day, the Asian Film Archive (AFA) contributed a video clip from its collection, Sunshine Singapore (1967) by Rajendra Gour as part of the AV World Heritage Trailer that is compiled from the works of filmmakers and archives’ collections from around the globe. Several hundred DVDs of this trailer are being circulated at the UNESCO General Conference this week and will be played to delegates in attendance in honor of the World Day for AV Heritage. The trailer can be viewed from the website: http://www.ccaaa.org/wdavh/?c=trailer. (The theme of the trailer, “Planet Earth: From Place to Space,” is UNESCO’s theme for 2007).
This is the first time a Singapore organisation has taken part in the AV World Heritage Day, a special day set aside by the UNESCO to raise awareness on the importance of audio-visual preservation.
Cathay Donates Malay Classics to Asian Film Archive
Cathay Organisation has donated all its Classic Malay titles in 16mm and 35mm formats to the Asian Film Archive.
The Cathay-Keris Malay Classic films embrace a variety of genre ranging from romance, comedy, period dramas, horror and suspense. Most notable were the Pontianak films that kept audiences horrified and yet entranced. The titles include films by L Krishnan, B S Rajhans, B N Rao, K N Baskarn and Hussein Haniff, starring Maria Menado, Wahid Satay, Rose Yatimah, Ummi Kalthoum, Latiffah Omar, Siput Sarawak, M Amin, Matt Sentol, S Roomai Noor.
Says Suhaimi Rafdi, President, Cathay Organisation
Holdings Ltd, “We are glad to be donating our Malay titles to the Asian Film
Archive. This collaboration ensures that the films will be kept in conditions
which are the most appropriate to preserve them. It is through institutions such
as the Asian Film Archive who have the expertise that we are able to ensure the
longevity of these classic films, which are so much a part of Singapore’s film industry history. We
also hope that through this initiative, there will be renewed interest in such
classic films. And perhaps even interest to remake some of these titles and
adapt them to present times. “
Dr Kenneth Paul Tan, Chairman, Asian Film Archive says, "The Asian Film Archive is proud of its role in preserving the Cathay-Keris Malay classic titles including films by notable filmmakers of the time like M. Amin, Hussain Haniff, and L. Krishnan. The significance of these works for Singapore's film history is unquestionable. The collection's value lies not only in its artistic merit, but also in the way it serves as a cinematic record of Singapore's social, political, and cultural history. Cathay's donation of these Malay films for archiving is of great moment in the urgent effort to preserve Singapore's film history. We are pleased to work with our partner, National Archives of Singapore, whose technical expertise and preservation assistance will be key to the successful archiving of this important collection that will, in turn, create greater awareness and support for the preservation of Singapore's other cinematic treasures."
FIAF Congress 2007
The Asian Film Archive (AFA) becomes the youngest organization to join the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), a prestigious association which includes world leading archives such as the British Film Institute and Cinematheque Francaise.
FIAF brings together the world's leading institutions in the field of moving picture heritage and has a membership of more than 140 institutions from over 77 countries. All member institutions are actively engaged and dedicated to the rescue, collection, preservation, and screening of moving images, that are valued as much for their art and culture, as well as historical documents. Said Eva Orbant, President of the Federation, “FIAF is happy to welcome the Asian Film Archive at its 63rd Congress in Tokyo as its 141st Affiliate. In FIAF, film archives from 77 countries are guardians of the audiovisual heritage and have as their task to create an awareness for the beauty of the film culture. We look forward to work with the Asian Film Archive towards our common goals.”
Said Eva Orbant, President of the Federation, “FIAF is happy to welcome the Asian Film Archive at its 63rd Congress in Tokyo as its 141st Affiliate. In FIAF, film archives from 77 countries are guardians of the audiovisual heritage and have as their task to create an awareness for the beauty of the film culture. We look forward to work with the Asian Film Archive towards our common goals.”
The admission into FIAF is a validation of the work of the AFA and reflects the Archive’s standing as an institution that fulfils FIAF’s stringent ideals. These ideals include amongst others, the upholding of a code of ethics on film archival work, the promotion and facilitation of a film culture, fostering training opportunities, and the creation of the accessibility of material from its collection to the community at large. Hisashi Okajima, Chief curator of the National Film Center (Tokyo) also invited the Asian Film Archive as a member of the Forum of Asian Film Archives (FAFA) which includes the Vietnam Film Institute, Korean Film Archive and Hong Kong Film Archive. Said Tan Bee Thiam, Executive Director of the Asian Film Archive, “The congress was just over-spilling with camaraderie. As we are young, we have much to learn from our esteemed colleagues who have been most generous in offering help. They also appreciate that we bring fresh ideas, perspectives and new energy to this great Federation.”
It is indeed an honour for the Asian Film Archive to be accepted as a FIAF affiliate amongst the ranks of established archives like the George Eastman House, Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley), Harvard Film Archive and Danish Film Institute. The Asian Film Archive looks forward to the partnership opportunities with other FIAF members and hopes to develop strong links with these archival institutions, especially those from the Forum of Asian Film Archives.
Webcast of FIAF Symposium (7-8 April)
FIAF (International Fedearation of Film Archives) holds annual conferences to discuss recent and pertinent issues film archivists faced and how we go about to explore them. This year, they have a great initiative of doing a webcast of the symposium component so more archivists can benefit, especially helpful for archivists who could not afford the finances or time to attend the conference in person.
To watch the FIAF Symposium on webcast live on 7-8 April (0900-1900): http://www.momat.go.jp/FC/fiafwebcasting-en.html
Details of the symposium and its speakers can be found on http://www.fiafcongress.org/2007/programs/symposium/index.html.
Thoughts on SEAPAVAA Conference
The Asian Film Archive (AFA), represented by Bee Thiam and myself, went to Canberra, Australia to attend the Southeast Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Archive Association (SEAPAVAA) annual conference from 13-17 Nov 06. This year is significant for SEAPAVAA as the association is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The conference was co-hosted by the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA, Australia) and the New Zealand Film Archive.
Bee Thiam and I at the SEAPVAA Conference
As AFA’s first attendance at a SEAPAVAA event, it was significant for us as an archive, as we were accepted as a full institutional SEAPAVAA member during the SEAPAVAA General Assembly. SEAPAVAA is the pre-eminent association of audiovisual archivists in our region, so it is indeed an honour for AFA to be accepted as a member.
The conference was attended by audiovisual archivists from Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and of course, Singapore. It was an excellent opportunity to meet and share with the other archivists and learn the experiences, problems and solutions of the profession that are particular to our part of the world.
Tree planting by Bel Capul (President of SEAPAVAA) and Paolo Cherchi Usai (Director, NFSA) to commemorate 10 years of SEAPAVAA and the NFSA's support.
I presented a paper at the symposium entitled Asian Film Archive: The Access Pass for the films, filmmakers, and audience of Asian Cinema. The paper introduced the work of the AFA with a highlight on the reasons and ways that the AFA has programmed its outreach activities. It was gratifying to know that our programmes and the direction in which we were heading resonated with fellow archivists. The issue of increasing the accessibility of archival collections came across clearly from the discussions. However, archives also need to be responsible for the collections entrusted to them and accountable to the depositors and partners who have supported them. These are issues that the AFA is constantly aware of and aims to strive towards. Apart from the symposium presentations and workshops, the conference program included the launch of the book Lost Films of Asia, which highlights legendary Asian films that have been lost. There was also an evening screening of Archives Gems where delegates presented and screened a short clip of films in their collections that reflect the importance of audiovisual archiving. AFA presented Yi Sui’s Lion City, a feature film made in the 1960s that not only holds Singapore’s historical and cinematic significance. The film also has special meaning to the family of the filmmaker, as it was unearthed in the process of the search for the filmmaker’s other films by his daughter who wanted to show the films to her own daughter.
On the lighter side of the conference, we were treated to a barbecue hosted by the New Zealand Film Archive and feasted on steaks, sausages, and other meaty selections. While the uncharacteristically cold front that Canberra was experiencing caused the delegates to exchange jokes and clink glasses in the freezing wind, the atmosphere was warm and laughter aplenty.
Barbeque hosted by New Zealand Film Archive
It was an all round enriching trip that gave us lots to learn from and be inspired to do more.
The Visible Archive
We are really proud to invited to the SEAPAVAA Conference and in conjunction with the 10th anniversary, be a full member of this great organisation founded by one of the legends in archival circles - Ray Edmonson. His book has been a guiding light for the Asian Film Archive since our starting days, and I am sure for many other archivists and archives as well.
And quite appropriately, this year's theme is the The Visible Archive. It has always been the vision of the Asian Film Archive that a great archive is not one that just preserves films. It's one that preserves memories and integrity. For people to remember, we need to make our collection accessible and we need to present them in the way that preserve the artistic integrity of the creator. For this reason, a key role of an archivist, is also that of a curator, as seen in interationally renowned archives.
On this note, we will leave for Canberra, Australia this November to attend our first SEAPAVAA Conference as a full member, present a paper by Karen Chan, Head of Reel Emergency Project of the Archive and to launch the Lost Film Book project and the Dawn of Cinema project that we are a proud contributor of.