Saving Film History One Frame at a Time: A Preview of Restored & Rediscovered Series at the Jacob Burns Film Center | Festivals & Awards

May 9, 2024 - Movies

“Bushman” was one revelation out of many. I felt excited over and over again as I found new gems to program for the Jacob Burns Film Center’s first festival celebrating film preservation and restoration, Restored & Rediscovered. Screening from May 13-23, the festival will highlight the important work of saving and restoring films so that new generations of audiences can discover them. Like many other art houses, we regularly program restorations alongside new releases, but what makes those special? What was the reason for showing restorations of Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Nostalghia” or Jean-Pierre Melville’s stylish neo-noir “Le Samouraï?” Could I show lesser-known films from outside the canon to show the scope of film restoration work from organizations like The Film Foundation, Academy Film Archive, Museum of Modern Art, George Eastman Museum, Milestone Films, IndieCollect, Women’s Film Preservation Fund, Vinegar Syndrome, Janus Films, Rialto Pictures, Kino Lorber, and others?

I believe many of us get our first lesson in the importance of preservation the hard way. For my fifteenth birthday, my aunt gave me my first digital camera, and I did what most teenagers do with their first camera. I photographed my friends, our parties, school trips, my family vacations, celebrations, and so on. I backed those memories onto a hard drive for safekeeping before I went away to college. My parents moved, but the hard drive did not. Sometimes, when I visit home, I still look in vain in my dad’s office, our storage closets, or in the garage, hoping maybe, just maybe, those snapshots of my former life are still out there. Thanks to time and Florida humidity, they are likely gone for good.

It’s from that loss that I started taking an interest in saving not just my own memories but, as Martin Scorsese calls it, “our common cultural heritage.” From his talks on behalf of The Film Foundation and various documentaries on the subject, I learned about the herculean task of fighting against time and the elements to save what movies we do have and the Indiana Jones-esque efforts of scholars and archivists to track copies of forgotten films around the world in the hopes of rescuing it from obscurity before it’s too late.

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