Lobster Films completed its restoration of a hand-colored Voyage dans la lune (Georges Méliès, 1902) in 2011. The work took twenty years. It is the most expensive restoration in the history of cinema. The print premiered at Cannes with a new soundtrack by Air. It will screen elsewhere this month (and can be found embedded in Scorsese’s 3D homage to Méliès, Hugo). Here, one can see an interview with Serge Bromberg, the Director of Lobster Films, on the acquisition of the print (from Spain). In the interview, Bromberg interestingly claims that the aim of the project was “to promote…and to revive the experience of ‘Trip to the Moon’.” It would be interesting to put some pressure on the ellipses, to hear more about the promotional ends of this particular restoration and the experience promoters hoped to revive. More interesting perhaps, is the way in which the hyper-national restoration, promotion and re-release of the film (from Lobster to Air to Cannes) conceals the transnational circuits that the film travelled before finding its way back to origin stories and national mythologies.
The Glasgow Short Film Festival is just around the corner (Feb 9-12). A symposium on the archive–Enter the Archive–will be held on February 10, followed by a screening of Frank Marshall’s work. I will be contributing to one of the panels (on archives and research). The whole festival program can be found here. It promises to be a fantastic series of screenings/discussions. Fingers crossed that archive theory and silent film historiography can live up to the standards set by the symposium’s title.
Neil Cummings and Marysia Lewandowska have gathered the remnants of socialist Poland’s amateur film clubs and made this material available under a creative commons license. From their site:
These licenses grant you the right to use, copy, sometimes modify and redistribute any film, text or image that you find of interest here. The most important operational clause within the license is that these rights -to copy, modify and redistribute- must be extended to others. The source material, and all derivative works will become in perpetuity, a legally protected creative resource. Artists and others will be able to use and re-use the material for future creative exchange, enriching rather than depleting the public domain.
It is rare for a virtual archive to be so open, accessible, and self-reflexive (an extension, perhaps, of the counter-forces that made these amateur films possible amid “the breathless flow” of State-sponsored media). The site is available in Polish, English, Spanish, and Basque. Films are streamable, downloadable, remixable. The archive includes extensive notes on the history of the project and Poland’s film clubs. Interviews with the amateur filmmakers and film club members available here, along with a handful of essays on the cultural, political, and art/film-historical questions that these images pose.
A follow-up to my last post on virtual conferences:
Over the last two to three years, the term “digital humanities” has displaced “interdisciplinarity” as a kind of new bureaucratic buzzword, a rallying cry for administrators under pressure to attract students, make an impact, and embrace the future, whatever that might be.
Anxieties are high among many of those who actually research and teach in the humanities. What will the digital do to us? And what can the digital actually do for the humanities? Does the “digital” have any substance? For film scholars, the digital poses a number of questions about the boundaries of our discipline, the future of our archives, and the ontology of our beloved objects.
Michael Clayton, Vascular bundle of a fern rhizome (2010)
I have decided not to attend the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in March. My reasons are largely financial. My institution has a limited budget for research expenses and I did not receive any funding for the trip. This particular year, I can’t afford to pay entirely out of pocket. The conference has become a major expense since I moved to Scotland in 2009: $200 for the conference, $800 for the plane ticket, $500 for several nights in a hotel in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Boston, Chicago, etc.
I will miss the SCMS conference. It offers a valuable snapshot of the discipline. I learn what people are working on and what subfields are developing. I meet new colleagues and potential collaborators. And: I catch up with old friends, colleagues, and mentors. It has become a kind of lifeline to an academic and social world outside of Northeast Scotland.
There are other conferences, of course. And some outstanding ones in Film and Media Studies across the UK and continental Europe.
But my decision not to attend the SCMS conference this year has me thinking about academic conferences (esp. the large, multi-day, many-paneled, state-of-the-discipline events) and the more inclusive, accessible, and environmentally sustainable alternatives that (I hope) are on the way.
“Alterity is not simply ‘out there’ in the past, but in ‘us’ as well, and the comprehensive problem in inquiry is how to understand and to negotiate varying degrees of proximity and distance in the relation to the ‘other’ that is both outside and inside ourselves. Dwelling on the wonderful strangeness of the past may turn into a pretext for avoiding what unsettles one’s own protocols of inquiry and troubles the flow of narrative.” Dominick LaCapra, History and Criticism
Excerpts from “Shadow Play,” a series of silent/film sound events held at the University of Aberdeen in December 2011 are available (for now) online.
The neo-Benshi performance of The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Lotte Reiniger, 1926) can be found here. My colleagues, Dr. Simon Ward (Film and Visual Culture), Dr. Laura McMahon (Film and Visual Culture), and Dr. Nate Jezzi (Philosophy) were kind enough to lend their voices. Ross Whyte provided additional sound tech and effects.
Ross Whyte’s wonderful re-score of Piccadilly (E.A. Dupont, 1929) can be found here. Keep your ears open around 6:30.
Spring semester is still a few weeks away. I am taking a break from Aberdeen and spending a few days in New York, catching up on all the films I missed during the fall and checking out a couple of great half/film-focussed exhibits. Thoughts on materialist filmmaking and early film history to come…
MIT recently introduced plans for a significant expansion of their distance/virtual education program. From the press release:
MITx will endeavor to break down barriers to education in two ways. First, it will offer the online teaching of MIT courses to people around the world and the opportunity for able learners to gain certification of mastery of MIT material. Second, it will make freely available to educational institutions everywhere the open-source software infrastructure on which MITx is based.
It will be exciting to see how other institutions engage this resource and how a free, open-access approach to online education influences the for-profit models that dominate the market.