Page 1

Students of the Film Preservation & Restoration Workshop India 2016

Trainers of the Film Preservation & Restoration Workshop India 2016

JFP 95 | 10.2016

Film Preservation & Restoration Workshop India 2016 Spencer Christiano

Spencer Christiano is Chief Projectionist in the Moving Image Department at the George Eastman Museum (Rochester).

I was invited, along with several other archivists, preservationists, and scholars, to Pune, to comprise the FPRWI faculty. From L’Immagine Ritrovata: Davide Pozzi, Gilles Barberis, Marianna De Sanctis, Silvia Spadotto, and Emanuele Vissani. From the George Eastman Museum: Paolo Cherchi Usai, Spencer Christiano, Nancy Kauffman, Jurij Meden, Taina Meller, and Benjamin Tucker. Representing FIAF: David Walsh, Christophe Dupin, and Camille Blot-Wellens. Also in attendance were Kristen Merola of The Film Foundation, Thelma Ross of MoMA and head of FIAF’s Cataloguing and Documentation Commission, and former BBC archive preservation specialist Richard Wright.

Lectures were presented on the history of film technology, film curatorship, film handling, preservation priorities and ethics, restoration ethics and practice, conservation of posters and documents, film projection, conservation of photographs, digital infrastructure, introduction to digital technology, disaster recovery, history of sound, documentation and cataloguing, film storage strategies, sound technology, film scanning, preservation of digital assets, preservation strategies, history of television and video technology, videotape preservation and digitization, and access programming and presentation. Additionally, small-group practical sessions were taught on the subjects of film identification (Camille Blot-Wellens), film comparison and selection (Silvia Spadotto), film handling, repair, and preparation (Marianna De Sanctis and Benjamin Tucker), film projection (Spencer Christiano), posters and documents (Nancy Kauffman), and photographs (Taina Meller). Students were also given the option to sign up for secondary “advanced” classes in these subjects. All of the lectures and practical sessions took place at NFAI’s newer Phase 2 facility, which opened in 2011. Forget everything you think you know about the challenges of running a film archive: the state of affairs at NFAI Phase 2 is 19­

Open Forum

From 26 February to 6 March 2016, the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) in Pune held a twoweek intensive course in film preservation, aptly titled “Film Preservation & Restoration Workshop India [FPRWI] 2016”. The workshop was a collaborative effort between NFAI and the Film Heritage Foundation (FHF), with additional support from FIAF, The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, L’Immagine Ritrovata, and the George Eastman Museum. The course was specially customized by David Walsh, head of FIAF’s Technical Commission, and the workshop is the brainchild of filmmaker Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, founder and director of the Film Heritage Foundation.

less than ideal – though this is due only to a lack of resources, and certainly not to any lack of ambition, which they have in abundance. The NFAI’s conditions were surprising: upon my arrival, I discovered equipment that required special attention and cleaning before the workshop could begin, such as projectors with rust on their drive sprockets. Posters and nonmoving-image materials are, by and large, stacked one on top of the other with only limited protection. To focus solely on these imperfections would be to diminish the incredible strides that film preservationists in India have made up to this point. In his opening address to the students and faculty, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur called for “an army of film archivists.” The most important battle archivists in India are waging right now is against an endemic cultural indifference toward preservation – in all arts, not only cinema. In my conversations with the students of the workshop and NFAI/ FHF staff regarding the reasons for the country’s parlous state of film preservation, the single most common response I received was some variation of “India doesn’t care about saving its past.” If that sounds like a culturally insensitive statement, well, perhaps it is. But if so, then this is also a call for aid from NFAI and FHF uncomfortably close to colonialism – the idea of white scholars from other countries intruding with their ideas of how things should be done. Anyone who was actually involved with FPRWI would assure you that such an accusation could not be further from the truth. What occurred, instead, was entirely progressive, collaborative, and constructive: a melding of minds, a mutual learning process which resulted in an exchange of ideas and a positively-charged diagnosis of issues specific to a region. This workshop demonstrated without question that the archivists of India are intelligent, impassioned, and painfully aware of the dangers that they face if they fail to act – and quickly, at that. FPRWI focused not only on that which is relevant to the field of film preservation as a whole, but also addressed issues that are unique to the region in which the workshop 20

was held. Student questions and comments were flavored with personal experience and first-hand knowledge of the challenges that Indian film archives face. Many of the students who attended the workshop already had extensive experience in their fields before attending the workshop, but valued the opportunity to more deeply explore those areas outside of their expertise. This class did not appear to be one whose students were simply trying to receive whatever training they could, and then move out of the country to work at whichever major international film archive would hire them. These are students who want to preserve their own culture. Many of the students who attended FPRWI 2016 are alumni of the Film Heritage Foundation’s Film Preservation and Restoration School India (FPRSI), a similar week-long training course held in Mumbai in February 2015 (and also a collaboration with The Film Foundation, the Cineteca di Bologna, L’Immagine Ritrovata, and FIAF). These “second year” students were characterized by an increased hunger for knowledge and more intensive training. Much like second- or thirdyear students at a university, their presence benefitted the student body as a whole, providing guidance and mentorship to many of the newer intake. The unspoken agenda of the workshop, hinted at but never overtly revealed, seemed to be to send a very clear message to the rest of the country about the importance of film preservation. This workshop was a salvo in the battle against indifference, a last-ditch effort to garner recognition and support for the cause, a Hail Mary pass in the showdown of history versus oblivion. No expense was spared. No opportunity was missed. No event went unpromoted, no soundbite went unshared. To call FPRWI 2016’s media presence “massive” would be an understatement. For ten days, the workshop seemed to dominate the news cycle. A news-coverage roundup from Jayant Patel of the Film Heritage Foundation documented 29 reports from international sources, including The Huffington

JFP 95 | 10.2016 Spencer Christiano

Once you have the media’s attention, the question becomes what you do with it. The manner in which NFAI and FHF guided the conversation made it seem that they knew this was their last chance. They knew that if they didn’t give the journalists and bloggers something to chew on now, they might never find this kind of attention and coverage again. And so they went all out. Everything was an event. Everything was a show. The FHF and NFAI used every opportunity they could get to showcase their work, their initiatives, and the importance of the cause.

Each day of the workshop was punctuated with a screening at NFAI’s original Phase 1 facility in their 330-seat main theater. Titles included Lal-e-Yaman (J.B.H. Wadia, 1933), Kismet (Gyan Mukherjee, 1943), Do Bigha Zamin (Bimal Roy, 1953), Andha Naal (S. Balachander, 1954), Titas Ekti Nadir Naam (Ritwik Ghatak, 1973), Tarang (Kumar Shahani, 1984), and Chidambaram (G. Aravindan, 1985). All of these, however, were overshadowed by an opening-night gala presentation of a 35mm print of Kaliya Mardan (D.G. Phalke, 1919) with live musical accompaniment by Dr. Kshama Vaidya and her four-piece flute, violin, percussion, and harmonium ensemble. Unfortunately, many of the screenings were marred by technical imperfections or errors. However, as this was a workshop, these flaws could be utilized as teachable moments. For example, several screenings announced as 35mm exhibitions were instead shown digitally on Blu-ray or DVD. This opened a discussion among the students on the importance of selecting a medium for public exhibition, and what impact that choice has on an audience’s understanding, interpretation, and appreciation of film preservation. 21­

Film Preservation & Restoration Workshop India 2016

Post, International Business Times, Pandolin, The Indian Express, The Times of India, The Hollywood Reporter, and ScreenDaily. This is, of course, in addition to the FHF and NFAI’s social media accounts, which were updated so frequently with photos, videos, lecture excerpts, and faculty bios, that I wonder how I could have possibly been so busy with the workshop’s activities and yet still seemed to have missed things.

Open Forum

Trainee examining a film during the Film Preservation & Restoration Workshop India 2016

Trainee of the Film Preservation & Restoration Workshop India 2016 examining a film still

Students also experienced a problematic screening of Kaagaz Ke Phool (Guru Dutt, 1959), India’s first film shot using the CinemaScope process. The NFAI attempted to screen the last known 35mm projection print of this title (a dupe negative print is held in their archives). During the screening, the print tore in the projector three times before the projectionists decided to instead digitally project a Blu-ray. Upon inspection of the print the next morning, it was found that the film had shrunk by more than 2%. That next day, inadvertently, a conversation had been sparked on the ethical responsibilities an institution has to its collection, and how difficult it is to determine what level of access is appropriate for each archival object. Students learned that individuals, archives, and institutions cannot successfully operate as lone entities: a worldwide community is necessary to provide insight and advice – and, at times, serve as a system of checks and balances. In light of the workshop’s imperfections, a feedback analysis conducted by the Film Heritage Foundation found that the students’ reactions to FPRWI 2016 were overwhelming22

ly positive, with 59% of students giving the course an overall rating of “excellent,” and an additional 38% rating the course as “good.” This feedback analysis also permitted students to comment on their experiences during the workshop. Common criticisms were that the lecture sessions were too long, the quality of projection during nightly screenings was sub-par, and that more written handouts and reference materials should have been provided – through both print and digital or online distribution. Several students noted that they were not overly enthusiastic about being required to spend time learning about fields unrelated to their interests, such as students of film restoration having to attend sessions on photographic and paper materials. But have no doubt: the ways in which NFAI and FHF (et al.) joined forces to develop such an informative and overwhelmingly wellreceived training course should be seen as a point of reference for how private and governmental institutions should work in tandem for the greater good. Film archivists and preservationists no longer have the privilege of operating in a vacuum. We need the support of gov-

A two-week course cannot teach all that one must know in order to become a film preservationist. FPRWI achieved its goals of overviewing many fields and practices that students may encounter as they narrow their individual areas of concentration. These students are far ahead of their contemporaries, if not in work experience, then certainly in passion and reverence for the art of preservation. They can and should be enabled to assist collecting institutions in whatever ways possible. As the workshop drew to a close, the course was sadly underscored by the loss of P.K. Nair, the legendary film archivist and founder of the NFAI. Eight days after Shivendra Singh Dungarpur dedicated the workshop to him during FPRWI’s opening ceremony, Mr. Nair passed away at the age of 82 on 4 March. Dungarpur chronicled the life of Nair in his 2012 documentary Celluloid Man. 1 A funeral service was held at NFAI Phase 1, where Mr. Nair’s body was adorned with flowers and strips of 35mm film.


Film preservationists do not have the luxury of depending on common sense. We are defined by our ability to expect the improbable. Would an archivist have organized an outdoor endeavor without an auxiliary plan accounting for inclement weather, natural disasters, and acts of god? Unlikely. But together, this “army of film archivists” from all different paths somehow found a way to move on after a disaster, and our afternoon tea was saved. After an exhausting two weeks, I left Pune astonished and inspired by the passion that the FPRWI students and faculty have for protecting their cultures. It was, undeniably, a bright moment for film preservation. And that is, perhaps, the greatest gift the archival community can give to struggling institutions, underemployed preservationists, and all communities where film is endangered: we can share our hope for the future through our reverence for the past.

Reviewed in Journal of Film Preservation, No.93, 10/2015, pp.27-30.


JFP 95 | 10.2016 Spencer Christiano

The question now lies in what these students are to do next, after their training – in particular, those who also attended FPRSI in 2015. Not surprisingly, 100% of 55 students polled in FHF’s feedback analysis responded positively when asked if they would be interested in working with NFAI or FHF, and 53 displayed interest in volunteering for events organized by the two institutions.

What better metaphor for the importance of film preservation is there than a sudden, unexpected elemental bombardment? The catering company, operating on common sense, surely assumed that it could not possibly rain during the workshop. Not during the dry season. Not in the middle of a country-wide drought. And yet…

Film Preservation & Restoration Workshop India 2016

Moving forward, it seems obvious that FIAF should continue to support similar endeavors in educating the next generation of film archivists, and that FPRWI 2016 should be taken as an example of the success that is possible when powerful institutions work together toward a common goal.

On the final day of the workshop, it rained. For roughly ten minutes, in the middle of Pune’s dry season (when the average precipitation is 0.5mm), the NFAI’s Phase 2 facility was overtaken by a torrential downpour and heavy winds. Outside the archive, where once there stood a massive, pristine white tent that had seated a hundred students, faculty, and staff for daily lunch and tea, there was now a tangled heap of soaked vinyl, metal poles, and toppled chairs.

Open Forum

ernments and philanthropists in representing our mission to the public. For what purpose is our work if it is not to be known, appreciated, and perpetuated?



Du 26 février au 6 mars 2016, une formation intensive de deux semaines à la conservation de films, à l’intitulé approprié de Preservation & Restoration Workshop India [FPRWI] 2016, s’est déroulée aux Archives nationales du Film d’Inde (NFAI) à Pune. Cet atelier était le fruit d’une collaboration entre les NFAI et la Film Heritage Foundation (FHF), avec le soutien également de la FIAF, du World Cinema Project de la Film Foundation, de L’Immagine Ritrovata et du George Eastman Museum. La formation était conçue sur mesure par David Walsh, le chef de la Commission Technique de la FIAF, et l’atelier était une proposition personnelle du cinéaste Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, fondateur et directeur de la Film Heritage Foundation.

Del 26 de febrero al 6 de marzo de 2016, el Archivo Nacional de Cine de la India en Pune (NFAI por sus siglas en inglés) llevó a cabo un curso intensivo de dos semanas sobre conservación de películas, acertadamente titulado Taller de Conservación y Restauración en la India 2016 [FPRWI por sus siglas en inglés]. El taller fue el resultado de un esfuerzo colaborativo entre el NFAI y la Film Heritage Foundation (FHF), con el apoyo adicional de la FIAF, el Proyecto de Cine Mundial de la Film Foundation, L’Immagine Ritrovata, y el George Eastman Museum. El curso fue especialmente diseñado por David Walsh, jefe de la Comisión Técnica de la FIAF, y el taller fue concebido por el realizador Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, fundador y director de la Film Heritage Foundation.

Parmi les archivistes, spécialistes de la conservation de films et autres experts invités à Pune pour constituer la faculté FPRWI se trouvaient des représentants de L’Immagine Ritrovata, du George Eastman Museum, de la FIAF, de la Film Foundation et du Museum of Modern Art.

Archiveros, conservadores, y académicos fueron invitados a Pune para formar parte del equipodel FPRWI, incluyendo representantes de L’Immagine Ritrovata, el George Eastman Museum, la FIAF, la Film Foundation, y el Museum of Modern Art.

Des interventions étaient proposées sur l’histoire des technologies du cinéma, le travail de conservateur, la manipulation de films, les priorités et l’éthique relatives à la conservation de films, l’éthique et les aspects pratiques de la restauration de films, la conservation d’affiches et autres documents, la projection de films, la conservation de photographies, l’infrastructure numérique, une introduction aux technologies numériques, le sauvetage de documents après un sinistre, l’histoire du son, la documentation et le catalogage, les stratégies en matière de stockage de films, les technologies sonores, le scannage de films, la conservation des éléments numériques, les stratégies en matière de conservation, l’histoire des technologies télévisuelles et vidéo, la conservation de bandes vidéo et la numérisation, et enfin l’accès aux collections et la progrmamation.

Se dictaron conferencias sobre la historia de la tecnología cinematográfica, el trabajo del conservador, la manipulación de las cintas, las prioridades y la ética de la conservación, la práctica de la restauración, la conservación de carteles y documentos, la proyección de películas, la conservación de fotografías, la infraestructura digital, una introducción a la tecnología digital, la recuperación de desastres, la historia del sonido, la documentación y catalogación, las estrategias de almacenamiento de películas, la tecnología de sonido, el escaneado de películas, la preservación de los activos digitales, las estrategias de preservación, la historia de la tecnología de la televisión y del vídeo, la preservación y digitalización de cintas de video, el acceso a las colecciones y la programación.

Par ailleurs, des sessions pratiques en petit groupe étaient proposées sur des thèmes comme l’identification de films, la comparaison et la sélection de films, la manipulation, la réparation et la préparation de pellicules, la projection de films ou encore les affiches, photographies et autres documents. Les étudiants pouvaient également s’inscrire à des cours secondaires “avancés” sur ces différents thèmes. Tous les cours et des sessions pratiques avaient lieu dans la “Phase 2”, des locaux les plus récemment acquis de la NFAI, ouverts en 2011.


Además, se llevaron a cabo sesiones prácticas en grupos pequeños sobre los siguientes temas: identificación, comparación/selección, manipulación, reparación, preparación y proyección de películas, carteles, documentos y fotografías. A los estudiantes también se les dió la opción de inscribirse en clases secundarias «avanzadas» en estos temas. Todas las clases teóricas y prácticas fueron llevadas a cabo en las nuevas instalaciones de la Fase 2 del NFAI, inauguradas en 2011.

Film Preservation Journal October issue 2016 - Spencer Christiano