8. Archives, Museums, Festivals, and Ciinematheques
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8 ARCHIVES, MUSEUMS, FESTIVALS, AND CINEMATHEQUES A R C H I V E S , M U S E U M S , F E S T I V A L S • 517 . . . Publicly and privately funded institutions, film archives, museums, film festivals, and cinematheques hold quite a different status, in regard to the manifestos written on their behalf, than do those of solitary artists or groups of artists. Yet because of the cinema’s fairly recent emergence, its status as both art and popular entertainment, and the rise of neoliberalism in the last third of the twentieth century, these institutions have often been attacked by state funding agencies, governments, and artists who feel they are not fulfilling their mandate. In the series of manifestos that follow, we see that the role of these institutions and the function they play in society is under continuous scrutiny. The manifestos in this chapter can therefore be broadly defined as being one of two kinds: manifestos written by organizations and manifestos written on behalf of organizations. Unlike manifestos covering other aspects of cinema in this book, the film archive manifestos demonstrate a surprising level of continuity from the first archive manifesto (and indeed the earliest manifesto in the book) from 1898 on through to the archive manifestos that address the current state of film preservation. If Bolesław Matuszewski’s “A New Source of History” proclaims that the emerging art of the cinema must be preserved because of its specific powers of documenting the world, subsequent manifestos foreground the fact that the worlds documented by the cinema are in many cases slipping away because of a lack of archives and archival space, the instability of film stock, the apathy of governments, and the digital revolution. For instance, Hye Bossin’s “Plea for a Canadian Film Archive” makes the nationalist case, arguing that the fragile nature of the Canadian film industry necessitates an archive because of the dispersed and often marginal nature of Canadian film production. In every other manifesto, an argument is made for the necessity of preserving film for historical, cultural, national, and political reasons in the face of, at best, benign neglect. These manifestos thereby articulate the weight of history placed on the shoulders of cinema during the last century, namely as a privileged and universal—or cursed Borgesian—archive or motivator of action. Many of the manifestos on film archives directly or indirectly address, in one way or another, the philosophical battle that took place between Henri Langlois, cofounder and director of the Cinémathèque française, and Ernest Lindgren, curator of the National Film Archive at the British Film Institute from 1935 to 1973. To frame the debates around film archiving manifestos, it serves us well to look at this dispute in some detail. Langlois championed the screening and collecting of all films, without judgment. Screening of all films was crucial because if films weren’t shown, then preserving them was, in his eyes, useless. To this end he became an unsurpassed champion/defender of the cinema to a degree that even filmmakers could not attain. One of the key functions of archives, at least in the Langlois school of thought, is the catholic nature of their collections, and the 518 • A R C H I V E S , M U S E U M S , F E S T I V A L S ability to see the diversity of cinema in all its manifestations. Limits are placed on cineastes to which archivists are not subjected. There are many reasons for this, and as François Truffaut notes, cineastes are not the best keepers of film history: “When one becomes a filmmaker after having been a cinéphile, the number of specific problems to be solved makes one forget one’s admirations and obliges one to create all sorts of personal laws, which soon become so constraining that the filmmaker loses all freshness when confronted with the work of colleagues who have forged other laws and carried them through.”1 Ernest Lindgren, in contrast, was perhaps stereotyped in the image of the traditional British civil servant. He believed in closely selecting the films that archives collected and chose for preservation. Unlike Langlois, he could be seen as a gatekeeper. These two tendencies in archiving—programming versus preservation—still hold today and were at the center of a storm that brewed around film archiving in the 1960s. Indeed, one of the most famous incidents in the history of film archives...


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