Preserving The Past

"For The Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon" begins tomorrow and runs through Feb. 21, and it's the best Valentine's Day event a cinephile could ask for. Co-hosted by Ferdy on Films and Self-Styled Siren to benefit the National Film Preservation Foundation, this blogathon will raise both funds and awareness for a crucially important body of cinematic work, and for the Foundation whose efforts are so central to maintaining it. As noted in the ad embedded below (made by the excellent Greg Ferrara, who has been doing wonderful work promoting the event), "Over 80 percent of all films made between 1894 and 1930 are lost forever."

This is tragic, not only for cinephiles, but for anyone interested in history and culture. In my blacklist class yesterday, we talked about the ways in which film offers a window on the uncertainties of the past, thinking about that quality of embalming memory noted by Andre Bazin as part of cinema's ontology: if nothing else, movies can preserve the beliefs and desires and means of representation of a certain moment, in all its glory, strangeness and contradiction. But of course, it can only do that if the films themeselves are preserved.

As someone who writes and teaches so often about the movies from the first half of the 20th century, I am deeply thankful for the work the NFPF does to protect this heritage, from restorations to community projects to DVD releases (coincidentally, much of tomorrow afternoon's CINE 110 screening will be taken up with selections from their excellent "Treasures from the American Film Archives" boxes, which I can't recommend highly enough). I am gobsmacked and grateful for the herculean efforts of Siren and Ferdy in organizing this fantastic event. And as a confirmed film nerd, I am very much looking forward to seeing what some of the best writers in the film blogosphere have to say about those films over the next seven days.

Please go to Ferdy's and Siren's sites for more information. Please browse the Foundation's website through the link above. You can become a fan of the blogathon on Facebook, too. And if you can give money or just the time to read the excellent posts coming in the week ahead, please do so-- this is our shared history, and renewing our connection with it is the best way to look ahead to the art form's future.


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