Martin Scorsese Preserves Films Through Digital Distribution
by Christopher Campbell
May 16, 2009
Film preservation and restoration used to involve, for the most part, actual film. Despite the fact that we still use the word "film," digital technology is being used more and more to preserve, restore, archive and distribute movies. Even Martin Scorsese, who is just as well-regarded as a film preservationist and historian as he is a master filmmaker, announced on Friday in Cannes (via Variety) that the World Cinema Foundation, which is devoted to restoring endangered cinematic works, has partnered with B-Side Entertainment, the Criterion Collection and The Auteurs to distribute WCF-restored titles online.
Kent Jones, formerly of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, has been tapped to serve as executive director of the WCF. Jones noted the importance of the alliance during the press conference to announce the deal: "A lot of American cinema is gone. So you can imagine (what) cinema in the rest of the world (is like)."
"We can make a difference if we make these films available," Scorsese added.
The alliance seems to be in place to get people to see these films, if at least through streaming video and not in a theater, as some film preservationists might prefer. Initially WCF's titles will each be offered for download from The Auteurs site for a fee, but later these films will be made available in an ad-supported streaming format at no cost. B-Side will actually be handling (an actual film print, I hope?) distribution to film clubs and universities (and repertory houses?), as well as home entertainment distribution via Netflix and iTunes. Of course, the online options will no doubt be the most popular, and already four inaugural titles have made available at TheAuteurs.com since Scorsese's press conference announcement on Friday.
These first four films are: 1973 Senegalese film Touki Bouki (Journey of the Hyena), directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty; 1960 Korean masterpiece Hanyo (The Housemaid), from Kim Ki-yuong; Metin Erksan and David E. Durston's 1964 Turkish drama Susuz yaz (Dry Summer); and Ahmed El Maanouni's 1981 Moroccon music documentary Al Hal (Transes). Also announced as new restoration projects by the WCF are: Edward Yang's A Brighter Summer Day and the 1936 Spanish drama Redes (The Wave), co-directed by Emilio Gómez Muriel and Fred Zinnemann. More information about each film can be found online.
We haven't had a chance to check out any of these films yet, but we look forward to watching them now that they've become so easily accessible. Leave a comment with your thoughts on any of the four WCF titles if you manage to view one before we do. We'll be following the WCF as they unveiled more restorations.