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DIASTOR Conference a Success

The DIASTOR conference in Zurich was a full success! 160 participants attended the conference, many of whom expressed their enthusiasm and gratitude after the event.

Our invited speakers delivered highly interesting and entertaining insights into their fields of expertise and their experience with the transition to the digital realm in restoration and archiving.

The first slot was dedicated to the topic of digitization. It was chaired by DIASTOR team member Claudy Op den Kamp. Giovanna Fossati, chief curator at EYE Film Institute Netherlands and Professor at the University of Amsterdam opened the conference with an overview of a variety of frameworks to restore, conserve and exhibit (archival) film. Tom De Smet, head of collections at Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, explained to the baffled audience what it means to digitize and store thousands of hours of film. Both Giovanna Fossati and Tom De Smet were part of the Dutch digitization program Images for the Future which started in 2007. Their insights highlighted the fact that a public and political debate is necessary to raise awareness and financial means for the transition of the film heritage to the digital domain.

In the second slot, chaired by David Pfluger, Mikko Kuutti, deputy director at National Audiovisual Institute Finland, focused on the film scanning process by connecting technical aspects to perceptual dimensions of seeing film in a theater. Like the Netherlands, Finland started its digitization program several years ago, and Mikko Kuutti has been involved in the transition to digital postproduction and archiving from the start in the early 2000s. David Landolf, founder and head of the Swiss film archive Lichtspiel in Bern opened up a completely different perspective by showing his analog collection, not only of films but also of many film-related pieces of hardware such as cameras and projectors. He discussed the difficult task to maintain and develop a small archive in a state of transition from analog to digital technologies.

After a delicious lunch with a fine vegetarian buffet from the Zurich based restaurant Hiltl, the afternoon started with two very seasoned speakers from the field of distribution. The program was hosted by Franziska Heller from the DIASTOR research team. Dennis Doris from Milestone Films presented their Project Shirley, a huge project investigating, restoring and presenting the films by dancer and filmmaker Shirley Clarke. Project Shirley is a prime example of how an independent filmmaker’s work can gain new attention by digital means of restoration and distribution. Serge Bromberg from Lobster Films in Paris concluded the talks with insights into their restoration and distribution projects from Georges Méliès’ “Voyage dans la lune” [“Trip to the Moon”] to the documentation of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s unfinished masterpiece “L’Enfer”. Bromberg set a focus on financial requirements for the restoration and distribution of historical films.

The day was concluded by a panel discussion concerning the film preservation situation in Switzerland. Compared to the invited speakers’ experience, Switzerland is still in a state of infancy when it comes to digitization of historical films and long-term storage of digital films. Since no national program has been developed so far, panel chair Barbara Flueckiger discussed with her guests current and future strategies. Caroline Fournier represented the Cinémathèque suisse and explained their selection criteria for the digitization and restoration of films. The Cinémathèque’s new vaults in Penthaz were planned without the concern for a digital infrastructure. They will open in 2017. Heinz Schweizer represented SRF Swiss Radio and Television who own the rights for many Swiss classics. He stressed the fact that we have to be very careful with our cinematic heritage and he voted for film-out as a means of long-term storage. Filmmaker and producer Werner “Swiss” Schweizer, who is also a member of the board of the Cinémathèque suisse, explained that their company Dschoint Ventschr has established their own long-term storage system to keep their productions safe for the future. Contrary to panel chair Flueckiger, “Swiss” Schweizer does not support the safeguard of a lab in Switzerland, but opts for a European competition. The fourth panelist, filmmaker Clemens Klopfenstein, could not explain why his world-famous film “Geschichte der Nacht” cannot be digitized and restored for financial reasons at this point. However, the panel clearly showed that Switzerland is split into many particular perspectives and that it lacks a comprehensive strategy.

All the presentations were followed by lively discussions with the audience, both within the auditorium and outside during coffee breaks.

After a dinner break, the new digital restoration (2014) of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” was screened with live-music by Günter A. Buchwald (piano and violin). Unfortunately Anke Wilkening, who was responsible for the film’s restoration at the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation, had fallen ill and had to cancel her introduction. DIASTOR project leader Barbara Flueckiger delivered an introduction on short-term’s notice. She explained the restoration with a focus on DIASTOR’s color analysis for the Caligari restoration.

In 2K projection on the cinema screen, the new Caligari restoration looked fantastic, even better than at its premiere at the Berlinale in February 2014.

Many attendees were highly interested in learning more about strategies of digitization, long-term storage and digital distribution.

All the speakers generously provide their slides for download on this site. Check back soon or subscribe to the blog to receive access to them.

We would like to thank all the sponsors and DIASTOR partners for making this happen!

The conference was a co-production with FOCAL, supported by Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen SRF, the Kulturfonds von Suissimage, the Hochschulstiftung der Universität ZürichMemoriav, Swiss National Science Foundation and Dr. Wilhelm Jerg Legat.

We would also like to thank the conference team for their tireless support:
Franziska Heller (head ofcoordination)
Claudy Op den Kamp (layout, editing)
Kristina Jungic (catering, locations)
Brigitte Paulowitz (guests and speakers, technical support)

Special thanks to
Pierre Agthe, Anne Perrenoud and Katja Schudel FOCAL
Corinne Siegrist-Oboussier, Michel Bodmer, Primo Mazzoni and Hans X. Hagen Filmpodium Zurich
Student assistants Michelle Beutler, Isabel Krek, Manuel Joller
Alice Christoffel und Ursula McCormack Institute of Cinema Studies, University of Zurich.

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