Saving India's film heritage

A workshop with international experts will share knowledge on the art of restoring cinema

Last year, the Mumbai Film Festival was abuzz about the finely restored prints of Satyajit Ray’s of the classic Apu trilogy — Pather Panchali, Apur Sansar and Aparajito. These movies, restored by the Criterion Collection, and many other such restorations of world cinema have left film buffs here wondering about the process that goes behind it, without much help.

Participants at a film identification class
Participants at a film identification class

Fresh lease for films
To bridge this gap, The Film Heritage Foundation and Viacom18 are organising a 10-day Film Preservation and Restoration Workshop 2016, with luminaries of film archiving from across the world at the National Film Archive of India, Pune.
Filmmaker and archivist Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, who started The Film Heritage Foundation in 2014, says the workshop, which will be inaugurated by Naseeruddin Shah, is to introduce people even working at the archives to the nuances of film restoration and that it could even be a career option. This is the second year of the workshop and is poised to be much bigger than the previous one.

A film repair class in progress
A film repair class in progress

“Eleven people from the previous batch have enrolled again. This year’s draw is that it is happening at the National Film Archives where the best in the world like David Walsh from International Federation of Film Archives and David Eastman Museum from Selznick School of Film Preservation would share their knowledge,” he says. He adds that Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project also supports the workshop.

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur
Shivendra Singh Dungarpur

For art’s sake
Dungarpur explains that film preservation is often put in the backburner, as cinema is not considered art. Through this initiative, they aim to save films of not only Hindi cinema but from across languages and also some important historical films which are owned by the government. He points out that film restoration is a long process and it took over two years to restore Ray’s Apu trilogy. When asked, he said there are a number of films in India that need restoring but copyright issues are really tricky. “People would rather let a film be destroyed than meddle with copyright. At the workshops, they will also discuss the nuances of dealing with copyright in the restoration process,” he explains.

The workshops are helping already, as a student from the previous workshop got a grant for a PhD in the UK on India’s lost films aided by the workshop certificate. “The certificate is issued by the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) which is like the United Nations of film archiving with 80 member nations and will be valuable for those who will pursue a career in this direction,” he signs off.

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