The state of the heritage film industry in countries with low production capacity

On Wednesday, October 19, at 2:30 pm, at the MIFC, eleven panelists from countries with low production capacity gathered to discuss their difficulties in keeping classic cinema alive on their territory.

Moderated by Vincent Soccodato, from the French office of Europe Créative, this round table addressed several themes, starting with the content and the instability of politics that these countries have experienced, which questions the durability of their archives. For some countries from the communist bloc, the end of the USSR, and its various civil wars that have shaken Europe, has not been without consequences for the cinema. In Albania, since the fall of the Soviet regime in 1991, the distribution of classic films is very impacted explain Marinela Ndria and Hermelinda Troqea of the Albanian National Film Archive (AQSHF), stating that propaganda titles are no longer shown. This is a loss for them, who emphasize the artistic significance of such movies before their political discourse: "There is propaganda, but the images are real”. In Latvia, the classic films belong only to their authors, explains Dita Rietuma, director of the National Film Centre of Latvia, which makes it difficult to transmit them. A problem that is also faced by Jana Mikulevič, from the Directorate of Film Promotion, Information and Heritage at the Lithuanian Film Centre. She says that when the Lithuanian National Studio closed, all its archives were distributed. Today, one of the country's challenges is to collect them: a work started 10 years ago. The collection is also at the heart of Slovakia's concerns, as after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993, part of the Slovak archives ended up in the Czech Republic, and vice versa. A problem revealed by Rastislav Steranka, director of the National Cinematographic Centre and the Slovak Film Institute, and supported by György Ráduly, director of the National Film Institute of Hungary, which sees the country's film heritage being distributed throughout Europe after the successive wars and occupations that Hungary, and particularly Budapest, has experienced.

The discussion then turned to the issue of digitalization and its budget. While the film industry in France is supported by institutions such as the CNC, the speakers testified to a lack of support, stopping the chain of restoration, distribution, and transmission of classic cinema. In Malta, where the situation is presented by the one in charge of film culture at the Malta Film Commission, Jean Pierre Borg, if funding exists for the cinema, it does not prioritize heritage. In Albania, while discussions happened with the Ministry of Culture, it is difficult to obtain a laboratory adapted to the digitization and restoration of preserved material. For Antonia Kovacheva and Vladimir Trifonov, from the Bulgarian National Film Archive, the issue of restoration raises the issue of preservation: "Our biggest problem is that our authorities are fighting for digitization, which is not a sustainable method. We have to explain to them that it only serves to access a work, not to preserve it”. Finally, in Northern Macedonia, represented by Vladimir Angelov, director of the country's cinematheque, the state is present: the cinematheque is itself an institution founded by the government. However, the lack of cinemas has an impact on the distribution and production of heritage films: there are only four cinemas in the whole country. "We make films that no one can see." In Latvia, the titles of the national foundation are available online for free to overcome the constraints of the rights of the physical format; in Hungary, a VOD platform has been available for two years throughout the country and from 2024 throughout Europe.  

International collaboration in the context of archive restoration was also discussed, including by Slovenia. Nerina Kocjančič, head of promotion and distribution at the Slovenian Film Centre, thus explained that the center had started in 2015 a digitization work on their material to be able to work on 15 films in the future. An advance to be perfected, perhaps with the help of other nations? "The important thing is to develop local knowledge, but if it is not enough, we must start thinking about working internationally."

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