25th anniversary of Croatian Cinematheque - protection of the National film collection

25th anniversary of Croatian Cinematheque - protection of the National film collection

Croatian Cinematheque, the national film archive, was established in 1979, after many Croatian films had already been destroyed. Today there is a big black hole in Croatian film heritage; 25 feature films, made between 1917 and 1925, have disappeared or been intentionally destroyed.

The basic and most important goal of the Croatian Cinemateque, which started without a single meter of film material, was to gather and adequately store film heritage as well as to preserve means of conservation and restoration that usually involve some sort of reconstruction.

After the Cinemateque managed to regain film materials from the Yugoslav Cinemateque in Belgrade, the next step was to start the project of transferring film materials from nitrate tape to safety tape. These film materials were used during the periods between 1904 and 1941 and between 1945 and 1954. As part of a project approved by the Croatian Parliament, 9 feature films and 467 short films were preserved in this way during a period that lasted from 1983 to 1988. Most of the short films belonged to the valuable collection Škola narodnog zdravlja Andrija Štampar that existed from 1927 to 1960.

Another method of film conservation is the creation of an alternative original film material (so-called interpositive or doublepositive) as well as the production of safety copies. After retrieving the film materials from storage it was established that during the last 50 years, producers had not been copying materials.

One special project is the conservation of valuable film materials that were made on the substandard formats of 9,5 and 8 mm (from 1927 to 1970). Film material that dates before 1940 was transferred onto 35mm film tape, thus becoming available for the public, researchers, students and film historians.

In 1995, Cinematheque started a project of complete restoration of original negatives (that were inside the camera) and sound recordings because it became clear that many feature and short films would simply disappear if the previous means and levels of conservation were not improved. Thanks to the understanding of the Ministry of Culture, financial resources for conservation and restoration of the National film collection have increased significantly. From 1995 to 2004, the Cinematheque conserved and restored 65 feature films, 182 animated films, and 154 documentary films.

Besides employees of the Croatian Cinematheque, some external collaborators, such as film technologist Ernest Gregl and engineer Emilija Guštin-Miler, participated in the execution of this project. During those 25 years, generations of experts from the Laboratory of Jadran Film also made their contribution.

Films that have been restored since 1995 are proof of what happens with film material when it is not properly stored. Usually mechanical damages occurred because, instead of using alternative original materials for copying purposes, all copies were made directly from originals. As a result, films lost their original color, film tape quality and sharpness deteriorated, and fungi and spots appeared. Films conserved and restored over the last ten years have been treated with a photochemical process using the wet gate method of copying on a high quality Eastman Kodak polyester film tape that guarantees a lifetime of at least 300 years depending on storage conditions.

Stored collections of films and accompanying film materials in Croatian Cinematheque
Croatian Cinematheque stores a total of 25 million meters of film material. From the National film collection, the Cinematheque holds the following:

- 315 feature films

- 1471 documentary films

- 371 animated films

- A collection of 727 nonprofessional films dating from 1928 until today

- A collection of 253 films from Škola narodnog zdravlja Andrija Štampar, 1927-1960

- A collection of 70 films from Kršćanska sadašnjost

- 37 ethnographic films from the Ethnology department of the University of Philosophy in Zagreb

- 300 student films from the Academy of Drama Arts

Foreign films:

- 2411 feature films

- 2303 documentary films

- 372 animated films

From its earliest days, the Croatian Cinematheque has collected all accompanying film materials that document and further explain the creation of specific films. Therefore, the Cinematheque created several additional collections:

- A collection of 3379 screenplays and scenarios

- 114,060 film photographs

- 77,584 film posters

There is also a collection of film screening and cinematography technique, with a total of 180 displays dating from 1898 to 1970.

All films shown in this program have been conserved and restored. The goal of this program is to present lesser-known but valuable films from Croatian film heritage to new audiences. Over the last three years, in collaboration with Croatian Film Club’s Association, Cinematheque has organized several retrospective programs of film authors and films from different periods. I wish to take this opportunity to express Cinematheque’s great thanks for Croatian Film Club’s Association’s support, as well as to the producers at Jadran film, Zagreb film and Crotia film who all made it possible to present Croatian Film Heritage. Undoubtedly, we will continue this collaboration in 2006 as well.
(Mato Kukuljica)