Travel stories: our film projects on the move

25 Aug 2022

Making a register of film stock that is at risk of deterioration or becoming damaged, and then digitising it to preserve it for the future, is not something that happens overnight; we’ve been working hard to safeguard Flanders’ film heritage for several years already. In 2022, we’re focusing on amateur formats (8mm and Super 8) and nitrate film, among other things. Read on to find out more about the travel stories in our project for preserving at-risk and affected films.

We’ve been working closely with CINEMATEK since February 2015 to register, preserve and safely store film stock. Their many years’ experience make them the ideal partner to take care of our content partners’ film collections.

In beeld: filmblik. Cineteca Bologna, Biblioteca Renzo Renzi. SunOfErat, CC BY-SA 4.0.

In beeld: filmblik. Cineteca Bologna, Biblioteca Renzo Renzi. SunOfErat, CC BY-SA 4.0.

8mm film canisters from Illinois

In addition to making comprehensive registrations, CINEMATEK is ensuring that all the films are well prepared for the coming years by giving them all new reels and canisters. This will prevent any damage caused by rust and decay, and optimise the conditions under which they are stored. It soon became apparent, however, in our search for new 8mm film canisters, that there are no longer any suppliers in Europe. We therefore had to look further afield, so we turned our attention to the United States. The expensive freight and customs costs that this would incur inspired us to team up with the EYE Film Institute in Amsterdam, and together we placed a joint order with a company called Tuscan in Illinois on 12 May 2022. 

The film canisters will soon be arriving back in Amsterdam, following a boat trip lasting several months. Our part of the order will then head for Brussels, where CINEMATEK can get started with packaging the films in their ventilated polypropylene casings.

In beeld: de bewaring van nitraatfilms in filmblikken.

In beeld: de bewaring van nitraatfilms in filmblikken.

Nitrate film in the tunnel

Our exciting nitrate project has really taken off! Project leader Céline was in Namur at around 9 a.m. on 27 July to see 85 nitrate films set off to London via the Eurotunnel. Following a tender procedure, we opted to team up with British company R3Store Studios to digitise these highly sensitive carriers. Nitrate film is the oldest carrier for film stock, and is susceptible to chemical decomposition and even self-ignition; it can spontaneously combust without any heat source, and continue to burn without oxygen. 

We’re collaborating with CINEMATEK to register the films, store them in optimal conditions, and prevent the carriers from being lost for ever. We took the necessary safety measures for the transportation, such as ensuring a constant and cool temperature. The nitrate films are due back home in time for Christmas.

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