On March 22, 2018, the French Institute in Athens and the Association of Greek Film Directors and Producers (ESPEK) organized two roundtables as part of the 19th French Film Festival taking place in Athens, 20 - 28 March 2018. The event called “The hidden charm of a film: preservation and accessibility of film archives” was held at the French Institute in Athens and launched a crucial dialogue on the management of film heritage.
In a presentation of the French National Centre of Cinematography (CNC) relating to its establishment, principles, sources of funding, as well as the French policy on film archives, Éric Le Roy, Head of the “Access, valorisation and enrichment of collections” department at the Film Archives of CNC, noted that the French film archives are one of the 5 greatest in Europe and particularly focused on the protection of original films, in contrast with prevailing practice in Europe. He pointed out the importance of supporting film heritage both nationally and regionally, and gave an account of the key relevant CNC projects, including a restoration programme launched in 1990 that resulted in the rescue of 12.000 CNC’s films of all kinds and an author’s financial aid programme launched in 2012 that has resulted in the digitization of 1000 films so far (57.5 million euro granted).
From left to right: Eric Le Roi, Katerina Pischitzi, Lefteris Kretsos, journalist Jangos Antiohos, Vassilis Kosmopoulos, Maria Komninou and Serafeim Tsoukos
Konstantina Pischitzi, head of the Department of Performing Arts and Cinema at the Ministry of Culture, noted that film archives protect and bequeath to future generations represents an integral part of our cultural identity. She described the legal and administrative “adventure of film archives” over the years in Greece, admitting that the shortage or absence of funds places many obstacles in the country path to digitization.
Lefteris Kretsos, General Secretary for Media and Communication at the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media, underlined the importance of the cinema industry as the Greek key development sector with the highest added value, especially under current positive circumstances with the bailout program coming to an end. He called for an assertive and open to synergies Greek film community, as well as for the audiovisual education of students. He also defended the impartial inter-ministerial profile of the newly established National Center for Audiovisual Media and Communication (EKOME), which is about to create the national digital depository. Kretsos announced that the Ministry of Digital Policy will soon obtain a media centreto save and preserve radio and television archives as well as a digitization centre (with emphasis in 3D technologies). Finally, he noted that the financing of the national digital repository with 10 million euros is scheduled to take place in April via the Public Investments Programme, and that the previous day at COREPER Greece had voted in favour of taxation on online platforms.
Vassilis Kosmopoulos, Acting General Director of the Greek Film Centre (EKK), stressedthe urgency and imperative of drawing a national comprehensive strategy on archives, while ensuring steady and sufficient financing for film producing. He also noted that the use of audiovisual heritagemay lead to a new relationship with the Greek public.
Maria Komninou, President of the Board of Directors of Greek Film Archive, referred to their role and enduring efforts to save and keep the audience continually in touch with cinema heritage. She particularly underlined that the state needs to attach more importance to restoring than digitizing this heritage. Finally, lawyer Serafeim Tsoukos shed light on some of the major legal issues concerning cinema archives, underlining the respect due to authors and copyright.
Participants at the second round table debated the situation in Greece. Elina Psykou, President of ESPEK and director, indicated two main contemporary problems in screening a film, especially an old one: primarily, the detection of accessible and functional digital cinema archives and, secondly, the identification of authors to whom royalties shall be lawfully paid. This is why she called for cooperation between state and the private sector, extensive cataloging of our heritage and the education of a broader audience.
Lefteris Adamidis, film distributor at One from the Heart company, agreed that these are the fundamental difficulties that distributors also deal with daily, adding that even successful films have ceased to be rereleased. Stella Theodoraki, director-producer, referred to examples of the role of cinema archives not only in the preservation of the creator's perspective but of a whole sector of contemporary culture.
According to Kostas Aivaliotis, Hellas Film director at the Greek Film Centre (EKK), it is necessary to adopt a modern archive management model and begin an honest debate about revising EKK's role, as well as the security and conditions of management of its material.
Finally, Stelios Kimionis, responsible for Development and Administration of Digital Content at EKOME, presented the broad outlines of EKOME's actions regarding audiovisual archive material, in accordance with European policies and market needs. In this context, he outlined the role that EKOME will play in cataloguing all audiovisual works, drawing a national archive strategy, supporting both public and private initiatives, attracting investments and coordinating all involvedparties(interconnection, establishment of standards, digitization support). He noted especially that the digital depository is necessary in order to increase the public value of collections, contributing to Greek cultural heritage and rendering them technically compatible with international standards. This is why EKOME will be equipped with a special laboratory and a digitization centre, Kimionis added. Concluding, Kimionis stated that “film archiving is not just a practice; it is a mission, a relationship between all parties involved and their material as well as with society”.
Read also: EKOME President Panos Kouanis explains why Greece is your next filming destination (and yes, it has to do with money). One more reason to film in Greece: A new legal framework of economic incentives.