British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

EC alarm over Europe’s film heritage

The  second implementation report of the Film Heritage Recommendation, published by the European Commission’s Information Society and Media Directorate General, sounds the alarm over the survival of Europe’s film heritage.

The Recommendation was adopted in 2005 and calls for Europe’s film heritage to be methodically collected, catalogued, preserved and restored so that it can be passed on to future generations. EU Member States are asked to complete a questionnaire every two years of what they have done in this connection. 80% of silent films are estimated to have been lost already but even new digital era films are at risk. Although the digital era provides new means of making and presenting films, it also imposes new challenges to the traditional ways of collecting and preserving films. Digital technologies are constantly evolving and what seems cutting-edge today may be as obsolete as cassette tapes or video recorders in 2020. Film heritage institutions should take a new approach to the way they safeguard and provide access to Europe’s film heritage. The traditional model – conserving fragile film materials in sealed boxes in vaults – cannot guarantee their preservation for posterity or accessibility. The report suggests that in the digital age, a new access model is needed so that future film makers and audiences can continue to enjoy European film culture.

The results presented in this report are only a first evaluation of the challenges and opportunities of the digital era for European film heritage. The Commission has launched an independent study, which will look in further detail into this issue. After reviewing the results of the study, the Commission will consider whether a revision of the Film Heritage Recommendation could be an appropriate means of addressing this issue. Further  information is available in  EC press release IP/10/894

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