ICO Archive Screening Day

The ICO’s Archive Screening Day is a one-day event showcasing material from international, national and regional film archives and new restorations coming into distribution; and featuring workshops to provide exhibitors with cinematic inspiration, practical skills and tools to help share archive film with audiences.

Here Malisa Sledmere-Chafer, programmer for No.6 in Portsmouth, shares her experience of these events.

This is the second Archive Screening Day I have attended run by the ICO in collaboration with the BFI. After attending last year I was wondering how I could incorporate some silent films into our programme when lo and behold James Harrison from SW Silents contacted me with a proposal for a mini season of silent films about battleships, highly appropriate as we are based within the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth. Had I not been to the Archive Screening Day I don’t think I would have had the confidence or the enthusiasm to programme it in. 
This year we had a lecture from Dr Toby Haggith from the Imperial War Museum who spoke eloquently about the use of the IWM film archive which Peter Jackson used in his transformation into the recent film, They Shall Not Grow Old. What are the ethics of using old film, altering them and editing them for modern purposes. This is certainly a moral minefield but hearing about the creative and inventive processes, and the triumphant result despite many misgivings at the beginning of the project, proves that the archives have much to offer the contemporary film goer.
I am keen to start screening films from the naval archives as there is no better way of making history come alive, I will be making contact with the IWM to see what they have to offer.

Still from Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old

Another highlight was finding out more about women of the silent film era. Bryony Dixon and Pamela Hutchinson answered questions about the main women players of the silent era. Long overlooked by history, it seems that there were many talented and funny women who deserve to be seen. We were lucky enough to get the full measure of Mabel Normand as there was a free screening of ‘Mickey’, one of her films, with a live accompaniment by John Sweeney. I will be looking for ways to add these into the mix of our programme.
Bryony Dixon also spoke about the digitisation of early Victorian films, we learnt about the technical difficulties of transferring the film to a digital format and the frustrations and competitiveness of early film makers. But they were inventive and dedicated to making films despite the cumbersome nature of the equipment. These films are fascinating and hopefully we cinemas can bring them to a wider audience.
Lectures from erudite experts makes programming for the cinema an interesting and broadening process, it’s great to screen good current films, but if we forget the roots of the art form we are in danger of missing out on much enjoyable and enriching footage. These educational days are massively valuable in helping to bring these films to inspire and inform the exhibitors out in the field.
Malisa Sledmere-Chafer
No.6

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