Earliest attempts to collect and preserve motion pictures, a technology invented over 120 years ago, only began in the 1930s in Europe and the United States of America. Archival institutions around the world believe that 90 per cent of the films produced in or before the 1910s have been lost and only 20 per cent of the films made in the 1920s have survived; overall only half of the films made before the 1950s are still circulating today¹. This lamentable rate even excludes most documentaries, shorts, experimental films and other independent productions. Insufficient documentation makes it hard to estimate the actual number of films lost over the last 100 years or so. Those which are fortunate enough to find their permanent home at museums, film archives and private collections and be restored are seldom publicly presented due to their condition and conservation requirements.
Recent years’ technological advances in duplication and restoration of audio-visual works has allowed global archiving organisations to put their efforts and resources into restoring decayed film stocks, digitising film treasures and launching online public access. Moreover, the burgeoning of commercial digital restoration of films also gives contemporary audiences an opportunity to experience a great many of the restored classics.
This is where ‘Reel to Reel Film Heritage’ comes in, with an aim to showcase treasured moving images around the world that were once lost. Focusing on the history, technological development, aesthetics and cultural studies of film and of place, we compare narratives of film histories especially for Hong Kong, Chinese-speaking and adjoining areas, also uncover missing pieces, illustrating the differences between museum (or archival) restoration and its commercial counterpart, as well as the distinct properties of celluloid and digital formats as creative media and carriers of moving images. We believe giving importance to both would promote an understanding among the audience of the significance and stories these formats carry.
It is the help from organisations and people who are supplying the precious film copies that has made this programme possible. To them and all the guests and speakers who are giving talks in the programme, thank you.