Europa Nostra partners with ACE to call for support to safeguard European film heritage

Manifesto co-written by Sneška Quaedvlieg-Mihailović, Secretary-General of Europa Nostra, and Michal Bregant, President of ACE – Association des Cinémathèques Européennes

For the European Heritage Awards Ceremony 2023, Europa Nostra, the European Voice of Civil Society committed to Cultural Heritage, partnered with ACE – Association des Cinémathèques Européennes to highlight heritage excellence and best practices in Europe in the domain of cinema culture.

European Heritage Awards Ceremony 2023

European film heritage has been too often overlooked when talking about European heritage and European values. This lack  of a reflection on the history of the European filmic language represents an omission which needs to be redressed. European films and audiovisual works have forged European culture over the last 135 years, since the Lumière brothers invented the big screen thanks to their revolutionary camera and projector, the Cinématographe. In our societies where in particular new generations talk through images and share audiovisual stories, a great opportunity exists for film heritage institutions to help to bridge the past, present and future.

In this last century, cinema-going has become part of our cultural habits in Europe, a source of entertainment, firstly, but also a social experience to share common stories, to imagine and dream of a faraway world, to reflect on contemporary events and politics, to engage with our past, to dig into our consciousness and intimacy. Cinema production has dealt with history, colonialism, women’s rights, sexual identity, social inequality, labour relations, scientific revolutions and many other themes that constitute  the human condition and our common history. And cinema still formulates  questions, like any other art form, and triggers collective – critical and creative – thinking.

Through the Association des Cinémathèques Européennes, the European Commission has embarked on a European policy towards cinema heritage. Established in 1991, ACE is a network of 49 European national and regional film archives that aims to safeguard the film heritage and make it accessible to the public. Europa Nostra applauds the collaboration between the European Commission and ACE and expresses its support to further developing an ambitious EU policy towards cinema heritage, as part of a holistic EU strategy towards the safeguard and enhancement of cultural heritage. This was made visible during this year’s European Cultural Heritage Summit held on 27-30 September in Venice, more specifically during the European Heritage Awards Ceremony which took place on 28 September at the Palazzo del Cinema. 

The safeguard of Europe’s film heritage, an integral part of Europe’s shared cultural heritage, presents two main challenges. With regard to the digitisation of film heritage for dissemination purposes, significant work has been done but it needs to be further  enhanced and constantly renewed. Yet digitisation is by no means a comprehensive way to preserve film heritage. While the state of digital preservation on European level can further develop, the majority of film heritage institutions also hold analogue film materials in their collections. Therefore, film preservation and restoration is the only possible way to ensure that this pillar of European culture is duly transmitted to the future generations. In this context, we wish to stress that preserving and restoring films is a costly endeavour and that many film heritage institutions in Europe are struggling to find necessary resources to restore the films, to find space for the conservation of the film materials as well as to invest in the renewal and training of professionals to secure the same level of competences also in the future. In the light of the above, while expressing our strong support for investments which provide support for digital dissemination of film heritage at all levels, we call for adequate funding at European and national level in support of the restoration and conservation of film archives, for the benefit of present and future generations.

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