Preserving Stories: Film Archives in the Face of Climate Change and Global Challenges

As an artist filmmaker, and Senior Lecturer on the Filmmaking programme at SODA, my work has often utilised, deconstructed or imagined film archives. My recent solo exhibition at HOME, Is there anybody there? was comprised solely of footage from seventy films from the amazing North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University; itself a deep dive into the huge cultural asset archive contains to reveal multitude of histories, traditions, and legacies that may be unknown or uncelebrated.

Chris Paul Daniels reflects on the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) Conference in Bangkok, April 2024

As an artist filmmaker, and Senior Lecturer on the Filmmaking programme at SODA, my work has often utilised, deconstructed or imagined film archives. My recent solo exhibition at HOME, Is there anybody there? was comprised solely of footage from seventy films from the amazing North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University; itself a deep dive into the huge cultural asset the archive contains to reveal a multitude of histories, traditions, and legacies that may be unknown or uncelebrated. 

Therefore, attending the FIAF (International Federation of Film Archives) Congress at the Thai Film Archive (Public Organisation) in Salaya, Thailand  with Nick Gladden, Manager of the North West Film Archive was a huge privilege and proved endlessly inspiring, informative and helped me create a new network of peers. The North West Film Archive were the first regional (opposed to national) archive admitted to FIAF, which is testament to how important our university’s collection is on a global scale.

The theme of this year’s congress was to focus on Film Archives based in the global south. 

Every speaker and organisation spoke with urgency and clarity about common concerns;  how can film archives containing all the crucial heritage, documentation, stories and histories adapt to the challenges in countries rapidly affected by climate change (when analogue film needs careful temperature and humidity control).

What happens to an archive when state funding is withdrawn due to  political change?

What good practice can be collectively shared between international archives to actively decolonise collections?

What, when and where should material be repatriated? How can communities use archives to retell important histories that may have been overlooked or suppressed?

Key Questions

One fascinating talk from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, by Gillian Moody and Elena Guest,  titled WINHANGANHA-(Re)Indigenisation of a National Collection shared knowledge on their working processes when archiving sacred indigenous song rituals which could only be handled as data by a strictly limited number of staff to ensure the songs were directly and exclusively saved for future generations of the communities as stakeholders in what was being preserved.

Another highlight was the showcase of the Thai Film Archive itself which incorporates a 35mm film processing lab, a reparative centre for found Thai films and a public facing museum showcasing Thailand’s rich film outputs. 

One memorable evening performance of traditional Thai shadow play staged elements of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 – A Space Odyssey with, celebrated Thai director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Palme D’Or winning  Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives(2010)

Or an outdoor screening of an unnamed 1960’s Thai horror film, re-staging a Thai mobile cinema unit where two 16mm film projectors powered from a campervan were complimented by a live soundtrack performed by one male performer reading all of the dialogue.

The international network of film archivists, programmers, and researchers has already had an impact on my research and I am very happy to have already been able to host a talk from Mosa Mpetha, Leeds based independent film curator, programmer and producer with some of our students talking about their own work with international film archives and film audiences.