Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Lile also notes, "I am still working my way through Rand Jimerson’s excellent Archives Power: Memory, Accountability and Social Justice (2009: SAA). It is a wide-ranging book encompassing the history of archival theory and practice in societal terms, addressing the relationship of archives and documents to memory, justice, accountability, diversity, and societal power." Another one to add to the reading list!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
CSM also authored the invaluable Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Some archives and collectors are currently restoring their footage, given the upcoming centenary next year, and the anticipated need for a variety of producers, researchers, and others to access this material. This is exciting for us, but will the restoration work be done in time for our production deadlines? Other archives either don’t have the financial resources, or have not made restoration a priority. Since (as is good archival practice) they don’t want us touching their original film, and we hardly have the budget for major restoration ourselves anyway, we’re often faced with later generation film or, in some cases, outdated videotape formats of this material.
Stills are less of a problem – they’ve been maintained lovingly by those who have held them for a century, and there may be cases where we use these stills in lieu of footage that is hard to decipher, or doesn’t look as good. We all know that still photographs can be made to live with a little visual choreography.
The project is interesting, from another archival point of view as well: in many cases cataloguing is scarce, and the film, which has been edited again and again into different documentaries and news pieces, exists in various conditions and states of completeness in various places. Often the silent film intertitles or other clues we have found contradict each other. Therefore, we are often left guessing whether that wide shot of a field with plumes of smoke in the distance is from one battle or another, from 1911 or from 1921. In fact, over 50% of the smoke we see from guns and canons is white, leaving us to wonder if these weapons were firing “blanks,” meaning those shots are probably re-creations. We look for the occasional black smoke, which might signify this is the “real deal.” Even archivists and scholars who have examined the film over the years continually revise their own ideas of what they are looking at: A lovely corn harvest scene that originally was identified as 1908 prompts further examination and is revised as being from 1910. Going back to the film later, the owners conjectured that 1920 is more likely, “but we can’t be sure.” Just like the Mexican soldiers, we’re shooting at a moving target.
I'm thinking about how to develop a compelling way to address all this in of our film, in order to both acknowledge our own awareness of these issues and to cue the audience in on what I call our “working vocabulary.” Key to documentary ethics is making sure the audience isn’t mis-led regarding what they are seeing and hearing.
How do we make these “problems” into a positive, rather than a negative? The Mexican Revolution, for a century, has been very much about revisionism and myth-making. There are so many false assumptions and misunderstandings because there have always been both political and artistic reasons to paint some figures as heroes, others as villains, ignore still others, develop false causes and effects, and generally “use” the history for one’s own purposes. Rather than add to this myth-making, we want to address this issue of history versus mythology head-on, throughout the film. We hope to invite the audience to join us on this exploration and have them appreciate the uniqueness of what they’re seeing; the historical and audiovisual mysteries we ourselves are grappling with. If we do this right, between the film and its accompanying website, the audience will join us in examining this material as an archeologist might examine an unearthed fragment – sometimes sure of what they are looking at and how it fits into the pattern of events long-gone, but sometimes only at the beginning of a journey of understanding.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
....The first is easy. Let's put original, unedited archival material out in the world in such a way that it competes with documentaries.... it will insure that audiences can see original documents without the imposition of artificial layers of narrativity.
We have all noted that the cost of production and distribution is going down quickly, even though it isn't zero. Why then aren't archivists making more documentaries, and why isn't production seen as an integral archival mission?
Read the full piece at his blog, blackoystercatcher.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Monday, May 4, 2009
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
From the website, www.nabshow.com/default.asp: "For more than 80 years, the NAB ShowTM has served as the premiere event for content professionals. Leading this ever-changing industry, the NAB Show has evolved to remain the world's resource for high-level insight, training, education and state-of-the-art technology powering the future of content creation, management, commerce and delivery." NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters, is "a trade association located in Washington, D.C. that advocates on behalf of more than 8,300 free, local radio and television stations and also broadcast networks before Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the Courts."
Proposals for presentations are currently being sought -- for details, go to www.nyu.edu/orphanfilm/orphans7/docs/Orphans7flyer2.pdf.
What's an "orphan" film? From the 2005 website: "Narrowly defined, it's a motion picture abandoned by its owner or caretaker. More generally, the term refers to all manner of films outside of the commercial mainstream: public domain materials, home movies, outtakes, unreleased films... [etc]... For examples, visit the National Film Preservation Foundation, an institution dedicated to saving orphan films."
Monday, April 13, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
Just found a photo of the book in progress, taken on his iPhone and uploaded October 25, 2007 by Steve Rhodes. This is the panel assembled to discuss ethical issues in archival use, hosted by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism Documentary Program (see Chapter 10 of Archival Storytelling). From left to right, Sheila Curran Bernard, Kenn Rabin, Rick Prelinger, Stanley Nelson, and Bill Nichols.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
For similar reasons, the article notes, the U.S. Library of Congress has been adding photos to Flickr at the rate of about 50 a week.