The vivid impatience of archive material

The vision Cesare Zavattini had for AAMOD was that “of an archive of the present more than of the past, where materials […] are animated by a vivid impatience to enter into today’s dialectics of democratic struggles and contribute to create a radically freer information”, and this vision is still alive.

In the same context, Zavattini also said: Every copy of the “pizza”, as the film reel is called in jargon, can be remodelled, reassembled, and then flow back into our Archive […]. It is not a cinema of spectators, but one of the many ways of making cinema together.
(C. Zavattini, 28 January 1980, presentation speech of the activities of the Audiovisual Archive of the Democratic and Labour Movement.).

At the time, that was an unusual and premonitory concept for an institution dedicated to conservation, and was reiterated in the main objectives of the Archive’s first statute, which mentions, among other purposes, “the collective use of materials”. Over forty years later, Zavattini’s intent continues to inspire our projects. And those materials, that were eager at that time to enter into the dialectics of democratic struggles, can today be put at the service of building new meanings, of creating alternative visions of reality and contributing to individual and social emancipation.

From this awareness, a new platform of initiatives called “UnArchive” was born a few years ago. The term (borrowed from computer language, literally to “un-archive”), was chosen not only for its assonance, but also because it originates in the digital field (it is the command used to decompress groups of compressed or zipped files). And associating a digital action with a substantially analogue archive seemed to us an important research direction, as well as a firm acknowledgement of the need to confront, as an Archive, the potential – and certainly also the hidden dangers – of the digital age.

UnArchive is a sort of constellation that includes several multi-year projects (the Cesare Zavattini prize, the artistic residence Suoni e Visioni, other production projects), each with its own identity, but all part of a common research: the enhancement of training, production and promotion activities focused on the creative reuse of archival images.

UnArchive Found Footage Fest intends to be the arrival point of a journey, but at the same time a great revival of practices related to found footage, and for this we have sought the collaboration of many national and international personalities animated by similar purposes, with the awareness that the great theme of audiovisual and film heritage, of its conservation, dissemination and reuse in the digital age, touches us all, each with our own experiences and sensibilities.

A special thanks goes to all the partners of the festival and in particular to the Directorate General for Cinema and Audiovisual of the Italian Ministry of Culture, which immediately understood the quality and degree of innovation of the project, and to the Archivio Luce, a consolidated “ally” of many of our Archive’s activities.

Finally, it is an honour for the Archive to be able to count on the expertise of two exceptional artistic directors for the first edition of this festival: Alina Marazzi and Marco Bertozzi, essential reference figures when addressing the complex and varied practices linked to found footage, with the help of a team passionate and capable.

The Archive has nothing to teach but much to learn from such experiences, which help us to continually reimagine the meaning of our heritage and broaden the scope of our activity, in the ceaseless effort to make the archive materials vibrate with that vivid impatience Zavattini spoke about.

Luca Ricciardi
Concept and managing directior
UnArchive Found Footage Fest
Vincenzo Vita
Audiovisual Archive of the Democratic and Labour Movement (Rome)

UnArchive, a greeting from the burning cinema

UnArchive is a twofold invitation: one suggested by the festival’s name itself – to “un-archive” the images stored in archives – but also an invitation to cinema. The films we present the public with during the days of the festival represent the filmmaking that most challenges us and fascinates us, as spectators, artists, scholars and enthusiasts. It is the kind of cinema that makes continuous aesthetic research its engine, that never ceases to question the representations of visual language. It is the cinema of found footage that, in its practice of re-reading and re-semanticizing images, produces new meanings and keys of interpretation for the contemporary world.

It is within this cinema that the most experimental form of documentary conquers a common audience, between cinemas and spaces dedicated to art. New imaginaries capable of involving very different poetics, in an aesthetic-pragmatic way to the documentary that does not respond to an a priori manifesto but involves the filmic device in a multiple gesture, capable of both witnessing and fabricating “reality”. Not a movement, not a doctrine, but experiences capable of creating hybrid and thinking works: films that consciously keep together a realistic look at the world and a look upon their own gaze, upon the way in which the gaze itself constructs the world.

This is why we enthusiastically welcomed AAMOD’s proposal to take on the artistic direction of UnArchive, a responsibility and a pleasure that we share together with the festival’s work team.
For some years AAMOD has begun a process of open about the creative reuse of its heritage, and it is in this wake that the desire to propose works that tackle the creative reuse of images to a wide audience was born. At a time when the presence of archival images is widespread even in fiction cinema or in classic documentaries, the need to question the representations of the past with the intention of decolonizing visual narratives requires us to give space to works that put the archive at the centre of their vision but that do not use it with an illustrative or historical function. So films born from the ashes of other films, from abandoned funds, from amateur perspectives, but capable of creating centrifugal landscapes, in a set in motion that is both psychic and collective, ethical and political, for excavations into the deepest imaginaries of our contemporary world.

We are not interested in the race to festival previews, but rather in going further, a bit everywhere in the world, to explore works and authors at the edges of the visible. So we drew up a varied program, between very short and very long films, performances with projections and live music, meetings and installations outside the movie theatre as well. The sections, both competitive and non competitive, turn their attention mainly to the present, but we haven’t neglected to focus on past productions, such as the selection of experimental and “ready-made” films from the collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, or on contemporary artists such as the homage to Canadian filmmaker Louise Bourque. We also want to re-propose a few films by masters of cinema – such as the recent feature films by Aleksandr Sokurov and Werner Herzog – because we believe it is important to see them again in the context of UnArchive and give a non-specialist audience the opportunity to enjoy them.

We are fascinated by the new cinematic experiences offered by found footage, by the estrangement produced by many of the selected films, capable of overturning film conventions and unearthing unexplored transgressive attitudes. Works that resist both the idea of destruction and that of survival; and reconfigure, from time to time, from use to use, their semantic cloud in a dialectic process, without safety nets. These are changing forms, in which the poetic and the political explode in a reality pregnant with desire and saturated with conflicts. An international wave, and many of the authors will participate in the festival, both to present their work and to meet the public in an open dialogue on the mutating forms of reuse. A special space is given to Romanian director Radu Jude who will hold a master class on his filmmaking and on his specific experience with found footage, in a meeting organized together with the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. UnArchive is also a place to exchange ideas and theoretical reflection, as well as being a showcase of projects by young filmmakers and students, who present the fruit of their training classes and the result of artistic residencies.

Two juries, a main jury and a student jury, will award prizes and mentions to the films that they consider of greatest interest in the field of film language research and experimentation. Against the habits of our gaze, crossing the borders of a cinema that feeds on futuristic visions and injections of the past, the seductive anachronism of found footage will accompany us in this first edition of UnArchive. So enjoy the viewings, and thank you again to AAMOD, to the many institutions that have collaborated and to our fantastic team!

Marco Bertozzi
Alina Marazzi
Artistic directors
06 5730 5447