Christopher Nolan Talks Preserving Celluloid for "Future Generations" During India Visit

Christopher Nolan, Tacita Dean and Shivendra Singh Dungarupur - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Film Heritage Foundation

The Oscar-nominated director said that the debate was not about “film versus digital. It’s about preserving the medium for future generations.”

Christopher Nolan had a busy Easter weekend in Mumbai in a bid to resurrect the importance of film in a digital world. Along with British visual artist Tacita Dean, who also shares a passionate interest in the use of film as an artistic medium, the Oscar-nominated director attended a series of events under their "Reframing the Future of Film" initiative that included sellout special screenings of Dunkirk in IMAX 70mm film and Interstellar in 35mm film held Saturday.

Earlier in the day, Nolan and Dean held a closed-door roundtable discussion with Bollywood icons Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan and executives from leading Indian cinema and film companies, among others. Also present was Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke. Khan had a “fanboy moment” as he posted a selfie with Nolan on Twitter to his 34.5 million followers, which quickly went viral.

Nolan and Dean launched the first edition of "Reframing the Future of Film" in 2015 at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles, which brought together professionals from art, film preservation and the cinema industry to discuss tangible steps to protect film and its legacy. The event has since traveled to London and Mexico. The Mumbai edition was hosted in partnership with Indian nonprofit Film Heritage Foundation, established by filmmaker and archivist Shivendra Singh Dungarpur.

"We had a very productive session with the Indian industry, just like we have had in Hollywood and the U.K.," Nolan said at a press conference following the roundtable. "We are really trying to engage filmmakers in this discussion in how we can continue to enjoy a celluloid, photo chemical, analog infrastructure in filmmaking.”

As for the long-running debate over film versus digital, Nolan stressed that “its not about film versus digital. It's about preserving this medium for future generations.”

Dungarpur pointed out that India is “fighting a battle to save celluloid films” and added that when “you have such advocates [Nolan and Dean] talking about co-existence with digital formats, it just strengthens our advocacy for celluloid as a preservation tool.”

Dungarpur added that the immediate outcome of the roundtable was that two of the participants, acclaimed cinematographers Santosh Sivan and Sudeep Chatterjee, pledged that they would shoot their next films on celluloid.

As in most countries, Indian cinemas have also gone digital and replaced film projectors. But when Dungarpur pointed out that tickets for the special screenings of Dunkirk and Interstellar sold out in 10 minutes, Nolan quipped, “It’s also a good film,” eliciting laughter and applause.

Nolan’s visit concluded Sunday with a panel discussion with Dean and Dungarpur, which drew a packed house at Mumbai’s historic National Center for Performing Arts. The trio again reiterated the importance of celluloid, from filmmaking to preservation.

In a bid to revive film processing in India, Kodak announced a collaboration with Mumbai-based Filmlab to offer motion picture services to the local market. This includes color and black and white 16mm and 35mm processing and upgraded scanning services given that film processing labs have almost disappeared in the country.

Kodak also said it would be working with local rental houses to ensure camera availability and offer film workshops.
“India is a leader in the global motion picture industry, and we are proud to invest here,” said Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke in a statement, adding: “We are also eager to work to highlight the importance of film restoration and archiving in India. It is critical to the preservation of Indian culture and its rich cinematic heritage.”

Moreover, Kodak also said it had formed an alliance with Ivanhoe Pictures to identify and support local language and international productions on film in regional markets. According to the companies, Ivanhoe will source development for Kodak of film-based productions, with two as yet unnamed potential projects “already in the pipeline for India.”