Martin Scorsese's The Film Foundation Joins New Effort to Restore and Preserve African Films

Martin Scorsese -Silence Premiere-Getty-H 2017
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The foundation's World Cinema Project is partnering with the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers and UNESCO to launch the initiative.

Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation’s has struck a partnership with the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers and UNESCO to launch a long-term project to help locate, restore and preserve films made on the African continent.

Dubbed the The African Film Heritage Project (AFHP), it will identify 50 films with historic, artistic and cultural significance, and will set about restoring them, Scorsese announced Friday.

Through the partnership, The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, in association with its partner and FIAF member archive Cineteca di Bologna, and UNESCO will support the investigation, location and restoration of the initial selection of 50 films as identified by FEPACI’s advisory board made up of archivists, scholars and filmmakers active across the African Continent. A survey to locate the best existing film elements for each title will be conducted in African cinémathèques and film archives around the world.

“There are so many films in need of restoration from all over the world. We created the World Cinema Project to ensure that the most vulnerable titles don’t disappear forever,” Scorsese explained. “Over the past 10 years. the WCP has helped to restore films from Egypt, India, Cuba, the Philippines, Brazil, Armenia, Turkey, Senegal and many other countries. Along the way, we’ve come to understand the urgent need to locate and preserve African films title by title in order to ensure that new generations of filmgoers — African filmgoers in particular — can actually see these works and appreciate them. FEPACI is dedicated to the cause of African Cinema, UNESCO has led the way in the protection and preservation of culture, and I’m pleased to be working in partnership with both organizations on this important and very special initiative.”

Commented FEPACI Secretary General Cheick Oumar Sissoko: “Africa needs her own images, her own gaze testifying on her behalf, without the distorting prism of others, of the foreign gaze saddled by prejudice and schemes. We must bear witness to this cradle of humanity which has developed a rich and immense human, historical, cultural and spiritual patrimony.” He continued, “From the beginning, African filmmakers have strived to celebrate this patrimony through the wonderful art of the cinema. Preserving this filmic heritage is both a necessity and an emergency. These images must be located, restored and shown to Africans and to the world in movie theaters and state-of-the-art cinémathèques."

Said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova: “UNESCO is proud to work with The Film Foundation, under the leadership of Martin Scorsese, and the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers, for the restoration of 50 African films with resonating historic, cultural and artistic significance."