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Film Archive partners with Park Road Post to save NZ’s film history

Media release – New Zealand Film Archive
The New Zealand Film Archive today described its new four-year programme Saving Frames as a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to save crucial taonga of New Zealand’s film history.

Formally launched at the Film Archive in Wellington this evening by the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, the Hon Chris Finlayson, the project will identify the most endangered New Zealand films from the last 110 years and save hundreds which otherwise would be lost.

Film Archive Chief Executive Frank Stark says, “The Saving Frames project brings to bear all the tools at the disposal of the New Zealand Film Archive – research, active acquisition, conservation and repair, laboratory reproduction, digital transfer and environmentally controlled storage – on the vital task of sustaining New Zealand’s film heritage. Over 50% of the Film Archive’s extensive film collection collection will benefit from this programme.”

Saving Frames has been made possible through a one-off investment of $2million from the Government through the Minister and the Ministry for Arts, Culture and Heritage, announced earlier this year in the 2010 Budget.

Stark says, “This investment will enable the Archive to preserve areas of the nation’s film heritage which need urgent attention. Firstly we need to select works from our collection which have enduring cultural, historical or aesthetic importance for all New Zealanders. In order to make the best possible selections the Film Archive will consult extensively with stakeholders, including the NZ Film Commission, Screen Directors’ Guild, SPADA and Nga Aho Whakaari, as well as individual film makers and researchers.”

In total over 2,400 titles will benefit from conservation. 2,000 films will be transferred onto digital format and preserved, saving them from inevitable deterioration due to the passing of time. In addition up to eight endangered New Zealand films will be completely restored, recreating lost or severely damaged sections.

The focus in the first year will be locating the most endangered: feature films from 1900 – 1999 (with particular attention paid to the body of feature films produced since the mid 1970s); government films from 1900 – 1939; independently-produced newsreels from 1900 – 1970. Additional areas of interest to be covered in the following three years include: documentaries, personal records, short films and artists’ films.

During the event the Minister named the first endangered feature film selected for restoration – the 1940 black and white sound film Rewi’s Last Stand (aka The Last Stand), written, directed and produced by Rudall Hayward, the best-known of the first generation of New Zealand film makers. The film takes its name from the famous battle of Orakau during the Land Wars. Around this Hayward wove a fictional love story between a settler and a young Maori woman played by Ramai Te Miha, later to be Rudall’s second wife and future film making partner. Hayward had already produced a silent film of the same events in 1925. Despite its shoestring budget, the 1940 film placed great emphasis on authenticity of setting and props. It has been selected for preservation as it is the last unpreserved New Zealand feature shot on nitrate film.

The value of the Saving Frames project will be enhanced by a partnership with New Zealand’s leading film laboratory Park Road Post Production, whose expertise in both photochemical processing and digital restoration will ensure the films selected receive the highest level of technical attention.

Cameron Harland, General Manager, Park Road Post Production says “Park Road has worked side by side with the Film Archive for some time, as we share their passion for preserving our historic film treasures. A recent example was the work completed on an early John Ford film Upstream which screened earlier this month in Los Angeles. The celebration of this work being discovered and restored to its past glory in New Zealand was a very big deal in the United States. I am sure this type of celebration will continue in New Zealand as historic titles are brought back to their best.”

The first part of the Saving Frames project, a fundraising campaign for a purpose-built environmentally controlled storage facilities, was launched last November. Construction has begun on the site at Plimmerton on the Kapiti Coast north of Wellington. The building, when commissioned early in 2011, will greatly increase the life expectancy of master materials for over 20,000 films.

The New Zealand Film Archive is an independent, registered charitable not-for-profit trust, established in 1981. The Archive’s unique collection contains items deposited by more than 2,000 individuals and organisations. Until the Film Archive was established, there was no national collection of New Zealand’s moving images and much early material was lost. The collection includes 14,000 home movies deposited by Kiwis from Whangarei to Invercargill so it is truly a national treasure.

VIEW: extract from Rewi’s Last Stand