Thursday

22nd Oct 2020

Europe has lost 80% of its silent films

Some 80 percent of European silent films are estimated to have been lost, and, due to legal challenges, even modern digital technology may not be sufficient to prevent something similar happening to other other types of film, the European Commission has warned in a new report.

Only Latvia and Denmark have so far developed film digitisation strategies covering the whole national heritage. Hungary has decided to digitise only a hundred of its movies. Less then a third of member states currently collect digital material in the way they do analogue material, the report shows.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"The loss of 80 percent is an estimate based on the holdings archives we have of the silent period. Notwithstanding the small chance of some films surfacing over time in other countries and hidden caches, we believe it to be correct," Martin Koerber, curator at Deutsche Kinemathek Museum of Film and Television in Berlin, told EUobserver.

All early films by Fritz Lang, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau or Georg Wilhelm Pabst are believed to be lost, along with hundreds of others from the end of the 19th century.

According to the commission, the problem with rescuing the films lies in the lack of a new approach to preserving ageing movie tapes. Conservation of old film in sealed boxes cannot guarantee preservation for future generations. In the digital age, a new access model is needed, the commission says. However, questions about how to store and preserve digital material remain unanswered.

Simple digitalisation is not enough, according to Mr Koerber.

"We need to keep the analogue masters intact in case one has to come back to them. The need for this is certain, as distribution channels and technologies are changing rapidly, and re-digitalisation with better resolution and better technologies in the future should be allowed as a option," he said.

According to him, although the possibilities of digital storage are tremendously interesting, it is many times more expensive than the physical storage of film cans.

Beyond the technological issues, legal difficulties also constrain the effective use of and access to old films. There are several different regimes under which EU member states collect, preserve, restore and share their national film collections.

Simple administrative costs and the time needed to clear the rights often prevent the institutions from providing access to archive material. Some member states would welcome EU intervention on the question of copyright, the report from the commission says.

Film industry professionals themselves can also present an obstacle, Mr Koerber thinks.

"Many producers, especially the smaller units, have no means, no understanding of and no strategy for long term archiving," he said, adding: "It is an important political task to bring producers and archives closer and make them work together."

Green Deal

EU farming deal attacked by Green groups

EU agriculture ministers at around 4am on Wednesday reached a common position on the bloc's farming policy post-2020, including ring-fencing part of the CAP budget for initiatives that protect the environment - but with much flexibility for member states.

France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder

Muslim NGOs targeted by the France's retaliatory response to the brutal murder of a schoolteacher claim the government is labelling "innocent Muslims as 'Islamists" just to be able to say that they are doing something".

Opinion

All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter

The European Court of Justice is currently facing a major question: can religious freedom coexist with animal welfare? The decision of whether religious slaughter can continue is expected in a matter of weeks.

News in Brief

  1. Commission to press Croatia on migrant 'abuse' at border
  2. Belarus opposition awarded 2020 Sakharov Prize
  3. Belgium's foreign minister in intensive care for Covid-19
  4. MEPs restrict CAP funding for bullfighting
  5. Coronavirus: Liège is 'the Lombardy of the second wave'
  6. UK to keep out EU nationals with criminal past
  7. Report: EU to restrict travel from Canada, Tunisia, Georgia
  8. Pope Francis supports same-sex civil unions

Opinion

All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter

The European Court of Justice is currently facing a major question: can religious freedom coexist with animal welfare? The decision of whether religious slaughter can continue is expected in a matter of weeks.

Investigation

EU money used by neo-Nazi to promote Holocaust denial

A prominent Holocaust-denier has made the cover of an EU-funded newsletter, which was published by an avowed German neo-Nazi with a lengthy criminal record. The lack of clear labelling of the MEP behind it violates European Parliament rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  3. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  6. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity

Latest News

  1. Nato and EU silent on Turkey, despite Armenia's appeal
  2. EU tells UK to decide on Brexit as deal 'within reach'
  3. EU farming deal attacked by Green groups
  4. France vows tough retaliation for teacher's murder
  5. All eyes on EU court for decision on religious slaughter
  6. 'Big majority' of citizens want EU funds linked to rule of law
  7. EU declares war on Malta and Cyprus passport sales
  8. EU Commission's Libya stance undercut by internal report

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us