“La digitalización del patrimonio audiovisual es una prioridad estratégica para nosotros”
Informe de industria: Distribución, exhibición y streaming
Peter Dubecký • Director general, Slovak Film Institute
por Martin Kudláč
Con motivo del 60 aniversario del Slovak Film Institute, su director nos explica las actividades que están llevando a cabo con el objetivo de restaurar el patrimonio audiovisual nacional
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Peter Dubecký has been heading up the Slovak Film Institute (SFI) since 1999. He has worked in a variety of audiovisual-related functions: as a member of the executive committee of the Slovak Film and Television Academy, the chairman of the management board of the Academy of Performing Arts, a member of the scientific and artistic board of the Film and Television Faculty at the Academy of Performing Arts, and the vice-president of the Slovak Audiovisual Producers’ Association. Cineuropa talked to the general director of the SFI on the occasion of the body’s 60th anniversary.
Cineuropa: How is the reconstruction of the Lumière cinema and the digitisation department going after last year’s fire [see the news]?
Peter Dubecký: We are investigating the state of the projection technologies, and we have started the migration of data, which represents a total of more than 2 petabytes, so this will also require a lot of time. Although the overall damage assessment is an extremely difficult process, we are proceeding to restore the complete digitisation chain as soon as possible, since the digitisation of audiovisual heritage is a strategic priority for us. After removing the damaged equipment following the fire, we started the planned reconstruction of the Lumière cinema. We have signed a contract with the contractor for the construction works, and if everything goes according to plan, we assume that we will be able to open the renovated cinema in the second half of 2023.
Has the SFI implemented any changes as a result of the pandemic?
The operation of the Lumière cinema was significantly affected by the pandemic. We responded actively to this situation and launched some online screenings. After this experience, we are ready to launch our “Cinema Home” online platform any time now. Access to audiovisual heritage through television, VoD and streaming platforms rose significantly during the pandemic as well as in the period after it.
In 2022, 19 features were completely restored. Could you name any titles that have been restored recently?
Films of different lengths go through the restoration process every year. Last year, in addition to 19 features, we restored short and medium-length films – in total, 114 titles. The selection is done systematically, and the films then go through the process of digitisation. This is how we recently restored Martin Hollý’s 1964 movie A Case for the Defence Attorney, Elo Havetta’s 1972 flick Field Lilies, Peter Solan’s 1964 picture The Case of Barnabáš Kos and Viktor Kubal’s The Bloody Lady from 1980, which then went on to represent Slovakia in a digitally restored form – for example, at the Lumière Classic Film Festival in Lyon.
Our ambition is for every single Slovak cinematographic work to undergo restoration in film laboratories, which means that the most important thing is to set this process within the framework of the long-term Project of Systematic Restoration of the Audiovisual Heritage of the Slovak Republic. It has been continuously supported by the government of the Slovak Republic since 2006, and currently, it looks like it will continue until 2033.
The SFI digitised 54 film objects in 2022. Could you elaborate on which titles these are and how you approach the task of selecting which ones will undergo this process?
Last year, for example, we completed the digital restoration of the film The Garden, directed by Martin Šulík, which we also released on Blu-ray, and we also digitally restored the film Over Hill and Dale by Karel Plicka. But from an institutional point of view, the long-term process of digitising film heritage is more important for us, so that we can then digitally preserve and digitally restore Slovak cinematic works, and then make them available digitally. The selection process is based on several principles. The decisive factor is whether a given film has already gone through the restoration process in film laboratories and can be included in the digitisation process, as without this, no film can be digitised. We also consider factors like whether a work represents the diversity and history of Slovakia.
In 2022, Slovak projects received the highest amount of funding from Creative Europe since Slovakia started participating in the programme. Can you tell us about the most important projects?
Last year was extremely successful for Slovak companies in the Creative Europe programme, as they received a total of €2,595,885 in support, which represents the highest amount so far. However, it is difficult to determine the most significant of the supported projects, because we consider all applicants equal. The support for the three production companies KFS Production, PubRes and Silverart, which were applicants in the European mini-slate development scheme, can certainly be considered a success. This is a new type of support; moreover, Slovak production companies do not receive support on a regular basis, unlike distributors, for example.
The new director of the Slovak Audiovisual Fund, Peter Badač, announced two priorities for the near future: digitisation and sustainability [see the interview]. Has the SFI also set any priorities for the upcoming period?
All of our priorities are in line with the objective of the institution's activities, as laid out in the Audiovisual Act. But since we are in a situation after a fire that had devastating consequences, our priorities for the near future are clear: the renewal of the entire digitisation chain, the reconstruction of the Lumière cinema and the continuation of those activities that were interrupted. It will also be important to come up with new visions for the coming years.
The SFI celebrated its 60th anniversary on 1 April. How do you perceive the position of the institution in the 21st century?
The Slovak Film Institute is an absolutely irreplaceable institution in terms of its activities – not only in Slovakia, but also in the Central European territory, at the very least. The SFI has built a strong domestic and international position during its 60 years of existence. The importance of the institution also lies in the fact that we act as a mandatory legal depository, which means that we take care not only of the audiovisual heritage from the last century, but also of current cinematic works. All audiovisual creations made in Slovakia are archived in digital form at the Slovak Film Institute.
On the occasion of our 60th anniversary, we are preparing several activities this year. One of them is a showcase in cooperation with the National Film Archive in Prague, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. The showcase will present works illustrating the activity going on in the archive and will also address the topics of preservation and digitisation.
Several domestic film festivals will also present special programmes of classic films from the SFI collections. The main event that will draw attention to this year's anniversary will be the release of a six-volume Blu-ray collection with the movies Pictures of the Old World by Dušan Hanák, A Song About the Gray Pigeon by Stanislav Barabáš, The Boxer and Death by Peter Solan, The Organ by Štefan Uher and Crucial Years by Juraj Jakubisko. Films from the collection will reach viewers in digitally restored quality.
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