Exhibition Reel of Two Color Film (ca. 1929)

An experimental color short in Brewster Color, preserved by George Eastman House and presented on the More Treasures DVD set.


Contact: Annette Melville (415-392-7291, melville@filmpreservation.org)

The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia and the National Film Preservation Foundation announced today a new partnership to preserve and make available eight short American motion pictures from the silent era that no longer survive in the United States.

Through a new program called “Film Connection: Australia–America,” these “lost” films will be preserved and accessed through the five major American silent film archives: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, George Eastman House, the Library of Congress, the Museum of Modern Art, and the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Copies will also be publicly available in Australia.

Digital technology is at the core of the collaboration. The Australians will send the nitrate film to Haghefilm Conservation B.V., a Dutch film laboratory specializing in film restoration. There the motion pictures will be scanned to digital files. The Americans will make any necessary digital corrections and return the files to Haghefilm for outputting to 35mm film and color tinting. At the end of the process, the nitrate will be returned to the NFSA–Australia, along with new exhibition prints; the preservation masters and a second set of exhibition prints will be shipped to America. The NFPF will coordinate the project.

Only a fraction of the American films created during the first four decades of the motion picture still survive in the United States—probably fewer than 20%. Immensely popular, American silent films, however, had a worldwide audience, and many works discarded by their producers survive abroad as prints salvaged decades ago at the end of theatrical runs. The Library of Congress has estimated that roughly one-third of American silent-era features that survive in complete form exist only in archives outside the United States.

“Repatriation projects, efforts to return films to their country of origin, have been done before,” remarked Paolo Cherchi Usai, Director of the NFSA–Australia. “What makes this partnership different, and I believe, ground-breaking, is that it recognizes that American silent film is a shared cultural patrimony. In this project, unlike earlier efforts, the nitrate source material will return to its home in the NFSA–Australia. New preservation masters and prints will go to our sister archives in the United States for safekeeping and access. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

“Silent film fans in the United States have long dreamed of enjoying lost American films saved by far-sighted archives in other countries,” said Leonard Maltin, of the NFPF Board of Directors. “This pilot project is a significant step in the right direction. Let’s hope it builds a path to wider international collaboration.”

The National Film Preservation Foundation is the charitable affiliate of the National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. Since starting operations in 1997, the NFPF has helped save more than 1,270 films at archives, libraries, and museums across 44 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.

The National Film and Sound Archive, Australia’s audiovisual archive, is dedicated to documenting and interpreting the Australian experience in film, video, and sound. The NFSA–Australia collects, stores, preserves, and makes available Australian screen and sound material from the first moving images to contemporary television and radio and cutting-edge avant-garde.

A statement from Mr. Peter Garrett, Australia’s Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts is available here.

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