February 06, 2018

Freezeframe: Q&A with Dr. Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the UCLA Film and Television Archive

The UCLA Festival of Preservation is a biannual tour of moving-image works uncovered, restored and preserved by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. The diversity of the lineup—spanning forgotten Hollywood classics, little-known (to Americans) international titles and movies from unsung pioneering directors—ensures a consistently fun and engaging experience for cinephiles. This year’s festival, running through the month of February includes Laurel & Hardy; a resonant documentary about Black Panther Fred Hampton, screening with THE JUNGLE, a short film produced in North Philadelphia in 1967, a few noir crime dramas and two 1960s works by the visionary and largely overlooked director Juleen Compton. We asked Dr. Jan-Christopher Horak, the director of the UCLA Film and Television Archive and a professor of Critical and Media Studies, about how the Festival is developed.

How do you select the works for the Festival?

We choose from the work that has been preserved in the last two to three years before the FOP. From that group, we select titles that represent the breadth and scope of our preservation work.


Are there specific criteria or does that change with each installment?

The criteria remain pretty much the same. Changes in emphasis are often due to factors such as our curatorial programming (when that entails preserving specific films for specifically funded programs), interests of our preservationists, and the wishes of our funders.


What does the preservation process entail?

Most of our work is still analog, meaning our primary goal is to produce master preservation materials in 35mm for long term security. In some cases, material is preserved through digital workflows, e.g. when material is too degraded to archive satisfactory results in analog, or when original material is in smaller gauges that can only be blown up to 35mm with difficulty or when a specific funder requests digital materials. Invariably, original materials are copied onto newer formats. We are also increasingly producing DCPs for access, even when the preservation process is still analog.


Why is it important that films be preserved and restored?

Moving images constitute an integral part of our diverse national culture as works of fiction, art, social document or historical record, providing knowledge, inspiration and enjoyment to audiences. UCLA Film & Television Archive, in keeping with its mission, advocates for the robust circulation of all moving images in all formats by collecting, preserving, curating and making accessible these media for research, education and entertainment.

 

What happens to the films once they've been restored and showcased during the Festival?

Once films are preserved, copies are available for screening domestically and internationally, as well as for viewing at our Archive Research and Study Center.


Which film in this series elicited the strongest reactions?

THE MURDER OF FRED HAMPTON and the two Juleen Compton titles were the most controversial. TROUBLE IN PARADISE, VAMPIRE BAT and the Laurel & Hardy titles are most successful with audiences.


What can you tell us about THE JUNGLE, the documentary filmed in Philadelphia?

We preserved THE JUNGLE after we were made aware of this important independently produced African-American film. We thought it was interesting to view this film in conjunction with the Archive's work on the "LA Rebellion” [directors and films].