Last summer, I had the great fortune of attending what may well have been a once-in-a-lifetime cinematic experience: viewing a stellar film print of Buster Keaton's 1924 silent film, The Navigator, accompanied by a live in-theater musical performance on the singing saw, piano, and accordion by local band Dreamland Faces. While I was fully aware of how rare the experience was in the moment, I don't think I adequately appreciated just how many classic films have been lost to the ravages of time and lack of restoration. Since then I've gained a new admiration for film preservationists (and local theaters and filmists - thanks, Barry & the Trylon) who have made experiences like the one I had possible for so many people.
And just this weekend I was once again able to travel back in movie theater time, plopping down in a comfortable theater seat in 2010 to view a restored 35mm print of Akiro Kurosawa' 1950 classic, Rashomon. It's true, I could have watched both Rashomon and The Navigator on DVD or even for free online, but neither would have provided the pure cinematic experience as it was meant to be. Similarly, next year by this time people will be watching Avatar on their iPod Touches and 3D televisions, but they won't actually be seeing Avatar.
Fortunately, for the love of film and for the sake of all of us, a lot of people are working very hard to make sure classics of yesteryear and yesterday remain available for viewing in their original form for years to come. The National Film Preservation Foundation has preserved 1,563 films in just over 10 years, and with our help, they can continue to "save America's film heritage" and "support activities nationwide that preserve American films and improve film access for study, education, and exhibition." (View some of the restored film footage here.)
To that end, please check out For the Love of Film: A Film Preservation Blogathon hosted by Ferdy on Films and The Self-Styled Siren, with the participation of more than 50 bloggers and film critics from around the world. The purpose of this blogathon is both to educate and, of course, to fundraise. If you contribute just what you would normally spend on a movie ticket ($10), thousands could be raised in support of film preservation - including films that may, like Rashomon, make their way back to a theater near you. Your donation is fully tax-deductible and can be made securely via Network for Good here.
Thanks to Marilyn (Ferdy) and Farran (The Siren) for their hard work on this over the last month, and to all of the participants for spreading the word and supporting the cause!
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