Scene from the SFU promo/montage film shot circa 1965.
SFU Archives. Simon Fraser University moving images collection, F-241-3-0-0-0-1. SFU Promo/Loop/Montage. [1965].


Films Capture Visual History and Sentiment of Time Gone By

October 29, 2015

By Michelle Curran

My love of film began with a late night screening of Cinema Paradiso at the local branch of my public library.

The story of successful film director Salvatore is told largely in flashbacks of idealized scenes from his childhood. The film traces Salvatore’s friendship with Alfredo, the projectionist at the Cinema Paradiso, as well as his disappointments and triumphs while coming of age in his hometown.

Cinema Paradiso is a postmodern homage to film and nostalgia. It captures the sentiment and passions we, as archivists and librarians, feel about preserving, transferring, and making accessible moving image heritage, including film, television, video, and digital formats.

At the SFU Archives, we advocate for the preservation of moving images as important educational, historical, and cultural resources. We regard moving images as primary documents that can serve a wide range of research purposes. 

As our culture is increasingly shaped by visual imagery captured with digital technology, we need continued sponsorship and support for moving image preservation. Both of these are vital if we are to preserve our cultural heritage and institutional memory.

Without proper care, treatment, and storage of original film formats, much of our heritage will be lost or destroyed. In Cinema Paradiso, highly flammable nitrate film was routinely used for screenings, and during a major turning point of the story, some film reels exploded.

"Routinely schedule transfers of University records, such as film, to the Archives."

Although the SFU Archives no longer stores nitrate film, there is likely film media stashed away in an office or storage area on campus. Those films are still at risk of deteriorating and shrinking. That’s why it’s always good practice to routinely schedule transfers of University records, such as film, to the Archives.

Toward the end of Cinema Paradiso, Salvatore’s mentor left behind an unlabelled film reel and the old stool that Salvatore once stood on to operate the projector. The film reel contained a montage of all the censored sequences that got cut from the original films that played at Paradiso. This gift from the past is what helps Salvatore come to terms with his own past.

Likewise, an SFU promotional film transferred to the Archives and digitized in 2012 is a montage of sequences spliced together to form a single 16 mm film. It is a visual record of time gone by.

Funding and support for digitizing films like these enable the SFU Archives to continue preserving SFU’s history and moving image heritage for years to come.

Link to digitized records in SFU AtoM

Recommended fonds/collections
In SFU AtoM: Simon Fraser University moving images collection (F-241)

Recommended websites:
CBC Digital Archives
Library and Archives Canada: Film, Video and Sound - Database
National Film Board of Canada