Professionals restoring “unique“ documentary tapes of Georgian history in state project, 4 Dec 2017 - 16:49, Tbilisi,Georgia

Some of the most unique documentary footage illustrating the contemporary history of Georgia is being restored and preserved under a large-scale state project, before the first modern film archive is built in the country to house the material.

Cinema professionals are working on saving a vast amount of film tapes from the archives of Studio Mematiane, a former Soviet-era institution that housed historical tapes including documentary films and chronicles.

Film tapes featuring political events of the three-year First Democratic Republic of Georgia (1918-1921), the Soviet occupation of the country in February 1921 and the Abkhazian War of the early 1990s are part of the vast archive.

Professionals are cleaning and preserving the tapes at the Georgian Film cinema studio. Photo: Georgia's Culture Ministry press office.

Television series and fiction productions are also part of the material encompassing the historical period from the early 1900s to 2000.

Film critic and Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia representative Nana Dolidze told Imedi TV on Thursday the archive of the studio encompassed over 25,000 boxes worth of tape rolls featuring "unique history of our country".

Maintained through state financing during the Soviet era, the archive lost the financial support with the disintegration of the USSR. The economically and politically turbulent 1990s in Georgia also meant the archive suffered decades of neglect and deterioration of the material.

A further indication of the lack of maintenance of the archive over the years is the fact that around 3,000 of the boxes include footage with unidentified date or content.

Dolidze said the tapes from the entire archive were being cleaned, digitised and catalogued within the project in phases. Around 5,000 boxes worth of material has been processed within the effort since the project was first launched a year ago.

Around a fifth of the boxes containing tape rolls have undergone the treatment under the project so far. Photo: Georgia's Culture Ministry press office.

The work is carried out by professionals at the Georgian Film cinema studio, with the Georgian National Film Centre heading the overall organisation of the project supported by the Culture Ministry.

Dolidze also spoke of the absence of a venue in Georgia that would house all the restored material in the required conditions for their preservation, but noted the issue would be a focus of the next stage of the project.

Within the next phase, the Culture Ministry is due to sign a memorandum for cooperation with French audio-visual professionals early next year, with the deal set to involve construction of a modern cinema archive in Georgia in the next two years.

The project will also involve launching a basis for educating professionals of film tape restoration, preservation and digitisation in Georgia, to counteract that lack of relevant specialists today.

The efforts follow recent state-level projects for returning Soviet-era films from Russian-based archives to Georgia and preserving and digitising hundreds of thousands of Georgian cinema classics and rare footage from archives.