Preserving Georgia’s cinema:
Hundreds of old film tapes digitalised in modern archive

  • Unique film tapes detailing the rich history of the Georgian cinema will be preserved and digitalised in an initiative by the Georgian National Film Centre. Photo from the GNFC/Facebook., 4 Jul 2016 - 13:39, Tbilisi,Georgia

Famous Georgian cinema classics and rare film footage languishing in archives across capital Tbilisi are being moved to a modern home and being preserved in digital form for future generations to enjoy.

To safeguard the country’s filmmaking legacy, the Georgian National Film Centre (GNFC) announced it would visit archives across Tbilisi to retrieve about 120,000 unique film tapes that represented more than 100 years of Georgian cinema.

The film materials detail the rich history of Georgian filmmaking throughout the Soviet era and are scattered across public and personal archives that are not suitable conditions for storage.

The GNFC said it would study the condition of the tapes – many of them having suffered decades of neglect - before cleaning and sorting the rolls for storage in new, modern repositories.

The tapes are scattered across public and personal archives in Tbilisi. Photo from the GNFC/Facebook.

The material will be stored in new boxes and moved to archives "suitable to modern standards”, the GNFC said.In addition to preserving the unique film rolls and storing them appropriately, the GNFC will also transfer the film material to digital format to further ensure its longevity.

The GNFC said many of the tapes had survived decades of neglect only thanks to enthusiasts who safeguarded the film rolls on their own initiative.

An expert from the French National Centre of Cinema was invited to Georgia by the GNFC last year to study the condition of several old film rolls in Georgia’s archives.

French film expert Beatrice de Pastre, who is Deputy Director of the Film Heritage Department of the French institution, visited the Georgian film archives and prepared a list of recommendations on how the GNFC can best preserve the materials.

Her report will be used by the Georgian agency during its restoration of the tapes.

The GNFC said the material would be moved from their present locations to modern archives. Photo from the GNFC/Facebook.

Furthermore, the GNFC announced it would locate Soviet-era Georgian films stored in state archives in Russia and seek to return them to Georgia for storage in new repositories.

The Georgian cinema has a proud history originating in the early 20th Century when director and cameraman Vasil Amashukeli (1886-1977) produced a number of documentary films including the 1912 work The Travels of Akaki Tsereteli.

Becoming the first Georgian feature film, the work followed the celebrated Georgian public figure and poet Akaki Tsereteli (1840-1915) throughout his visit of the Ratcha-Lechkhumi region of western Georgia.

Launching on Amashukeli’s legacy, Georgian filmmakers produced a diverse range of fiction and documentary works under the Russian Empire, during the three-year Georgian independence of 1918-1921 and most notably, during the seven decades of the Soviet rule.

Cinema directors in the country were especially successful during the 1960s and 1970s, the period considered the renaissance of the Georgian cinema following World War II.

Winning local and worldwide acclaim for their productions, the Georgian cinema suffered during the political turmoil in the country during the 1990s, only recovering its former status over the last decade.