‘Preventable’ Fire Engulfs Major Brazilian Cinema Film History Archive

A storage facility belonging to the Cinemateca Brasileira has been engulfed by flames and while there were no injuries, the facility is home to priceless archives of 35mm and 16mm film and other museological objects. The Cinemateca Brasileira is located in São Paulo and is the Brazilian institution responsible for preserving the country’s cinema archive. […]

‘Preventable’ Fire Engulfs Major Brazilian Cinema Film History Archive

A storage facility belonging to the Cinemateca Brasileira has been engulfed by flames and while there were no injuries, the facility is home to priceless archives of 35mm and 16mm film and other museological objects.

The Cinemateca Brasileira is located in São Paulo and is the Brazilian institution responsible for preserving the country’s cinema archive. The building stored highly flammable films as well as historically significant objects like ancient projectors, documents, and archives.

A story by and other initial findings suggest that a short circuit in the air conditioning system may have been the cause of the fire. According to , the 70,000-square-foot building is the latest cultural asset to fall victim to what are preventable disasters, with large blame being placed on the government’s deep budget cuts and negligence.

“The fire at the Cinemateca de São Paulo is a crime against the country’s culture,” João Doria, São Paulo governor, said to the press. “Contempt for the art and memory of Brazil leads to this: the gradual death of national culture.”

Brazilian President Bolsonaro dismantled the Ministry of Culture in 2019 and stopped paying for the Cinematec’as staff as well as ended its contract with a private foundation that oversaw the organization. These moves led to a lapse in care for the large film archive.

The International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), which represents 172 members and associates around the globe, released a statement on the loss.

“While we do not yet know the full extent of the damage, it is likely that this latest catastrophe will have once again caused the loss of significant quantities of film and other key cultural artifacts preserved by the Cinemateca Brasileira, one of the oldest and most respected members of our global network and an essential custodian of Brazil’s rich film heritage,” the FIAF writes.

In the fall of last year, the entire staff of the Cinemateca was dismissed following several months of where none were paid. the FIAF expressed its deep concern over the situation at the time and called on the Brazilian government to help resolve the situation. That call appears to have fallen on deaf ears, as little progress was made. Now, many irreplaceable items are likely lost.

“The future of the Cinemateca Brasileira remains more uncertain than ever, and each passing day puts its unique collections — already in a shameful state of neglect — increasingly at risk,” the FIAF continues.

This latest fire is the second to hit the Cinemateca Brasileira, as one in 2016 burned “some thousand” film roles. While this represented just 0.4% of the total archive, it is all irreplaceable should it be lost.

The Brazilian Report writes that this latest fire is one in a line of disasters that could have been prevented by an active and funded Ministry of Culture. In 2015, the Portuguese Language Museum in São Paulo was destroyed by a fire, and in 2018 almost 90% of Rio de Janeiro’s National Museum — which is also Brazil’s oldest — burned and nearly led to the building’s collapse.


Image credits: Header image by Everton Zanella Alvarenga, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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Photo Books Are the Cure for the Instagram Disease

Photographer and educator Ted Forbes from the Art of Photography YouTube Channel has published a nine-minute video on the subject of photo books, and how he believes that while they contain art, are also art themselves and are a cure for what many might see as the disease that is Instagram. Forbes says he has […]

Photo Books Are the Cure for the Instagram Disease

Photographer and educator YouTube Channel has published a nine-minute video on the subject of photo books, and how he believes that while they contain art, are also art themselves and are a cure for what many might see as the disease that is Instagram.

Forbes says he has a problem, and the problem is buying photo books before he’s even finished reading the ones he already has. To him, photo books are a wonderful way to interact with an artist because the book is a direct representation of what the photographer wants to convey, and how they want to convey it.

“Books are a passion of mine,” he says. “Unlike sitting there scrolling through social media, there are no likes, follower counts, there is no algorithm, there is no ads. At their best, books are a cohesive group of pictures. They are presented directly to you by an artist. You get a one-on-one interaction.”

Forbes says he buys a lot of books to study, to keep, and to revisit.

“This is where you find the language of photography. When you understand this language, you have an understanding of what has been done before you. What do you have to say? what does your book look like?”

Instagram, and arguably all social media, has altered the method by which a photographer can communicate with an audience. Forbes says that books, which are notably much less popular than any social media account, take so much time, effort, and consideration to put together that they will always be a much more valuable way to understand the mindset of any photographer.

“A well-composed book needs to feel like a symphony. Form, impact, and energy tell a well-crafted story and leave an impression on a reader. They are to be experienced,” Ted says.

Eventually, Ted wants to make his own book, but not for the reasons many people turn to social media. He doesn’t want to become famous, he doesn’t need an ego boost. He wants to do a book because he wants to be part of the history of photography and put himself there for personal reasons. In this sense, it doesn’t matter how many people see what he’s done or notice, but he is part of it all the same.

“Photography is a gift that we all participate in,” Forbes says. “I want my voice to be just one sentence in that large book of history — even if it’s only a short sentence. I want that to say ‘yes, I was here.'”

This video and discussion about photo books are uncommon these days but is a reflection on what photography as an art is and where it stands. How photographers see themselves, the art, and the passion of photography varies from person to person. For Ted, the value might be different than it is for any of his subscribers. But that’s ok: that’s the point of art.

For more from Ted Forbes, makes sure to subscribe to the .

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