DigiPolish

Restoration is really care and attention for who we are.

Kasia Figura

For over seven years, the Polish Film Institute has helped digitize the greatest works of Polish cinema. So far its employees have been able to support film studios and post-production companies through the Operational Programs, spending over PLN 20 million to restore more than 110 titles. Over those years Poles have become excellent film restoration specialists. It is particularly gratifying in the context of the PLN 78 million EU grant that will be devoted to the digitization of Polish cinema – more than 160 feature films, thousands of chronicles and documentaries are waiting to be digitized. „We’ll be starting right away!” – states the Director of the Polish Film Institute – Magdalena Sroka.

Can we picture the history of Polish and world cinema without Andrzej Wajda's Man of Iron, Jerzy Hoffman's The Deluge, and Wojciech Jerzy Has's The Saragossa Manuscript, where any memories of those masterpieces can only be found in textbooks? According to a study by UNESCO, over 80% of analogue materials could deteriorate within the next 20 years. The film tape ages and fades over time. If it is improperly stored, it becomes vulnerable to additional damage: scratching, deformation and mold. The lack of professional conduct that effectively counteracts this process is equivalent to the loss of priceless treasures of Polish film culture. That is why digitization is so important, because it not only pays homage to cultural heritage, but also protects it for present and future generations. It is crucial to be aware of the seriousness of the situation and the extent of potential damage. Since the Polish Film School cinema has been a unique way to showcase our culture abroad. „During the years spent behind the Iron Curtain, Polish filmmakers repeatedly proved that despite their isolation they are still citizens of the world who, through their work, become a formidable voice in the discussion of its condition. Our history, our culture, our traditions are all values that constitute us – we must be particularly respectful towards them and try work our hardest to preserve them for the years to come. We are at a point in our history where, if we do not provide adequate care towards protecting the film heritage, we might be left with just a fraction of it” – says the director of the Polish Film Institute. Films are an important part of Polish culture. Over the years they have shaped our national identity, posed important existential questions, united us around values and mobilized for change: social, political and moral.

We owe them success at international festivals and making the Polish school of operators famous worldwide. It is the cinema that has for years attracted eminent ambassadors, such as Martin Scorsese, to our culture. Fortunately, today we are capable of restoring the great resources of Polish cinema at world level. The experience of Polish companies and institutions involved in this process constitutes the capital of the Polish economy and is the pride of this part of the creative sector. A few hundred already restored Polish films have been re-released in digital versions in Poland and around the world, where they are recognized not only as notable film works, but also appreciated for the quality of their digital restoration. The human eye is very perceptive and can quickly notice if something is off in the picture. Sometimes this something is a strand of hair, sometimes the damage inflicted n the tape in transport, and sometimes the strange image is the result of imperfections of the equipment that could simply not operate in accordance with the creators’ wishes. This is where digitization comes in. Restorers scrutinize the films with a magnifying glass in hand – what post-production companies, film studios and National Film Archive’s Audiovisual Institute do is intricate work of thousands of hours on just a few dozen minute-long film film, but it is also – and maybe above all – excellent sense and sensitivity to detail, nuance, composition, intention. „It is very easy to break the structure of the film. But the effects of their work surprise and delight us every time” – says Renata Pawłowska-Pyra from the Polish Film Institute, the director of the project of digitization of Polish films in the Institute. In the context of digital restoration, it is often said that we rediscover the film – and there is no exaggeration in those words. With the cleaned up image, you can see the details, the colors become more vibrant, the digitization of the sound allows you to hear something that could have been missed before – we might not get a whole new movie, but we definitely get an improved one.

„There is magic in film. A film is a record of history, mood, climate. That's why movies salvaged by digital technology are a huge achievement.” – stated Tadeusz Konwicki after the premiere of the digitally restored Salto. Magdalena Sroka adds: „The fact that we can bring new life into our works and leave them for future generations in an almost perfect state fills us with pride, but we can also feel the burden of responsibility upon us.”