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UCLA

Film Buffs, Take Note

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By Hugh Hart

Published Oct 1, 2019 8:00 AM


UCLA’s Film & Television Archive celebrates celluloid diversity.


A still from Killer of Sheep, a film by Charles Burnett ’69, M.F.A. ’77. The UCLA Film & Television Archive restored it from 16 mm to 35 mm.

Student films by members of The Doors. A 1933 exploitation flick called The Sin of Nora Moran. Classic Sherlock Holmes film prints restored to pristine condition. These are just a few of the projects championed by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. “It’s an incredibly diverse collection,” says archive director Dr. Jan-Christopher Horak, who oversees more than 500,000 titles stored at the $180 million state-of-the-art facility in Santa Clarita, Calif.

Partnered with the Packard Humanities Institute, the archive preserves moving images in vaults designed to withstand fire and 8.0 earthquakes. Horak says, “Our 35 mm film will probably last hundreds of years. But the archive of the future is both a physical place and a virtual space. That’s why we’ve started to digitize material and put it online, where you can explore things on your own.”

Online offerings will eventually include Hearst Metrotone newsreels dating back to the 1910s. Using historic newsfilm donated by KTLA, the archive offers free streaming of segments of L.A. Mayor Tom Bradley’s reign. LGBTQ TV series In the Life and African American filmmaker program L.A. Rebellion can also be seen online.

And then there’s Evergreen, made at UCLA by Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison before they formed The Doors. The Manzarek-directed short represents the tip of the student film iceberg. “We have over 1,500 UCLA student films,” Horak says. “Some of which we are now digitizing and putting online.” The archive will show Evergreen and other student films in November at UCLA Hammer Museum’s Billy Wilder Theater.

This fall the archive also launches the Searching for Sherlock: The Game’s Afoot initiative, which includes Robert Downey Jr. as honorary chair. Archive marketing and communications officer Marisa Soto explains, “We’ve partnered with the foremost Sherlock Holmes society, called The Baker Street Irregulars, for a worldwide search to locate missing, lost or deteriorating film prints that the archive can restore and eventually exhibit.” She adds, “I love to target different audiences and connect people with genres they feel passionate about. The archive is one of L.A.’s hidden treasures.”

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