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In 2017, in order to tackle the ravages of time and film copies’ inevitable wear and tear, the Jerusalem Cinematheque took the decision to march the archive into the 21st century and in the process, bring about a digital revolution in the field of Israel’s audiovisual heritage. To kick things off, the cinematheque’s management reached out to a wide range of peers, institutions, and funds – all of which offered the scheme their full backing, including the Jaglom Foundation, the Beracha Foundation, Mifal HaPayis (Israel’s National Lottery), the Heritage wing of the government’s Ministry of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Development Authority, and the Ministry of Culture.
As part of the scheme, state-of-the-art, top-end equipment worth millions of shekels was acquired and has since been used to clean up the copies and to scan both audio and video. A professional preservation lab running around the clock was set up at the archives. There, all film copies of the Hebrew and Israeli collections are copied and converted into the most advanced digital film formats. The archive team runs a whole system that is in charge of infrastructure, storage, and management of all film master files which supports reception, retrieval, handling, playing, mapping, and optimised management of the archive’s digital assets – including new digital deposits and scanned items.
Alongside restoration works, the archive both initiates and produces restored digital copies of select film works from the Israeli repertoire. What this means for these restoration jobs is that in addition to the auto-cleaning and scanning that takes place at the archive lab, there are also several manual processing stages – cleaning any and all scratches; fixing audio and video that has deteriorated over time, and also meticulous colour treatment (known as colour-grading) –this, in order to retain the film’s original qualities. Some of the films to have been restored thus far include Three Days and a Child (1967), Avanti Popolo (1986), Siege (1969), and Life According to Agfa (1992).
In 2020, after several years of exhaustive scanning and preservation works, the next phase of the scheme began: making the films stored in the archive available to the general public and to professional bodies via a unique, online viewing platform. With the launch of the online platform, the archive has made good on its duty to preserve Israeli audio-visual heritage for future generations, adhering to professional, international standards whilst at the same time, also fulfilling its destiny as a champion of Israeli film, both locally and globally.
The archive’s new website offers access to Israeli film collections of all periods, including a VOD-enabled viewing option, a variety of platforms that enrich and enhance one’s viewing experience, and an in-depth exploration of the country’s documented audio-visual history, as well as collaborations with educational organisations, research institutions, and joint activities with the film industry.
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