Around the silver screen of the Miami Beach Cinematheque, which presents such daring films such as Zama (read our review here), is an extensive library of books on film on shelves that sometimes tower higher than the screen itself. The history of film is just as important for the cinema as movies themselves. The art house has also hosted an incredible series of talks on film, featuring filmmakers as well as local and national critics, called Speaking In Cinema. The series was made possible when the MBC won a Knight Arts Challenge grant. Now the Knight Foundation has helped the art house dive deeper into film history by throwing its support behind the MBC Interactive Archive Project.
Behind this unique programming and conscientious presentation of film is, of course, a hardcore cinephile, founder and executive director Dana Keith. For 50 years — since he was a child, basically — he’s collected promotional material associated with film, from posters to such ephemera as matchbooks. There’s also, of course, literature involved, so of course there are one sheets and premiere day program books but also fun items like pins and even figurines. All of it is being scanned into a digital database as part of an archive that will turn Keith’s collection into a museum of sorts chronicling film promotion from the silent era to the contemporary era. It will be available to be explored on a computer terminal at the cinema, adding another dimension to the cinematheque’s mission to educate and chronicle.
The cinema will host a series of events, debuting the archive on its big screen, as it is compiled, covering one decade after another of film. The unveiling of the computer terminal will take place this Wednesday. Keith has already worked deals with similar art houses across the world to have terminals with access to the archive (this not an on-line website, but MBC is working on an information page about the archive connected to the theater’s website). The events will coincide with the completion of the scanning of collections covering certain periods. The first covers the silent film era (the 1890s to 1920s). Keith says, in about another three months, the period of 1930s should be ready to be revealed. Reflective of the cinema’s interest in film from across the world, the archive is not restricted to Hollywood movies but movies produced across the world.
“Eight thousand, nine hundred scans and photographs of original items were used, just for this first segment of the project,” says Keith on the web page for the the silent film event. He also explains the roll out, which will include special screenings covering each era (the cinema recently screened restored versions of Passion of Joan of Arc and Cabiria). “Every three months we will debut a new decade of images from the archive. This is the first, complemented by an ongoing MBC retrospective of highlights of world cinema. This overview will reveal a world of images to tell the history of cinema in a theatrical setting, set to customized music.”
Visitors to the opening night will be able to explore the archive on the big screen for that night only. Original music will be provided by Gabó, who we introduced you to when he provided live music to silent era Luis Buñuel films at the Cinematheque several years ago (Gabriel Pulido brings soundtrack craft to the early films of Luis Buñuel). During that event, the MBC gave a taste of some of its Buñuel ephemera from the archive, as well, presenting pieces in glass cabinets. Those cabinets are currently being utilized to present original promotional items covering the silent era, as the MBC continues to celebrate the artifacts covering that nascent era of film.
For tickets to the MBC Interactive Archive Project: OVERVIEW OF SILENT FILM (1890s to 1920s), on Wednesday, May 2, at 7 p.m., visit this link. The event will include a reception featuring Coppola Wines.