Friday, February 18, 2011

Spotlight on: “These Amazing Shadows”

Tim Roth joins several other film luminaries in praising the work of the National Film Registry in "These Amazing Shadows."

85 percent of all movies from the silent era are lost forever. Half of all sound films made before 1950 have vanished.

The most amazing thing about the films we treasure so much are that they are so perishable. We tend to think of movies as being some kind of medium that captures performances, ideas and visions permanently – but they don’t. (In fact, many more recent releases – even Coppola’s “Godfather” films – have required extensive restoration and preservation work.)

“These Amazing Shadows” chronicles the efforts of the National Film Registry to save these priceless works of art. Initiated in 1988, this list of all manner of film documents – more than 500 to date, added to each year – is presided over by the United States National Film Preservation Board.

This fascinating and surprisingly moving film is part celebration, part detective story. Volatile nitrate film stock, so flammable that it can spontaneously combust, is ferreted out by intrepid researchers. Many times, it has deteriorated or cohered into “hockey pucks” – solid masses of matter.

Those who watch “Shadows” will see feats of technological magic, and, more importantly, begin to understand how much depth and breadth there is to the American film experience. The Registry contains newsreels, silent films, experimental films, short subjects, films out of copyright protection, film serials, home movies, documentaries, independent films, television movies, and music videos.

Anyone who wants to know the story behind the stories we tell each other in darkened theaters will relish “These Amazing Shadows.”

These Amazing Shadows


Dir: Kurt Norton and Paul Mariano

Feature Documentary


88 min.

Presented at the First United Methodist Church

Friday, Feb. 18, at 5 p.m.

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