Chile’s National Film Library prepares DVD of unreleased silent movies

As the Chilean institution celebrates its 5th anniversary it releases a DVD entitled Images of the Centenary 1903-1933.

Inside the La Moneda Palace Cultural Center, home of the National Film Library.
Inside the La Moneda Palace Cultural Center, home of the National Film Library.

Researchers Mónica Villarroel and Eliana Jara of Chile’s five year-old National Film Library are behind the DVD compilation which celebrates the country’s cinematic heritage, showing images as yet unseen by the Chilean public.

The grainy images bring old Santiago back to life, with umbrella-carrying ladies sauntering down Chile’s central thoroughfare El Alameda de Las Delicias (now called Libertador Bernardo O´Higgins), a crowd following the coffin of Chilean politician Luis Emilio Recabarren, and scenes from the 1910 inauguration of Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts.)

In total there are 17 original short films, ranging from documentary footage to some of Chile’s first fiction films made by pioneers Manuel Domínguez Cerda and Salvador Giambastiani.

Some of the earliest records of the 20th century were lost and burned, explained Monica Villarroel of the Library’s development department in an interview with La Tercera. “At that time the footage was taken on nitrate film, a highly flammable material. Many of the first productions ended up as firecrackers for children playing in the streets,» she explained.

The first archiving of national film began with groups of enthusiasts gathered at Chilean universities in the 1960s, Villarroel continues, but it was not until 2006 that a historical national character began to emerge from the footage. Since then, the National Film Library formed a campaign to recover lost audiovisual documents. “We have recovered 3,831 titles, which are 6,763 rolls of tape,” Villarroel says. Along with this, the Library is carrying out the permanent task of disseminating the material in their salons in different regions around Chile.

Program director Ignacio Aliaga discussed further plans with La Tercera. “In October we will launch the complete works of Aldo France (Valparaíso, Mi Amor), and in two years time we hope to create a digital platform so you can watch movies we have digitized online any time you want,» he said.