09 · 25 · 17

Help save the Permanencia Voluntaria film archive

Among the material damages left by the devastating September 19 earthquake are those of the Permanencia Voluntaria film archive, the only independent film archive in Mexico that specializes in the collection and preservation of popular Mexican cinema movies, as well as other unique materials such as posters, documents and promotional items. The earthquake caused severe damage to the building that houses the archive and put all the material it shelters at risk.

Located in a warehouse area of Tepoztlán, Morelos, the Permanencia Voluntaria archive has preserved, in particular, “ficheras” movies, “rumberas” and several El Santo films.

“Permanencia Voluntaria is an initiative that is personal as well as scholarly: Viviana García Besne, the archive’s director, is the daughter of the family that produced pictures once dismissed as ‘the worst in Mexico’ but now celebrated as an indispensable cultural expression of the country. In her own feature Perdida (Lost, 2012), García Besne movingly documented her quest for a lost heritage. Now it is once again in danger.” wrote Paul Julian Smith for Film Quarterly.

A couple of years ago, Garcia Besne joined forces with Michael Ramos Araizaga, artistic director of ULTRAcinema Experimental Cinema and Found Footage; and Paulina Suárez Hesketh, general director of Ambulante, to catalog and preserve the archive of her great-uncle, producer Guillermo Calderón Steel.

“Typical materials held by Permanencia include a 16mm print of the sex comedy Mujeres encantadoras (1958), which screened to lucky filmgoers in the archive building’s ‘microteatro’ last year; posters of Santo contra Hombres Infernales (1961), in honor of the centenary of Mexico’s greatest lucha libre wrestler; and the soundtrack of the original Bellas de noche (1975), whose namesake documentary on now elderly showgirls won awards this year” Paul Julian Smith added.

Viviana García Besne wrote a letter explaining the different threats that put the archive at imminent risk, as well as the way to help immediately rescue the compromised materials.

If you want to make a contribution to preserve this invaluable archive, visit the campaign on gofundme.