Skip to main content

The Art of Preservation and La balada de Gregorio Cortez at the 15th FICM

Presented by Daniela Michel, a talk on The Art of Preservation took place, with the participation of Michael Pogorzelski, a conservationist of the Academy of Arts and Cinematographic Sciences of the United States, and Alejandro Pelayo, director of the Cineteca National. The conversation was part of the activities of the program From Mexico to Hollywood and the Oscar®. Also present at the event, was John Bailey, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The discussion was an introduction to Robert M. Young's La balada de Gregorio Cortez (1982), a movie recently restored by the Academy Film Archive and one of the first Hollywood productions to show empathy with the situation of Mexican-Americans and racial discrimination in the United States.

Daniela Michel, John Bailey

According to Michael Pogorzelski, the Academy Film Archive was founded in 1991 to continue the work of the Margaret Herrick Library, mandated by the United States Government Board to collect and preserve significant contracts, films, letters and contributions for art. Pogorzelski added that this archive has fiction, documentary and experimental cinema material with artistic value.

La balada de Gregorio Cortez was restored by the Academy to be presented at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, a festival that has Edward James Olmos as one of its founders, star of this film that was lost for several years. The restorers, according to Pogorzelski, hoped to find at least six cans of negatives from the film, but to their surprise, they tracked 16 cans of Super 16 film, made in the 1980s.

Restoring it represented a challenge since the film's format only had one-sided perforations to take advantage of the material and to project the image to the size of a movie screen. "Never before, nor after, did we see a movie cut like this. There were long stretches where there was no image and when running it could see the cuts clearly," said Michael Pogorzelski. Edward James Olmos had a copy of the 35mm film stored in his house, which served as a guide to restore and order the 16 rolls of negatives that had been found.

For his part, Alejandro Pelayo spoke of the work that the Cineteca has played for the preservation and diffusion of national and international film material. He remembered the fire that the old Cineteca suffered in 1982, where they lost about five thousand films that were sheltered in a secret room behind the Fernando de Fuentes Room. In addition, he spoke about the work that involved restoring and digitizing El automóvil gris (1919, dir. Enrique Rosas), which required two years and six people dedicated to the project.

Finally, the director of the Cineteca National said he was excited to present, for the second consecutive year, "material in process" of classic films in Mexican cinema such as The Outsiders (1967, dir. Juan Ibañez), Patsy My Love (1969, dir. Manuel Michel), Las puertas del paraíso (1970, dir. Solomon Laiter), The Snares of Love (1969, dirs. Tito Novaro, Manuel Michel, Jorge Fons), Paraíso (1970, dir. Luis Alcoriza) and Para servir a usted (1971, dir. José Estrada), which are part of the Cinematográfica Marte program in this edition of FICM.