Cecilia Cenciarelli; “The restoration of ‘The Color of Pomegranates’ was Scorsese’s idea.”

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Sergei PARAJANOV © M. Vartanov

The restoration of Sergei Parajanov’s  film  The Color of Pomegranates” (1967), which is the initiative of the World Cinema Foundation, is already finished and will be shown in 2014 in the Cannes  international film festival in the out of competition program of “Cannes Classics.” The “Kinoashkharh” was informed about this by the person in charge of the restoration procedure, manager Cecilia Cenciarelli.

Since the very first day of the beginning of the restoration procedure, Cenciarelli has been following these activities, except for the technical part. And now she had arrived in Armenia to meet the people who had close ties with Parajanov, had worked with him and taken part in the shootings of ‘The Color of Pomegranates.’

During her stay of three days in Yerevan, Cenciarelli met anthropologist, ethnographer Levon Abrahamyan, composer Tigran Mansuryan, choreographer Vilen Galstyan, painter-decorator Stepan Andranikyan and with Zaven Sargsyan, the director of S. Parajanov’s museum, who told her lots of memoirs and details about Parajanov and the shootings of  ‘The Color of Pomegranates.’

- It is the most important part of the restoration procedure as a book will be written in the future just like in the case of other projects. Of course, it will be published later, – she said. – I am extremely happy for all the meetings. Restoring a film also means giving it a second breath, bringing it back to the big screen, and for doing this job properly enough, it is necessary to go back to the roots. It is possible to go back to the roots by not only reading interviews and articles, but also by direct contacts and by gathering everything in one place.

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My first impression is that Parajanov had surrounded himself with special people who were leaders those days. Although a lot has changed since 1969, when talking with people I realized that they have no doubt about him being a genius, about his type. And it is interesting that all the people who once worked with Parajanov, have become famous; one became a photographer, another one a musician, the third an ethnographer. I am sure that working with Parajanov has worked a great role in their careers.

There were great revelations during the meetings. I noticed how profound Parajanov had been. He seems to have had everything in himself in 360 degrees, when he was talking to a film director,he could bring in choreographic ideas, when talking to a musician he could express his imaginations about music as well, and the same was with painting. As a matter of fact, the fame of the director was that he managed to gather everything in the conception of “Parajanov” with his mentality.

Why and how was “The Color of Pomegranates” chosen? It’s difficult for Cenciarelli to give exact answer to this question; she thinks that it was Scorsese’s idea. But one thing is clear; everybody liked that idea.

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Martin Scorsese’s foundation, founded in the beginning of the 1990s, had a purpose of restoring only American films. There existed no tradition of restoring films before that in the USA. Scorsese invited producers Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg to start these activities, proving that otherwise a huge heritage will be lost starting from the period of silent films. The foundation has restored 600 films from the 1990s to the present day.

But in the beginning of the 2000s Scorsese realized that restoring only Italian and American films is not enough. In 2007 Scorsese founded the World Cinema Foundation, the idea of which was to revive forgotten and not well-known films. And the restoration procedure of non-famous films of other countries was launched which were prone to destruction. In the framework of the project many forgotten and non-famous but valuable films of Senegal, Turkey, Brazil and India have been restored. Till the present day almost 20 films of this rank have been restored.

- By saying neglected films, we mean the financial problems existing in a specificcountry which have not made it possible to preserve films of cultural value, or this cultural value has not been known in the world arena. We have started the restoring procedure with this very purpose, – says Cecilia.

According to her, the problems of cinematography and its preservation vary in each country, - In Thailand, for example, there is a very good laboratory of post-production, but they have never experienced restoration. In Egypt it’s the opposite; the restoration tradition is very strong, the idea exists, but they don’t have enough equipment, as if they are still in the 70s. In India 1500 films are produced annually. It is surprising that they are not interested in the past, and the government has no support in the preservation and restoration. This is a new procedure, and there exist lots of films in the world which need to be restored.

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As for the choosing standards of films prone to restoration by the foundation, it is decided by the council consisting of producers of different countries with the help of which the necessary counseling is provided: -Scorsese himself can give numerous pieces of advice, make suggestions. There also exists a council of  archivists, who can give advice as well. We have an expanded list of programs, working on which takes a lot of time. Sometimes some details of a film are lost, political turns take place which commonly endanger the existence of films. For instance, we have found a 35 mm film from Iran, the only sample, and have restored it.

What right does the foundation gain after restoring the films and does it follow the destiny of the restored films?

-We are a non-profit organization, and if there is any income after the spreading of a film, then this sum is shared with the cooperating organization, and what is left is used on films yet to be restored, - says Cenciarelli. –We work with a network of certain sponsors, we know which sponsor to turn to when taking each film, and this way we procure sums of money, explaining the importance of further preservation and restoration of films. As for the further destiny of films, they have no commercial life. We start organizing screenings in educational centers, at universities. We want to make sure that the new generation evaluates the work we do. Apart from this, we represent them in Berlin, Cannes, Venice and other film festivals so that they are circulated again. 

Let us note that the restoration activities of Sergei Parajanov’s ‘The Color of Pomegranates’ started a year ago. The national cinema center of Armenia has provided the World Cinema Foundation all materials kept in the national archive of Armenia.

Ruzan Bagratunyan

 

 

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