An Asia Pacific Cinema Documentary Heritage Conference took place in Manilla from 26-28 October. MOWCAP and the Asia Culture Center are very pleased to have supported (along with many others) this important initiative through our 2018 small grants program.
Moving images are how the memory of the world of the 20th and 21st centuries has been and is being captured, preserved and transmitted. Photojournalists’ recording of historic events as they take place and filmmakers’ efforts to document, investigate and look below the surface or to convey literary works or fantasy — in all these ways film represents the quintessential modern means of communication.
Yet the registers of the Memory of the World Programme include a mere handful of film items. For example, despite the rich and varied cinematic heritage of our region, The International Register contains one film from our region – Australia’s The Story of the Kelly Gang from 1906, the world’s first feature film, while the Asia Pacific Regional MoW Register contains only four items (The Soul of the Reef, a documentary film from Iran; the Neo Lao Hak Xath Film Collection of 450 newsreel and documentary films from Laos; Cathay-Keris Malay Classics of 91 surviving titles from Singapore’s golden age of filmmaking; and The Emerald Jungle (Mya Ga Naing) a 1934 silent film from Myanmar). An analysis of all the national registers needs to be done, but we anticipate it may be similarly bare. The Philippines national register contains a single item, and it is a film: Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? (“This Is How We Were Before, How Are You Doing Now?”), a 1976 Filipino romantic musical drama set in the era of Spanish colonisation in the Philippines, directed by Eddie Romero.
It was to address this paradox that the noted film historian from the Philippines, Professor Nick Deocampo (Chair of the Philippines National MoW Committee), decided to call a conference on Asia Pacific Cinema Documentary Heritage from 26-28 October 2018, to coincide with the centenary of Philippine cinema and the well-known Quezon City Film Festival. The conference brought together for the first time the two communities of the film world and the Memory of the World Programme (represented by Lim Ming-Kuok from the UNESCO Jakarta Office, Roslyn Russell (Chair of the Australian MoW Committee), and Helen Jarvis (member of MOWCAP’s Register Sub-Committee).
The conference began with a film Screening of Our Family Album by Charles Musser and Threese Serana which served as the main text for Charles Musser’s keynote talk on documentary heritage. Certificates were then presented for three items of documenatary heritage inscribed or submitted for the Philippines national MoW register (including the Fernando Poe Jr Archives of his prolific film output). This was followed by two days of viewing and discussing examples of film restoration and preservation, together with harrowing tales of loss of our cinematic heritage due to deterioration, neglect, damage or even wanton destruction.
A workshop on nominating to Memory of the World registers led to the identification of 18 potential nominations for national or regional registers from the Philippines, Bangladesh and Malaysia.
The photo gallery below shows stills from the four films inscribed on the MOWCAP register and from the “Story of the Kelly Gang” inscribed on the international register.