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Restored videos show new skin at the Wexner Center

In today’s digital world, it is hard to imagine storing anything without a digital backup, but thousands of films have been placed in storage vaults around the world only to be found damaged. These damaged films have become the focus of film organizations, such as the UCLA Film and Video Archive, who restore films that have been neglected.

The UCLA Film and Video Archive, which is home to more than 220,000 films and video, will be at the Wexner Center for the Arts from Oct. 4 through Oct. 28. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students and members and $3 for children. A schedule of films can be found on the Wexner Center Web site, wexarts.org.

The problem of film deterioration results from a combination of factors. Early film was stored on nitrocellulose that deteriorates when not kept in cool temperatures. It is also highly flammable. According to the National Film Preservation Society, only 20 percent of all silent films are available today in their entirety.

“Someone might find a film from the 1920s that they just find, and then there’s a rush to restore and preserve it,” said David Filipi, curator of film and video at the Wexner Center. “People are just kind of rushing to restore and preserve everything they can get their hands on because of the materials on which they were made, they are more unstable.”

The movie industry made the switch to cellulose acetate film in the 1950s and solved the problems that arose with nitrate catching on fire, but film still deteriorated. Many films, including well-known movies such as “The Godfather” and “Lawrence of Arabia,” were damaged in storage.

“Lawrence of Arabia” was kind of a classic case and a very famous restoration,” Filipi said. “The negative was in shambles. They had to actually go back and piece together a negative. They had to have some of the actors come back 30 years later to redo some of their lines because the soundtrack had been lost.”

A variety of film genres are being showcased this year in the festival including silent films and documentaries. “The Salvation Hunters,” the fist film by Josef von Sternberg, is being showcased on Oct. 14 and is considered the fist independent film in American cinema. The silent film will be accompanied by the accomplished Columbus musician Derek DiCenzo.

More recent films by independent film director John Sayles will be previewed on Oct. 21. His first film, “Return of the Secaucus 7,” is a trend-setting film that is hard to see. “This is a great way for people to catch up with two of his earlier films,” Filipi said.

The opportunity to see some of these films is a rare chance due to the technical nature of showing them and the lack of distribution. A regular movie theater cannot host this type of event.

“You have to be able to meet certain archival standards to show some of these films,” Filipi said.

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