Int’l Film Archivists Converge at FIAF Congress 2024 in Bangkok

Kamori Osthananda




Having graced cultural capitals such as New York, Amsterdam, Beijing, and Sydney, the annual FIAF Congress finally came to Bangkok from April 21st to 26th, 2024, hosted by the Thai Film Archive (Public Organization) or TFA. As the TFA celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, its timely hosting of the symposium underscores the role of film archives and the safeguarding of cinematic heritage.

Advancing film conservation via the FIAF Congress

Founded in 1938 in Paris, the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) represents a collection of film archives dedicated to the rescue, collection, preservation, and dissemination of films, with a membership network of more than 171 institutions worldwide. According to its “Don’t Throw Film Away: The 70th Anniversary FIAF Manifesto,” the FIAF and its affiliates have rescued over two million films in the last 70 years.

The international film archival community has the opportunity to meet at the annual FIAF Congress, which is organized in a different country every year. These events are prepared several years in advance and comprise a symposium, commission workshops, open forums, regional meetings, film screenings, social events, and the FIAF’s annual General Assembly.

Global South perspectives at FIAF Congress 2024

Wood Lin, Mosa Mpetha, Jason Sanders, Sopheap Chea, and Kong Rithdee at the FIAF Congress in Bangkok 2024. Source: The Thai Film Archive

This year, the Thai Film Archive had the honor of hosting the FIAF Congress 2024, welcoming more than 200 participants including archivists, academics, and filmmakers hailing from over 80 institutions to the six-day event full of debate, panel discussions, and the exchange of ideas and initiatives in film preservation. 

The foregrounding of marginalized perspectives was pushed forth in the theme of the FIAF’s symposium, “Film Archives in the Global South,” which explored multifaceted issues of film archiving, such as collections at risk, postcolonial, or decolonial perspectives in film archiving and translational collaboration and solidarity. The Thai Film Archive presented a paper on 16mm film and the unique practice of live-dubbing, a popular form of film projection in Thailand during the 1950s to 1970s.

Sopheap Chea and Kong Rithdee at the FIAF Congress in Bangkok 2024. Source: The Thai Film Archive

The distinctive landscape of Thailand’s cinematic history was showcased during the Congress with an outdoor screening of a silent 16mm film Mae Nak Phrakanong from 1959, projected with a voice artist performing live dubbing. The international delegates were also given a tour of the Thai Film Museum, which narrates the evolution of film culture in Thailand from 1897 to the present, and the film preservation facilities of the Thai Film Archive.

Outdoor film screening at the FIAF Congress in Bangkok 2024. Source: Thai Film Archive

Outdoor film screening at the FIAF Congress in Bangkok 2024. Source: Thai Film Archive

The Congress also featured presentations that delved into various aspects of film archivism, such as a forum on the “Ethics of Film Restoration and Film Exhibition” chaired by FIAF President Peter Bagrov of the George Eastman Museum; a session on “Programming Archive Film as an Artistic / Decolonial Practice” presented by Wood Lin of the Taiwan Film & Audiovisual Institute; and “The Redistribution of Wealth within Film Preservation Community through Film Programming” presented by Jurji Meden of the Austrian Film Museum.

Other prominent archivists participating in the event included May Hong HaDuong, Director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive; Arike Oke of the British Film Institute; and Gillian Moody of the Indigenous Programs at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

The new tide of the Thai Film Archive

The FIAF Congress in Bangkok has set the stage for international recognition of and attention to Thai and Southeast Asia cinema. Following the FIAF Congress in Bangkok, the Thai Film Archive will play host to another major international film event: the 69th Flaherty Film Seminar, originally from New York, will be held for the first time in Thailand at the Thai Film Archive on June 27th – July 2nd.

Childa Uambumrungjit, Director of the Thai Film Archive, said in the Journal of Film Preservation, “Cinema possesses the ability to encapsulate the world, depict the complexities of human lives, and foster an understanding of diversity. Deemed one of humanity’s most effective learning tools, cinema contributes to knowledge development and uplifts the human spirit.” 

As befitting the motto of the Thai Film Archive, “Cinema Enlightens,” the FIAF Congress was a truly enlightening event for film historians and archivists from around the world.

 Chalida Uambumrungjit at the FIAF Congress in Bangkok 2024. Source: The Thai Film Archive

Kamori Osthananda

Kamori is a writer, speaker, and researcher seeking to communicate ideas and stories uncovered through history, culture, and people. She is interested in humanitarianism; through her talks on healthy communities with the UNFPA, writings on Thailand’s disabled youth in the workforce and period poverty, and project on gender equity and climate change, Kamori hopes to continue learning and sharing what can be done to help those disenfranchised in vulnerable communities, while celebrating the culture and heritage of those individuals.

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