For Rick Prelinger (Washington, 65), the capital of cinema in the United States is not Los Angeles, but Detroit. "That's where more films were filmed, more than between Hollywood and New York combined, it was the most industrialized region and many corporate film companies were created, it became an incredibly active production pole, it's a story that we still have what to rebuild. " At the beginning of the eighties, Prelinger began to collect that type of films, anonymous for the most part, for which no one was interested. Not only those old Detroit documentaries, but an infinity of advertising, propaganda, educational, scientific and domestic films, scattered by all kinds of institutions, companies and homes. Sometimes it was not even behind finished pieces but raw materials, unused, discarded. He called that vast and polymorphic group "ephemeral cinema", a paradoxical term if we think about the vocation of permanence of everything that has been filmed. "It is true that there is something eternal in the movies, something that comes back with them every time they are shown, however, the media is not eternal, there comes a time when they decay, and there are many films that had specific and passing objectives, which today they are interesting especially for what they have of accidental registration, "he reflects.
Of that random, involuntary and even prophetic quality that can be displayed by any film, no matter how tiny, Prelinger will speak at the Punto de Vista Festival in Pamplona, where on Monday he shows his latest compilation film with pieces from his archive. Throughout the week, he will give a collaborative cinema workshop. He will also be at the Museo Reina Sofía, which on the 17th has scheduled a talk to discuss the role of archives in the construction of historical accounts.
"The reflection on the files is considered for specialists, but we all keep things and normally we do not do it very well," says Prelinger. "The survival of our personal and collective memory is urgent, the archives must stop being seen as repositories where the registers sleep eternally and begin to be seen as places for commitment, to think of other ways of organizing society. that history occurs, not only be stored. "
For this archivist, filmmaker and university professor, the dissemination of material from unseen or ignored genres plays an important role in the formation of a certain historical sensitivity: "I believe that access to raw material is a source of immediate evidence and a This is an opportunity for many people who do not usually find themselves with this kind of documents, a lot of what we see in the media, especially when it comes to historical material, is manipulated, intensely mediated and assembled, and we let the public draw their own conclusions. "
So much so, that some of his latest compilation films, made with materials from his own archive, have no sound and carry this initial warning: "Make your own soundtrack". It extends an invitation to the public of the movie theaters, so that it makes comments aloud while the projection runs, forming a kind of improvised assembly. "In these materials there are incredible evidences of everyday life, especially in domestic movies, which for years are the largest part of my collection." Because of the empathy they cause, domestic movies are a wonderful way to bring the History to the people, assures. "When you show domestic movies on a big screen, they transform into something different: the spectators begin to behave like geographers, or anthropologists, they make that phrase that I like so much, which says that everyone should become their own historian" .
In 2002, the collection of Prelinger – some 60,000 titles then, to which it has later added more than 12,000 – was acquired by the Library of Congress of the United States. He continued to collect, and today his archive is still alive and growing, with new funds managed through an image agency. But it also promotes alternative forms of diffusion. At the end of the 1990s, part of its collection – 10% – began to be hosted on the Internet Archive, the largest digital library with free access on the Internet. Since then, millions of people have been able to download, recycle or simply freely reproduce large number of pieces of your file. The note that Prelinger signs on the page that gives access to his collection reads: "I strongly encourage you to share, exchange, redistribute, transfer and copy these films, and above all I encourage you to do so for free. Work that you produce derived from the use of these films will be yours to be used, published, reproduced, sold or distributed in any way you wish, without limitation. "