We believe that motion pictures are the most important art form to be developed in the last two centuries. If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then a moving image must be worth ten times that. Never before in the history of the human race has it been possible to so effectively and succinctly reveal details of culture, style, story and history in a preservable medium.
Just as we save books of all kinds, it is essential to save as much of our moving image legacy as can be found. Yet early film stocks have proven devastatingly fragile and susceptible to decay. The Library of Congress estimates that 70% of commercial feature films produced before 1929 do not survive in the collection of any American archive or studio. No one has accurately assessed the number of shorts, serials, documentaries, animated and unique amateur films that we have lost.
The search for missing films is an international search. From its earliest days, American film distribution has been an industry that covered the world. Thus, today, many films that are no longer found in America may nevertheless be discovered in distant collections, often in archives that have limited resources. It is essential that these “lost” films be located, examined, cataloged and reported to American film archives.
In addition, saving these important documents will be of limited value to future generations unless the preserved and restored films are available for viewing and study, and the general public is educated as to the value of this heritage and the hard work required to preserve it.
IFE is dedicated to the identification of missing films of all types, the search for these films in both public and private collections around the world, and the reporting of detailed information on these discoveries to our film archives and related organizations.
We further seek to educate the public about the valuable work that film archives do, the emerging technology of preserving both analog and digital assets, and the various opportunities that exist for access to this treasure trove of media history.