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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Saturday, March 7, 2020
By Akshan Shah, Politics and Sociology Major, '21, FLEFF blogging intern, Philadelphia, PA
“Doing this work, we feel like we are not alone,” Andres Levinson remarks.
Late on a Friday afternoon, I spoke over the phone with Argentinian archivist, researcher, and curator Andres Levinson. I could hear city sounds from his open window in Buenos Aires and occasionally laughter from his fellow film archivists.
His voice is filled with passion, and he speaks excitedly about the work that he does not only at the film archive and museum called Museo de Cine, but internationally. Levinson selects some of the over 80,000 films at the archive every year to travel with him to festivals and screenings such as the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.
Levinson became an archivist after he discovered that about 85% of the films from the early 20th century were lost. His quest to better understand the people of a century ago have led him towards the work of film restoration.
Dr. Levinson feels as though the films should have scars, dirt, and some holes in them. While the story is fundamental to preserve, it is just as significant to stay true to the film’s history. It would not be fair to the film to make it look brand new, and he makes sure to demonstrate the passage of time in his work.
It is also important to take the films out of Buenos Aires, says Levinson. Over the years, he has forged international links in both the United States and Europe, travelling frequently to festivals and overseas archives.
Ultimately, for Levinson, film is about community. He seeks to tell stories from Argentina, but to make sure that they are done in the international context.
“We are part of an international community with people that are trying to preserve these old films. So in some way, it feels like we’re part of something else, something wider than what we’re doing here,” Levinson declares.
Despite the distinctly Argentinian landscapes and culture of the films that Levinson shows, they have garnered international appeal. “Of course, films have a nationality, but if you like films, it doesn’t matter where they come from.” He says with confidence. “The past is a foreign country.”
For example, films about Argentina prior to the coup d'etat in 1930 show a promising nation that Levinson says some thought would rival the United States.
Watching the films helps reveal much of our contemporary politics. While there is hope in Argentina, the unstable system has led to many feeling unenthusiastic about the future. Levinson hopes that the old films may help us foster hope for the next generation.
Levinson argues that politics and community are inherent to archival films, and he seeks to share with the international community lessons from foreign lands of the past.
His film, translated as “Through Argentine Lands,” will screen at FLEFF later this month.