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Updated Monday, December 3, 2012 at 09:18 PM

Newly restored film classics to screen in Seattle

By Moira Macdonald
Seattle Times movie critic

Some old favorites are new again at SIFF Cinema at the Uptown this weekend. Newly restored versions of "Lawrence of Arabia," "All About Eve," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Spy Who Loved Me," "Alien," "Singin' in the Rain" and more — 13 movies total, ranging from the 1930s to the 1980s — will screen as part of the Festival of the Archives, copresented with the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA).

The nonprofit association is having its annual conference in Seattle this week, with 500-550 attendees expected; the festival, open to the public, is its showcase.

AMIA managing director Laura Rooney described conference attendees as wide-ranging: movie-studio employees responsible for restoring classic films; representatives from the Library of Congress; local public-TV staffers; and international attendees (representatives from the national film archive of Norway and from a Rwandan archive that is providing access to filmed records of genocide, to give just two examples). Essentially, she said, they are "people who are responsible for the preservation, restoration and access to moving image materials."

Festival highlights

Colleen Simpson, festival co-director and AMIA treasurer, said the 13 films in the festival all received significant digital restoration work, each with a different approach. "It's basically the look of the color — each stock had a slightly different look," she said. "You want it to look like it did when it was originally released."

Each film in the festival, which kicks off with "Lawrence of Arabia" on Thursday (probably the most ambitious restoration of the festival, Simpson said), will be introduced by an AMIA archivist who will discuss the specific process of restoring that film. Festival passholders will be invited to a special longtime tradition Wednesday: the AMIA Archival Screening Night. This year's edition will include the best of 20 years of the event, "anything from a home movie to a historical documentary or newsreel, or public-television production or restoration demo," Simpson said.

Though most of the titles in the Festival of the Archives will screen in digital formats, Simpson said that many restorations do include new 35mm prints — such as the recent bonanza of new prints released by Universal Studios in celebration of its 100th anniversary, shown locally last month at Northwest Film Forum. It's cost-prohibitive for studios to make a film print for every restored title, she said, but such efforts are frequently made, particularly for especially well-known works.

Free programs

Two events in the series are free and open to the public. "Restoring 'Star Trek: The Next Generation,' " in which CBS and Deluxe archivists demonstrate and discuss their digital remastering of the TV series, is at 6 p.m. Friday.

"The purpose of the festival is to focus on all moving images, so we wanted to involve TV," said Simpson, who noted that "Star Trek: TNG" had unique challenges as some of its special effects needed to be re-created for its transfer to high-def video.

Also free is the U.S. premiere of the documentary "The Making of Leni Riefenstahl's 'Olympia,' " a behind-the scenes look at the 1937 film, considered one of the director's greatest. It screens in 35mm at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Coming up

'Festival of the Archives'

Dec. 6-9 at SIFF Cinema at the Uptown, 511 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle. $10/screening; full festival passes are $80 ($50 SIFF members). For more information and a full festival schedule, see siff.net or call 206-324-9996.

The Association of Moving Images Archivists is also presenting a collection of newly restored short films of Stan Brakhage at 6 p.m. Thursday at Northwest Film Forum (1515 12th Ave., Seattle; www.nwfilmforum.org) and an open-to-the-public free panel discussion of "Restoring History: 100 Years of Universal Films" at 3:15 p.m. Friday at the Fifth Avenue Room of the Westin Hotel (1900 Fifth Ave., Seattle). For more information on the Association of Moving Image Archivists and its conference, see www.amiaconference.com.


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