Silent Cinema Jewel ‘El Husar de la Muerte’ Gets New Restoration from Chile’s Cineteca
Art and Experience: Chile’s Cineteca Nacional, established in 2006, is working on a new restoration of Pedro Sienna’s “El húsar de la muerte” (1925), considered the most important silent feature film in Chilean history, the portrait of Chilean freedom fighter Manuel Rodríguez (1785-1818), a key figure in Chile’s War of Independence against the Spanish crown.
First restored by Sienna himself, when a copy turned up in a deplorable condition in 1959, the new restoration of the silent chime jewel will be ready from October, said Macarena Bello Martínez, the Cineteca’s mediation and audiences coordinator. The Cineteca, meanwhile, is printing its current line-up at the Locarno Film Festival’s Heritage Online, a new data base for film classics.
The Cineteca has continued its ambitious drive into heritage film this year despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Boasting an archive of some 5,000 titles, it focuses on the conservation and restoration of Chilean cinematic works and making them widely accessible. It has so far restored nine films this year and is currently working on two other projects, according to Martínez.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in March, the Cineteca was finishing image mastering and sound restoration of nine titles made by German-born Chilean director José Bohr between 1942 and 1970: “P’al otro lao” (1942); “Flor del Carmen” (1944); “La dama de las camelias” (1947); “La mano del muertito” (1948); “Mis espuelas de plata” (1948); “Tonto pillo” (1948); “Uno que ha sido marino” (1951); “El gran circo Chamorro” (1955); and “Sonrisas de Chile” (1970).
“Many of them are the first feature films produced in our country and the materials were presented in various states of conservation, therefore, each of them had particular requirements,” Martínez said. The project lasted two years and consisted of digitizing, restoring and presenting the collection, which will be available free of charge and to all audiences from Sept. 3 at Cineteca Nacional Online.
The Cineteca is currently working on the restoration of another classic film: Hernán Correa’s “Un viaje a Santiago” (1960), which is expected to be finished by the end of 2020.
The institute has provided a selection of works to Locarno’s Heritage Online VOD platform. The selection, according to Martínez, includes Chilean feature film highlights that are conserved in the Cineteca’s archive, “both in film format and in digitized copies in the best possible quality, many of them restored in our laboratory.”
The Cineteca has restored two dozen films since 2012, Martínez noted. Of those, 20 have been completed in the last four years with funding support from the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage.
“Our challenge is to be able to continue addressing, in a professional manner and with high-quality standards, the recovery and restoration of a significant number of Chilean cinematic titles that have historical, documentary and cinematographic relevance, some of them little known by national audiences,” Martínez added. To that end, the Cineteca biannually defines a collection or group of independent titles to restore according to their relevance and urgency of recovery.
The Cineteca has furthermore slated for 2021 and 2022 the restoration of works by Chilean filmmaker Álvaro Covacevich, whose films were recently repatriated from Mexico, as well as the Magallanes Films Co. collection, consisting of feature films works and news reels from 1918 to 1922, likewise funded by the culture ministry.
Among the Cineteca’s 5,000-title library are diverse works from various periods, including features, documentaries, shorts and amateur films.