“The one who owns the spool, owns the film”

In conversation with György Ráduly, director of the Hungarian National Film Archive

The Hungarian film archive was founded in 1957, fifty-five years after the first Hungarian film, A táncz (The Dance), was made. For a long time it functioned as a place for storing films but now it is regarded as a facility where films need to be tended to: the film heritage should not only be collected but also taken to audiences. We talked to György Ráduly, director of the Film Archive, which operates as a directorate of the Hungarian National Film Fund.

Ráduly pursued business studies in Budapest and then continued his studies in France. He earned his degree in 1999. In 2005 he started working at the Clavis Films film production and distribution company as a production manager and producer. In 2007 he and Sándor Simon took over the management of the French Yenta Production film production company. He is the co-founder of the Kino Visegrád cultural association set up to present the film heritage of the V4 countries in Paris.

He has been at the helm of the Directorate of the Hungarian National Film Fund – Film Archive since 2017.

The first film archives were founded in the 1930s, quite a long time after the birth of film, which, in the early days was more an entertainment medium, and less an art genre. Films were mostly only kept as long as there was a demand for them by audiences, and then were forgotten about by both the makers and the distributors. It was a long time before the boom of the film industry and the rising success of the genre was followed by the realisation that preserving films for posterity is of the utmost importance. While the largest studios made an effort to protect their most prized films, it was often a just a matter of luck which productions eventually survived.

The Cinémathèque française Paris, Europe’s first film archiving institution was established in 1936, and its example was followed by one European country after the next. The Hungarian film collection with its 72 thousand titles and 360 thousand spools is outstanding among its European counterparts. The Strasbourg Accord on the protection of audio-visual heritage adopted by the Council of Europe in 2001 calls upon Member States to cooperate in using digital technologies and in making their film heritage accessible. The cooperation between the film archives is primarily aimed at preserving the film treasure of Europe. Sooner or later every film needs to be restored as the process of their continually deteriorating condition can only be delayed, not stopped. They just be protected in air-conditioned storage places with controlled humidity levels. Thousands of Hungarian films are in need of ’saving’, and preserving the condition of films is both work-intensive and costly. The archive has been overseen by the Hungarian National Film Fund since 2017 and thus is being managed by a professional film organisation for the first time since its foundation. Moreover, the Hungarian state has earmarked far greater funds for film digitalisation and restoration than ever before. All in all, the Film Archive probably never received as much support as it does now.