The “digital revolution” reached the cinema late and was chiefly styled as a technological advancement. Today, in an era where analog celluloid strips are disappearing, and given the diversity of digital moving picture formats, there is much more at stake: Are the world´s film archives on the brink of a dark age? Are we facing the massive loss of collective audiovisual memory? Is film dying, or just changing?
Cinema Futures travels to international locations and, together with renowned filmmakers, museum curators, historians and engineers, dramatizes the future of film and the cinema in the age of digital moving pictures.
Cinema Futures is a documentary film about the present and future of film and the cinema in the digital era. In individual episodes and cinematic aphorisms, future scenarios, cultural fears and promising utopias are sketched out, accompanying the epochal transition from an approximately 120-year history of analog photochemical celluloid strips to the immaterial and radically evanescent age of digital picture data streams. The focus is on a love of the cinema, albeit devoid of nostalgia.
What is at stake is the specific cultural technique and experience of analog film, the preservation of audiovisual heritage in film and television archives, the storing, restoration and conservation of moving pictures on film and magnetic tapes, and the promises of salvation made by the pseudo-eternity of bits and bytes. Cinema Futures oscillates between a technocratic belief in progress and apocalyptic visions of the total erasure of our audiovisual memory: On one hand, there is the concept of the digital as a way to overcome the ephemeral - in other words ensuring democratic access to our audiovisual heritage. On the other hand, the vision of our present as a future “dark age” looms, of which not much will be preserved, as film as a physical object and cinema as a techno-social infrastructure become obsolete and digital data becomes unreadable. What will become of the images and memories of our times and of days gone by when they no longer have an analog, physical presence? In light of the acute mutations in the way film is produced and received overall, nobody can precisely predict what the future will hold. Filmmakers, film and television archives are just now tackling this debate. And archival collections are just beginning to be digitized and stored on gigantic server systems. How long will the data remain readable and accessible in this digital Noah´s Ark? What do we gain, and what do we lose?
Cinema Futures is an associative journey through time, filmed at international locations, where we meet up with renowned filmmakers, museum curators, historians and engineers.
With Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, Tacita Dean, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, David Bordwell, Tom Gunning, Jacques Rancière, Margaret Bodde, Paolo Cherchi Usai, Nicole Brenez, Michael Friend, Greg Lukow, Mike Mashon, and many others.