Bruno Christofoletti Barrenha

Supervised by
Dr. Petra Klusmeyer
and Wendelien van Oldenborgh

Digital Media Design
Master of Arts at the Hochschule für Künste
Bremen, Germany
WS 2021/22

Presented on April 28, 2022. 

On Copy
On Conservation
A Bricolage of Found Digital Files


The present thesis engages with the collection and manipulation of pre-existent digital files as source material to produce artworks. What drives the research is the relation between material death understood here as lost, burnt, damaged, and vulnerable materials in the context of public archives and the role of the Internet as a means for reviving and preserving the past of a people’s shared memory. Furthermore, through a praxis of downloading (digital accumulation), copying, and creative interference via editing (audiovisual montage), the found materials are recycled and employed in a short documentary-experimental film consisting of still and moving images and sounds of fires. Fire acts as the metaphor for destruction on the one hand and salvaging on the other. It also refers to the latest fire of the Brazilian Cinematheque in July 2021, when a magnitude of historical documents and film material got lost. The footage used in the film stems from low-res fragments of the Cinematheque’s archive that were saved due to prior digitalization efforts. 


I would like to thank my supervisors, Dr. Petra Klusmeyer and Wendelien van Oldenborgh: For all their attention, guidance, and understanding. Not only throughout this thesis project, but also during my studies at HfK. Likewise, the whole university staff: For all that I have learned. 

I would also like to thank the DAAD (on behalf of Maria José Salgado Martinez): For the opportunity of studying abroad. 

My family: Natalia, Adriana, Osvaldo, and Japão. Without them nothing would have been possible. 
My friends in Brazil: For their warmth that goes beyond any physical distance. 

My fellow Digital Media/Fine Arts/Integrated Design peers: For all the exchanges and flow of ideas, even when a pandemic hit.
The Filmbüro Bremen (Ilona Rieke and Saskia Wegelein): For their openness and tireless support to independent artists/filmmakers in Bremen.

Last but not least, I would like to thank Konstanze Spät: For the daily sharings and respect. 


This master thesis comes in response to the crisis of the leading audiovisual heritage institution in Brazil, the Cinemateca Brasileira (Brazilian Cinematheque). Although the origins of this crisis date back to 2013, it took on unprecedented proportions with the far-right politics of Jair Bolsonaro. In 2019, already in his first day as president, he dissolved the Ministry of Culture. The government’s destructive plans against any cultural institution in the country has continued throughout his mandate. To stick only to what concerns the Cinemateca, the following are some of the critical events that worsened the crisis and led to a significant catastrophe1

In early 2020, the Cinemateca had its funding cut entirely, with employees and invoices not getting paid. In August 2020, government representative Helio Ferraz de Oliveira, escorted by heavily armed men from the Federal Police, took the institution’s keys and dismissed the remaining staff of the Cinemateca. All the operations were then completely shut down, the doors were closed, and no experts in film preservation were taking care of the site2. In April 2021, the institution’s former employees published a manifesto warning that “the risk of a fire is real” and demanded the government to act to avoid the worst. The crisis peaked less than three months later: a fire raged in one of the Cinemateca’s film warehouses on 29th July 20213.

Four tons of documents concerning the history of film policies in Brazil were lost in the fire: The entire collection from the National Film Institute (1966-75), the National Film Council (1976-90), Embrafilme (1969-90) and the Audiovisual Secretariat – secondary copies of films, plus matrices of newsreels and miscellanea; old projectors that should have been part of a museum that never existed and other, more necessary equipment used to repair current machines – all gone. An un-digitized portion of Glauber Rocha’s library was also burnt. As well as home movies and hundreds of films produced by alumnae of the Film course of the University of São Paulo (USP).

All that involved the disaster at the Cinemateca represents the state’s disrespect to national heritage. Inaction and negligence have transformed memory into dust. Due to prior digitization efforts, part of the Cinemateca’s collection was saved, archived, and made freely accessible via the website of the Banco de Conteúdos Culturais (BCC)4. The downside is that the playback of some videos through BCC contains a huge watermark.

Meanwhile, mainstream platforms such as YouTube also play a role for the safeguarding and dissemination of Brazilian film culture. There, films are usually provided according to the dynamics of file sharing, in which individuals make collections available, to be used in common (shared) with others. Attached to that comes, as per usual, a matter of low resolution. Defined by massive digital distribution and multiple reformatting, this infinite number of digital files have probably been at least once compressed, distorted, remixed, reused, reshared, recopied, repurposed. These files are not simply a copy of the original, but each time they are downloaded and reloaded, they are an original in their own right. 

Reacting to digital artifacts I have come across during the making of (some of) my projects, the text here traces the trajectory of my artistic research and practical experience in recent years. It follows a chronological order starting from the development of my first two short films – Dummies (2017) and VAI! (2020) – to the work produced as the outcome of this thesis, the short film and the website both entitled Digital Ashes (2022). They were entirely created from various audiovisual materials available online and serve as case studies to highlight and discuss topics, thoughts, and techniques inherent to my practice.

On Copy

Thanks to the Internet, countless images, movies, sounds, and texts are readily available. The digital revolution has also given rise to new means of storing, producing, reproducing, and sharing digital files. This prospect has made the Internet an important medium and facilitator for creating artistic works based on appropriation, such as in the case of found footage films. At the same time, the boundaries of concepts such as originality, author- and ownership have become increasingly blurred in the context of the Web.

In 2016, I started downloading footage from YouTube: endless copies of car crash tests with dummies. These videos fascinated me, although I couldn't say why – I just kept downloading them. At one point, I had more than 100 hours of material. What intrigued me was the process of searching and collecting without any apparent reason. Long sessions of relentless downloading and cataloguing followed; renaming files and organizing folders ensued. 

This experience eventually led me to understand that the core of my work is pretty much based on copying and pasting: You may call it “appropriating” – images, sounds, and texts. So, I was primarily saving and moving files to and through my hard drive. In this sense, I connect the operation of feeding on what is available online to the notion of the eating of human flesh by human beings.

“I’m only concerned with what is not mine” states the Manifesto Antropófago (Cannibalist Manifesto) published in 1928 by the Brazilian modernist poet Oswald de Andrade5. In the era of over-documentation induced by social media, I advocate a radical position: not generate new material but instead devour, that is, recycle only existing data from the Internet. Furthermore, I have also come to explore archiving as an artistic operation in and by itself – the very bottom of the ingestion chain if you will; the archive as site for regurgitation.

Using the footage that I had compiled for Dummies (2017), two main sections are interspersed throughout the film: 1) slow-motion car crashes with dummies, and 2) animations taken from an old videogame whose characters are dummies. What connects the two is a text that places the dummies as both narrators and protagonists of the film. The text was written by me and voiced by Google Translator, playing the role of a “narrator-dummy” – it tells the suffering endured by dummies amidst the use of their bodies in those car crash tests. 

In 2020, I followed the same steps of Dummies to produce another film. This time I already knew that I wanted to make a film before start collecting material. However, differently from the previous project in which I play with a fictitious story as it were a classic documentary, in VAI! (2020), I wanted to portray an actual period of Brazilian history – the military dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1985 – through the perspective of a football team and its fanbase. While the first had a certain freedom to which footage to use regardless of the year of origin, the latter was utterly dependent (even linearly) on material from the time I was focusing on. To such a degree that the material itself (which includes a vast archive of magazines and newspapers headlines, television reports, old movies, personal Super 8mm films etc.) ends up dictating my film, not the other way around.

I borrow the concept of uncreative writing by Kenneth Goldsmith and apply it to filmmaking. It can be defined as writing (in my case, filming) that does not produce new content by writing (filming) new things but by retyping, reusing, repurposing, remixing pre-existing material (footage). Goldsmith adds to the understanding of his method that, “faced with an unprecedented amount of available text, the problem is not needing to write more of it; instead, we must learn to negotiate the vast quantity that exists” (2011, p. 10).

The very act of “creation” can be realized by means of copy and paste. To illustrate that, I will focus on a specific scene of VAI!. The film merges the military dictatorship in Brazil with the 23 years that the football team of Corinthians (from São Paulo) has spent without winning a single title. Despite that, Corinthians’ fans grew more and more and became politically active both in the team’s life and in the life of the country.
A) shows the players of Corinthians before an important match that could end the period without titles. Despite taking place at the Maracanã (Rio de Janeiro), the stadium was full of Corinthians supporters, confidents about winning the championship. The tension had already been built by different commentaries, but the match is not shown whatsoever; thus, B) the gap between the two shots plays as an element of suspense. C) breaks this expectation and reveals a fan of Corinthians heartbrokenly singing on the bus back to São Paulo: “the black-and-white [Corinthians’ colors] only brings me sorrow, the black-and-white has robbed me of my peace….”

The film did not need to provide audiovisual documentation of that football match because the montage already indicates to the audience how the match has ended. The fan’s facial and vocal features, plus the lyrics he sings, inform that Corinthians had lost6. Combining videos together without affecting change to their characteristics opens space for producing such a dramatic effect. It is not always the content of the images in a film that is important, but how they are assembled so that new implications or meanings emerge.

In our age of overproduction, saturation, inflation, stagnation and simulacra, selection becomes the core issue. It is what you select, how you transcribe it, express it, present it, and appropriate it. It is where you put it (Burckhardt, 2013, p. 86; emphasis in the original).
Every copy, then, implies different sorts of creative interference. In my practice, this is revealed through film montage: fragmentation, organization of data, sequencing, assemblage of a puzzle. Nevertheless, appropriation is not a recent technique in art. The first examples of (re-)appropriation trace back to Marcel Duchamp and his series of ready-mades, everyday items declared as art. In the case of his objets trouvés (found objects), creative interference could be considered from an order of dis- and reallocation: they get displaced, repositioned, their utility and status transformed.

By providing a space where something is not created but instead intentionally reproduced, thrown into a different context than the original one, inventiveness already exists from it. Authorship is converted into practices of (re)search and further borrowing, sampling, plundering of material. Since my work reacts to and is born from the Web, the mere Ctrl C + Ctrl V of any material makes it temporarily mine. In the end, it is to the Web where the material will return, contributing to the Web’s ever-changing ecosystem. The transitory right of possession is native to it: anything for anyone.

To me, one urgent problem remains unresolved: It's impossible not to worry about copyright issues. Then again, if I had asked permission for every single video, sound, and photo in VAI! the film probably would have never come into existence (or it would have taken longer, and it might not have reached as many people as it fortunately did). Goldsmith writes, “When you ask permission, you ask for trouble” (2020, p. 29). He basically claims that asking permission is killing the fun: The bricoleur turns businessman.

Additionally, my film has absolutely no commercial purposes anyway. Its content is transformative and valorizes the history and identity of a people, which falls, in my understanding, into the dynamics of fair use. Still, every effort has been made to locate the origin of each file inserted in the definitive version of VAI!. As a way around the dilemma of copyright and as a form to pay respect to the material and their authors, I mentioned in the credits all the 70 different sources I used in the film.

On Conservation

One of the essential sources for making VAI! is Canal 100, a newsreel shown weekly in Brazil for almost half a century (1957-2000). Out of their collection, several other Brazilian films came to exist. I knew the relevance of Canal 100 for the national culture, so it was hard to accept that the resolution of their materials available online is so substandard.

Alas, low-res digital images have always been commonplace regarding the availability of Brazilian audiovisual production. I understand that this prevalence of poor copies traces back to a different stage in the film chain, one of conservation. For when you have little or no care for your own past, making this past accessible to future generations becomes complicated, full of cracks and erasures: low-res playback being one consequence.

On this matter, the following excerpt from a review about VAI! provides fodder for thought. “Presented in a year when audiovisual preservation gained even more relevance due to an unprecedented crisis at the Brazilian Cinematheque, ‘VAI!’ also serves to put on record that part of the collection of Canal 100, fundamental for the making of the short film, may have been destroyed in the last months” (Cruz Jr., 2021)7. Even though it was written before the fire at the Cinemateca – one month before, to be exact – the collection was already perceived as lost due to the long period lacking regular technical monitoring.

It is important to recall that film stocks are made of organic material, therefore subject to deterioration. While cellulose nitrate films can self-combust very quickly and once alight is difficult to put out, cellulose acetate films suffer from the vinegar syndrome8, which causes irreparable damages to its base. These two types of films are the most common in film archives. In order to best conserve them, variables such as room temperature and humidity must be considered. Likewise, continuous monitoring is indispensable. If this is not adequately implemented, the material will likely be lost in a short period.

This said, film is a temporary medium; in terms of conservation, the shift to the digital should be a necessary step, perhaps even the natural evolution of film. We transfer it to a new technological support that is less dangerous and more inclusive in terms of access nowadays. Of course, both the digital and the physical must be taken care of, which in turn requires infrastructure. In the end, it will depend on whether archival institutions will be funded sufficiently to take care of their responsibilities – a situation that in Brazil (and in most historically so-called “underdeveloped” nations) is hardly accomplished.

Consequently, the obstacles of accessing films from these countries have endured for a long time. Yet, one must figure a way out for watching them. When the State (which not only in my view should be responsible for the conservation and further dissemination of such works9) is absent, an independent engine enters the equation. For instance, a digitized VHS or any other poor copy like a TV Rip will eventually find its way onto Internet; behind every rare gem of moving image on YouTube, there is a person who has transferred material into the digital realm, sharing it for free.

Due to the Web’s collaborative nature, platforms such as YouTube turn into a mechanism for cultural and historical artifacts to be used in common with others. As Goldsmith claims, piracy is preservation (2020, p. 39). Everyone who disseminates or makes collections available becomes both appropriators and archivists/preservationists themselves. Appropriators, because they are often neither authors nor copyright holders of the uploaded material. Archivists, because they preserve (albeit in a fragmented, unprofessional way) information that would likely be forgotten without the dynamics of file sharing.

The task of digitizing and making films available online constitutes a metamorphosis of the original film support. It transfigures both substance and experience that the film offers. It decreases quality in favor of accessibility (Steyerl, 2009, p. 01). Through this perspective, to give film a new life in the digital realm means to conserve and at the same time reimagine a sense of shared, collective memory.

Having access to a film, regardless of its playback resolution, should be more valuable than having a film lost forever. The case of Canal 100 highlights that bits and pieces from the collection only survived because there were individuals who cared about it. Such an archival impulse must be treasured. After all, paraphrasing Goldsmith (2005), if something does not exist on the Internet, it does not exist.

A Bricolage of Found Digital Files

Although the main idea behind VAI! is far from the topic of preservation, the very material used in the film (poor in resolution, blurry, pixelated) responds and sheds light on the state of deterioration of Brazil’s audiovisual heritage. In Digital Ashes (2022), this is present in every project layer: The film tells the catastrophe at the Cinemateca Brasileira through its remains.

It is a (self-)referential film in which meanings can unfold in various directions but always talking about cinema, archive, restoration, history, reproduction, access, the film itself, its production process, like a spiral. “Archive” is understood not only as a repository of historical records and a physical space, the Cinemateca, but above all as evidence of successive crimes committed by the public authorities.

In addition to fragments of footage that has been lost but survived as digital files, supplementary material (outside the institution’s scope) was used; films and photos found in other databases and VFX (special effects) collections by Google and YouTube were also employed. In this view, bricolage and found footage filmmaking is closely related. Bricolage is about a DIY (do-it-yourself) tinkering process where a work is constructed from various available components, tools, supports. Despite the term mainly being attributed to the fine arts context, every film that succeeds at being an appropriation work is also a matter of bricolage. Both techniques can be seen as a creative approach to reviving and interacting with cultural and historical objects, maintaining “collections in the public eye and making them matter to modern viewers” (Russel, 2014).

Digital Ashes also calls to mind the concept of archival art, in which “artists seek to make historical information, often lost or displaced, physically present” (Foster, 2004, p. 04). The film applies the method of copy to perpetuate what has remained from the Cinemateca. By assuming the digital state of the footage and re-using it as the ghost of its former self, the work embodies a sense of timelessness: a time past and a time to come all at once. It fuses the “then” of the archival footage with the “now” of the production of the film; eventually, it will also comprise the “now” of watching the film10.

Through this perspective, what adds value to the work is the engagement with the archive by operations of copying, selecting, curating, assembling, and recomposing, i.e., creatively interfering in the files I had previously collected. The use of archival imagery becomes the film’s own language.

Furthermore, all images in Digital Ashes are bonded by fire – not simply for what they show but specially for what they recall in the context of the Cinemateca. Because of that, while editing I was driven by Sergei Eisenstein’s comparison of montage as “the series of explosions of an internal combustion engine [that serve as] impulses driving forward the total film” (1977, p. 38).

Intertitles and black screens play a meaningful role in the film, too. They are elements as necessary as the archival images. While intertitles give contextual information to the audience, black screens are as a metaphor for the condition of Brazilian audiovisual heritage. They represent gaps and missing links because this collective memory has gone up in smoke and reduced to ashes, therefore ceasing to exist physically.

Added to an effect of repetition, black screens also serve for understanding the account of cultural archives in Brazil throughout history: impregnated with episodes of loss and erasure, neglect, and tragedy: Something that keeps returning, a future haunted by its past.


“The simple act of moving information from one place to another today constitutes a significant cultural act in and of itself” (Goldsmith, 2012, p. 06). This phrase by Goldsmith prompted the idea for the website, which was primarily conceived to host the presented writing. It was later transformed into an expansion of the film Digital Ashes, containing links and further details regarding each file used to make the short.

My experiences with Dummies, VAI!, and Digital Ashes have led me to understand the Internet as an infinite, productive archive. In this way, YouTube can be envisioned as an imaginary cinematheque. Instagram pages as virtual museums. User profiles connect “us” and “the files”. Dragged into their active sharing, we are allowed to edit, convert, reformat, fragment them. This constant possibility of access makes us “distributors” of various digital artifacts.

Therefore, you can also consider the website a personal repository of assorted audiovisual paraphernalia, a sort of antiquariat — alternatively, a trading platform where files can be downloaded, watched, or listened to for free. For example, in the section Archivism, I have digitized and uploaded a cassette tape whose only information on the Internet used to come from an eBay selling ad. Now, it is available there.

In the same section is the project Archive of Archives (2022 – present): A permanent collection of digitized material from existing archives. The methods used in my films and described throughout this written part of the thesis also apply to this specific work: downloading (digital accumulation), selecting and curating, conversion processes (understood as part of the creative labor), copy and paste.


1 To understand the whole situation and its developments, see Appendix.
2 For the first time in its 70-year history, no technical staff was working at the Cinemateca.
3 It is noteworthy that the Cinemateca had faced four other fires (in 1957, 1969, 1976, and 2016) and a flood (in 2020).
4 Hosted by the Cinemateca, the BCC has often suffered technical problems due to the lack of basic care with the Cinemateca’s data-center and other data repositories allocated in the institutional facilities.
5 With this Manifesto, the author claims that it was precisely the cannibalistic/anthropophagic roots of Brazil that has allowed its people to critically comprehend in the cultural field European and other foreign models. Moreover, Brazilians should be proficient on ingesting forms, styles, and patterns imported from abroad to produce a genuinely national art. 6 Corinthians had won the match but lost the title afterwards. To save some running time and keep with the film’s increasingly climactic plot, I decided the match to remain unseen.
7 My translation from the original Portuguese.
8 Term used to describe the chemical reaction during the deterioration of acetate film. Besides a pungent vinegar smell, shrinkage, embrittlement, and buckling of the gelatine emulsion also occur. See https://www.filmpreservation.org/preservation-basics/vinegar-syndrome.
9 In Brazilian democracy, the Federal Constitution asserts that the “State will guarantee to everyone the full exercise of cultural rights and access to the sources of national culture and will support and encourage the valorization and diffusion of cultural manifestations” (Art. 215). 
10 According to Jaimie Baron (2012, p. 09), these are the three temporalities always at work in appropriation films.

[Retrieved April 18, 2022.]

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Burckhardt, A. (2013). A Sanctuary of Sounds. New York: Punctum.

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Carbone, K. (2020). Archival Art: Memory Practices, Interventions, and Productions. Curator: The Museum Journal, 63(2), 257–263. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341124792_Archival_Art_Memory_Practices_Interventions_and_Productions.

Cruz Jr., J. (2021, June 25). “Muito Além de Cinema”. Apostila de cinema. https://apostiladecinema.com.br/sessao-cine-praca-16a-cine-op/.

Dixon, T. (2016). “Ghost Photography”. In N. Smith (ed.). Image of an Exhibition (99–106). London: Relief Press. http://www.timothydixon.co.uk/Ghost%20photography%20Final.pdf.

Eisenstein, S. (1977 [1949]). Film Form: Essays in Film Theory. Trans. J. Leyda. San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.

Elsaesser, T. (2015). The Ethics of Appropriation: Found Footage Between Archive and Internet. Found Footage Magazine, 1, 30–37. http://2014.doku-arts.de/content/sidebar_fachtagung/Ethics-of-Appropriation.pdf.

Foster, H. (2004). An Archival Impulse. October, 110, 3–22. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3397555.

Frye, B. L. (2016). Copyright in a Nutshell for Found Footage Filmmakers. Found Footage Magazine, 2, 34–43. https://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1031&context=law_facpub_pop.

Goldsmith, K. (2005). If It Doesn’t Exist on the Internet, It Doesn’t Exist. Elective Affinities Conference, University of Pennsylvania, 27 September 2005. http://writing.upenn.edu/epc/authors/goldsmith/if_it_doesnt_exist.html.

Goldsmith, K. (2011). Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age. New York: Columbia University Press.

Goldsmith, K. (2012). Letter to Bettina Funcke. dOCUMENTA 13. 100 Notes – 100 Thoughts / 100 Notizen – 100 Gedanken (017). Ostfildern: Hadje Cantz. http://bettinafuncke.com/100Notes/017_A6_Kenneth_Goldsmith.pdf.

Goldsmith, K. (2020). Duchamp Is My Lawyer: The Polemics, Pragmatics, and Poetics of UbuWeb. New York: Columbia University Press.

Menezes, I. A. (2020). Audiovisual Preservation in Brazil and the Cinemateca Brasileira Crisis: The Missing Link in the Audiovisual Industry. Cinelimite. https://www.cinelimite.com/post/audiovisual-preservation-in-brazil-and-the-cinemateca-brasileira-crisis-the-missing-link-in-the-audiovisual-industry.

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Plotnick, W. (2020, August 24). An Interview with Hernani Heffner on the State of Brazilian Film Preservation Today. Cinelimite. https://www.cinelimite.com/interviews/interview-with-hernani-heffner-2.

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Manifesto of the Workers of the Cinemateca Brasileira
The Cinemateca Brasileira has been closed since August 2020, when government representatives of the Ministry of Tourism took back the keys from the Social Organization that once was in charge of managing it. Since then, there has been no technical staff hired and the collection remains unattended, with no information being released about its conditions. For this reason, we issue a warning about the risks to the institution’s collection, equipment, database, and facilities.

The possibility of cellulose nitrate films self-combusting and the consequent risk of fire often receives a lot of attention from the media and the public. The Cinemateca has faced four fires in its 74 years, the last one occurring in 2016, with the destruction of some 500 works. The risk of a new fire is real. Continuous technical monitoring is the main means of prevention. The state of the cellulose acetate collection is also critical. The collection is estimated to contain around 240 thousand reels, and it corresponds to the largest part of the Cinemateca Brasileira’s audiovisual collection. This collection requires stable room temperature and humidity, and in the absence of such conditions, it suffers a drastic acceleration of its deterioration process. Regular technical monitoring and other preservation actions, including laboratory processing, are also vital.

In recent months there has been heavy rain in the region of São Paulo where the Cinemateca is located, and these rains can cause power outages. There is no way of knowing if there is a working generator at the institution or if the air conditioning systems are operating. When the technical staff team was still working, frequent changes in these systems often occurred, and it was necessary to make adjustments to the equipment in order to safeguard the collections. The rains also constitute a strong threat to a portion of the collections, especially the paper, photographic, analog and digital video collections. Previously known seepages may have spread if the gutters have not been cleaned and properly monitored.

In recent years, threats to the collection such as the advent of a sudden spread of fungi, the presence of rodents, infiltrations, leaks, problems in the climatic equipment, and the auto-combustion of a roll of nitrate destined for disposal were swiftly remedied by the fast action of the staff. The February 2020 flood is a tragic example of these dangers, and it shows how imperative it is to have a team ready to act.

In this scenario, there is also the issue of the Image and Sound Laboratory, one of the most complete audiovisual laboratories in the world, with specialized machinery for photochemical processing and digitization of films and several analog video formats. Ten years ago, this laboratory was considered to be the third most efficient film laboratory worldwide by the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) – behind two leading institutions in the United States. The maintenance of the machinery is complex, as it brings together historic equipment and state-of-the-art technology, demanding a highly specialized team, whose absence leads to the compromise and loss of equipment that is often irreplaceable. A consequence of the current paralysis has been the loss of decades of meticulous work and a waste of the immense public resources that have been invested in this equipment.

Besides the conservation of its physical collection, the Cinemateca Brasileira promotes the research and diffusion of audiovisual content throughout Brazil. Through online streaming via the Cultural Content Bank (BCC), part of the works from the Legal Deposit and prospecting and cataloging the audiovisual productions in the Brazilian Filmography (FB) database, it was possible to maintain the historical inventory of an important part of Brazil’s contemporary audiovisual heritage. The BCC has been offline since October 2020 due to the lack of basic care with the Cinemateca’s data-center and other data repositories allocated in the institutional facilities. In addition to this, unprocessed information from the Legal Deposit continues to accumulate, putting at risk the Cinemateca’s census procedure – a process that is quite rare in other countries.

In its current situation of abandonment, the fulfillment of the Cinemateca’s social mission is impossible, especially without the ability to disseminate and circulate the films in its collection, as these films help promote an important chain of research, exhibition and audiovisual production. Today, after almost eight months without a specialized janitorial staff, a security team or firemen, and without specialized technicians to accompany the collection, we are witnessing a tragedy: the silent death of thousands of unique documents, domestic films, newsreels, TV and cinema works. We fear for the death of the Brazilian social, historical, cultural, cinematographic and audiovisual memory. The Cinemateca Brasileira is a complex institution, which demands constancy in resources and the operations of its specialized technical team. Given the current situation, we plead for the immediate return of the workers to their respective jobs, whose experience is crucial for the recovery of the institution.

Given this worrying situation, we request clarification from the National Audiovisual Secretariat (SAv) on the effectiveness of the emergency plan, announced by the Special Secretary of Culture Mário Frias in December 2020. We also demand the prompt launch of the public notice promised since July 2020 for the selection of the new Social Organization responsible for the management of the Cinemateca Brasileira, as well as the guarantee of the necessary resources to solve problems arising from the suspension of work, for the full operation of the institution and for the construction of a permanent solution for the institution.

We take this opportunity to thank the support of the audiovisual sector and all the people, organizations, movements, and institutions, both Brazilian and international, that are supporting us.

Without workers you can’t preserve collections. 
Workers of the Cinemateca Brasileira
São Paulo, April 12, 2021.

Statement from the Cinemateca Brasileira Workers regarding the fire at the Vila Leopoldina site
The fire that hit the Cinemateca Brasileira building in Vila Leopoldina on the night of July 29th was a crime foretold, which culminated in the irreparable loss of an uncalculated number of works and documents pertaining to the history of Brazilian cinema. These facilities are fundamental and complementary in relation to the space in Vila Clementino where most of the Cinemateca Brasileira’s collection is stored. Recently, in February 2020, a flood had already affected most of the documental and audiovisual collection stored there.

More than a year ago we publicly admonished against the possibility of fire at the Cinemateca premises due to the absence of any documentation, preservation and diffusion workers. There was a warning about the chance of an accident in the nitrate collection in Vila Clementino, nitrate film being a highly flammable material that can self-combust without periodic inspection. This was not the case in this instance, the fifth fire in the institution’s history. However, the causes are the same. Surely, many losses could have been avoided if the workers had been employed and participating in the day-to-day operations of the institution.

On August 8th it will be one year since the Cinemateca Brasileira was abandoned by the Federal Government and had all of its technical staff fired, without even being paid their salaries and severance packages by the previous manager, Associação de Comunicação Educativa Roquette Pinto (ACERP). Even so, the hiring of maintenance, firefighting and cleaning teams was reported. Although they are necessary for a functioning film archive, they are not sufficient for its specific demands, as evidenced on this fateful day.

The situation becomes even more critical when we begin to think about the irreversible consequences that suffered by the film materials and their conservation status in the year and change without the attention of a specialized technical staff. Equally irrecoverable to the destruction of prints directly by the fire is the now drastically reduced life span of various materials, especially the hazardous deterioration of nitrate and acetate film stock. Only with the return of the specialized team will it be possible to assess the extent of the loss and damage and then attempt to resume and begin new conservation activities.

The collection that was stored in Vila Leopoldina, although fewer in number, had equal relevance and importance to that of Vila Clementino. Below we list some of the materials possibly lost or affected in the fire of July 29, 2021:
- From the documentation collection: a large part of the archives of the defunct cinematic outfits and institutions Embrafilme – Empresa Brasileira de Filmes S.A. (1969 – 1990), part of the Archive of the Instituto Nacional do Cinema – INC (1966 – 1975) and Concine – Conselho Nacional de Cinema (1976 – 1990), as well as an additional number archival documents still undergoing an assessment process. To prevent new floods from reaching the collection, part of these materials were transferred from the first floor to the climate-controlled warehouses on the second floor, the main area affected by the fire. This measure occurred after a severe flood in February 2020. Part of the collection of documents came from the Tempo Glauber archive, in Rio de Janeiro, including duplicates from the Glauber Rocha library and documents from the institution itself.

- From the audiovisual collection: part of the collection from the distribution company Pandora Filmes, containing copies of Brazilian and foreign films in 35mm. Matrices and copies of single newsreels, trailers, advertisements, documentary films, fiction films, domestic films, all potentially the only extant copies of their respective titles. This part of the collection had already been partially affected by the recent flood. Part of the collection of the ECA/USP – School of Communications and Arts of the University of São Paulo from the student production in 16mm and 35mm. Part of the video collection of journalist Goulart de Andrade.

- From the collection of cinema, photography and laboratory processing equipment and furniture: In addition to their museological value, many of these objects were fundamental for repairing equipment in current use since, to exhibit or even duplicate film or video materials, obsolete machinery without replacement in the market is needed.
Last night’s fire is one more reason why we cannot wait to put an end to the policy of scorched earth and the erasing of national memory! We are in mourning, for the loss of more than half a million Brazilians, and now for the loss of part of our history. We have experienced devastating fires at the Cinemateca Brasileira in 2016, at the National Museum in 2018, and again at the Cinemateca in 2021. In addition to all of the preventable pandemic deaths, our history has been continuously extirpated. Unfortunately, we have lost yet another part of Brazil’s historical and cultural heritage.

The Cinemateca Brasileira cannot continue to be at the mercy of preventable calamity. The erstwhile outsourcing of the institution’s management through a privately-owned cultural organization (in this case, ACERP) showed how fragile this relationship can be, and that such a model does not account for the complexity of a cultural organ of this size. The empty public statement issued by the federal government, given without space for debate, transparency, the participation of the population, cultural workers at large and above all, the collective of ex-workers of the institution, will provide no solution. We also want to make clear that the announced budget in said statement is an amount significantly lower than what is necessary. Stability and a guaranteed long-term technical team are needed for the Cinemateca, along with a budget compatible with the necessary services for the preservation and diffusion of Brazilian audiovisual heritage.

Without workers archives can not be preserved!
Workers of the Cinemateca Brasileira
São Paulo, July 30th, 2021.