Outfest and UCLA Launch "Legacy Project" to Preserve and Archive Queer Cinema
by Eugene Hernandez
Citing a need to preserve the history of gays and lesbians told through important film and video work by queer filmmakers, and with a goal of building a publicly accessible library of films by and about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, Outfest is partnering with the UCLA Film And Television Archive to create the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation. On an opening night here in Los Angeles that included a public appearance by new mayor Antonio Villaraigoso, Outfest executive director Stephen Gutwillig announced the plans to cheers from the full house crowd. According to Outfest and UCLA, the move will create the largest publicly accessible collection of LGBT films in the world and will preserve both classic and future queer film and video.
UCLA's internationally acclaimed Archive collects commercial titles, but as Gutwillig noted, independent works are often overlooked. In a statement yesterday, Outfest emphasized, "Gay and lesbian independent films - including significant titles from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s - are in particular peril because of a perceived lack of commercial value by the industry and/or the filmmakers' inability to maintain their work themselves."
"Whenever Outfest programs a revival screening, we brace ourselves for a print on its very last legs because there's no real money to be made from a new print, or the elements are lost, or the filmmaker has died," said Gutwillig, explaining the plight of queer films and videos. "These films represent our community's cultural legacy and we refuse to be complicit in the erasure of our own history. This is why the creation of the Outfest Legacy Project for LGBT Film Preservation is so crucial...and so welcome."
Noting that films such as Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's 1989 film "Common Threads," Bill Sherwood's 1986 film "Parting Glances," and John Scagliotti and Greta Schiller's "Before Stonewall" lack archive or exhibition quality prints, Outfest announced that it will earmark films to preserve and restore, as well as raise funds necessary to complete the work, while the UCLA Archive will monitor and conduct the preservation and restoration. The university will also store the collection at its own expense. The project will be initiated with private University funds and through other support. The David Bohnett Foundation and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have already contributed to the initial fundraising effort. Outfest's current library of 3,300 preview tapes and discs will be transferred to the UCLA Film and Television Archive to build the publicly accessible collection and it will grow over time as Outfest adds to the collection.
"The creation of the largest collection of media materials of this kind is important not only for scholars, researchers, filmmakers, and historians worldwide; but also for the broader society," said Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., UCLA Associate Vice Chancellor of Community Partnerships, in a statement.
The Legacy Project also intends to launch a public education project that will include a symposium next spring, entitled "Out of the Closet - Into the Vaults." The event will include a panel of filmmakers and film archivists who will talk about the challenges of "insuring the survival and accessibility of LGBT films after they have completed their festival circuit runs."
Outfest, founded in 1982, was formed under the auspices of the UCLA Film and Television Archive, screening its films on campus for three years before establishing a separate event. The annual Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is the city's oldest and largest continuous festival, counting some 45,000 attendees. This year's event continues through July 18th in Los Angeles.