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Manipur’s Johnson Rajkumar wins ‘champions of film heritage award’ in Mumbai

Johnson was one of four film archivists from around the world honoured at the workshop's inception for their outstanding contributions to the movement of film archiving and preservation in their respective countries.

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Imphal: Johnson Rajkumar, a film archivist who works as a volunteer at the SN Chand Cine Archive & Museum of Manipur State Film Archive & Museum, bagged the “Champions of Film Heritage Award” at the recently held annual ‘Film Preservation and Restoration Workshop’.

The workshop was organised jointly by the Film Heritage Foundation (FHF), Mumbai, and the International Federations for Film Archive (FIAF), Belgium, in association with ‘The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project’ in Mumbai from December 4th–8th, 2022.

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Johnson was one of four film archivists from around the world honoured at the workshop’s inception for their outstanding contributions to the movement of film archiving and preservation in their respective countries.

The Manipuri Film Archivist was adjudged the “Champions of Film Heritage” with the citation, “For his selfless commitment and courage in taking the road less travelled with limited support and resources and taking on the challenge of sparking a movement for film preservation and laying the foundation to building a film archive and training archivists in his home state of Manipur.”

Other awardees included Dammith Fonseka of Sri Lanka for his resolution to save Sri Lanka’s film heritage, and Chiranjibi Guragain of Nepal for initiating a digitization project for Nepal’s film heritage. India’s Virchand Dharamsey received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his extraordinary dedication as a chronicler of the fragile history of India’s silent cinema.

Notably, Johnson, who was selected as one of the workshop participants, went on to complete the advanced course in film preservation and restoration, covering a broad range of topics regarding film preservation. The intense week-long programme, accredited by FIAF, included both theoretical lectures and hands-on training in the finest methods for preserving and restoring films, both celluloid and digital, as well as paper, photographic, and 3D objects that are relevant to the film industry.

A faculty of international professionals from top institutes around the world mentored the workshop.

The faculty included David Walsh from FIAF, Arike Oke from the British Film Institute, Tiago Ganhão from Cinemateca Portuguesa, Marianna de Sanctis from L’Immagine Ritrovata, Maura Pischedda from L’Immagine Ritrovata, Etienne Marchand from Institut National de L’Audiovisual, Samantha Leroy from Fondation Jérôme Seydoux, Marina Ruiz-Molina from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rio Lopez from the Academy Museum of Motion, Shivendra Singh Dungarpur from the Film Heritage Foundation, and others.

Significantly, collections of Manipur’s state film archive, the SN Chand Cine Archive & Museum, like the only available deteriorated prints of the first attempted feature film of Manipur, ‘Mainu Pemcha’ were used throughout the workshop as a case study for demonstrations on an advanced course in film repair, treatment of film in poor condition, and film identification.

Johnson described the workshop as the most thorough of its kind and as having evolved into the template for FIAF’s global training initiatives.

“The workshop is immensely helpful for me in terms of how I could contribute to the SN Chand Cine Archive & Museum as an archivist. It was an intense week-long exercise that included various archive strategies for successfully running an archive. I also got to learn the workflow for the chemically deteriorated film; how to do the first inspection according to the best practice known in the world; what to do before starting any kind of treatment and establishing how to start & check chemical treatments from the learned Film Repair Specialist at L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna, mentor, Ms. Maura Pischedda. She also agreed to help SN Chand Cine Archive & Museum with any films that need to be inspected and treated from the collection of our Archive.” Johnson confided.

 Johnson also met with the Object Conservator of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, California, Rio Lopez, who also agreed to help determine how best to conserve and display the objects in the SN Chand Cine Archive and Museum. Manipur State Film Development Society (MSFDS) Secretary, Sunzu Bachaspatiyum, who also attended as an invitee of the inauguration of ‘Film Preservation and Restoration Workshop’ held at Regal Cinema, Mumbai, congratulated Johnson Rajkumar on his winning the “Champions of Film Heritage Award” and said the award and Johnson’s participation in the ‘Film Preservation and Restoration Workshop’ would certainly prove to be an invaluable asset for archiving and preservation of Manipur’s film heritage through the activities of the Chand Cine Archive and Museum.

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