PAGE 07: Back to Celluloid

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By Suyash Kamat

For cultures that prioritized convenience and time, analog now belongs to the corridors of museums, at times just a step away from disappearing into obscurity. But that doesn’t mean there’s no value in it, as we can see at year’s International Film Festival of India, with  7 films being screened on 35mm film instead of digital projection. 

35mm film projection isn’t as simple a task as it seems given the volume of film length at hand. “A film can consist of 10 film rolls going up to 2000ft in length” Ram Sahay explained, who is the technical head of IFFI. “These film rolls are procured from either the individual producer or from our own archives at DFF or National Film Archive of India and are then stored at an optimum cool temperature here at the venue till they are taken out for checking.”

The film is then placed on a table with winders at both ends and checked end to end for any sort of damage that might hamper the projection. Nitesh Bhonsle, who has worked with analog film for the last 20 years, is checking each film roll frame by frame. There is something delicate and pristine to this process, the finesse with which the film whirrs past his fingers, whose tangibility seems extremely precious in an increasingly digital world. 

“Once checked, the roll is then transferred to the screening venue where it’s loaded on a platter system, whereby two projectors screen the film from reel to reel” Sahay explained. There seems very little hope for this medium of projection to survive given the unavailability of spare parts for the analog projectors, which in itself is rare to find in functional conditions. Sahay believes in the near future, one might still shoot on 35mm film, but the convenience of digital projection and the unavailability of servicing for the film projection might not help the cause of being able to project films on 35mm. 

Nevertheless, many directors in Hollywood like Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan are rallying for the cause of shooting and projecting on film, which they believe is still the most accurate and cinematic medium of recording and exhibiting we have at disposal. With more filmmakers realizing the importance of the medium of analog film, one can hope it can survive against all odds. 

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