Launched in June, Europa Film Treasures has quickly vaulted to the top ranks of online video-on-demand ventures spearheaded by moving-image archival institutions. As such, it takes its place alongside such valuable destinations as the Library of Congress’s American Memory site, the British Film Institute’s YouTube channel, and the UbuWeb Film & Video resource. At this early stage, the cleanly designed site offers visitors only 50 films for viewing, and the administrators still have to make good on their promise to improve the streaming video playback. But this Europe-based project is immediately striking for its ambitiously planned scale and eclectic range.
Led by those zealous lovers of early and forgotten films, Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange, the Paris-based Lobster Films has partnered with 37 nationally based archives from throughout the European Union, as well as from Russia and such candidate countries as Macedonia, to digitize parts of their collections and provide well-written historical notes about the films. Among the current works online, you’ll find an intriguing mixture of the familiar and the obscure, notable artistic achievements alongside fascinating footage of mainly documentary interest: to name a few, Viking Eggeling’s classic Symphonie diagonale (25), John Ford’s early western Bucking Broadway (17) (rediscovered by France’s CNC archive), a Finnish short about the sauna, the 1909 English science-fiction film The Airship Destroyer featuring air raids by German zeppelins, and a hand-painted experimental short by Margaret Tait from 1970.
Given its substantial E.U. funding, EFT leans heavily on a familiar institutional and promotional rhetoric regarding European cultural identity and the project’s effort to make the diverse film heritage of Europe more readily available for discovery. If the participating archives commit their full support to the site’s expansion, it could serve to showcase their indispensable, fundamental work with actual materials, rather than digital transfers, much as the U.S. Treasures from American Film Archives DVD releases have. Countless riches lie in store.