ALGIERS-July 13, 2020: The International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), the largest international network of film libraries and archives in the world, and of which the Algerian Cinematheque is an associate member, announces that the 2020 winner of its Prize FIAF 2020 is Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles. He succeeds Jean-Luc Godard, to whom the trophy was awarded during the 75th FIAF Congress in Lausanne in April 2019.
Since 2001, when the first FIAF Prize was awarded to Martin Scorsese for his pioneering work in favor of film preservation, the FIAF has awarded its annual prize to distinguish a personality from the world of cinema outside in the midst of archives, whose experience and personal commitment to cinema correspond to the missions of the FIAF. Previous winners of the FIAF Prize include Ingmar Bergman (2003), Mike Leigh (2005), Hou Hsiao-hsien (2006), Peter Bogdanovich (2007), Agnès Varda (2013), Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne ( 2016), Christopher Nolan (2017) and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2018). The winner of the FIAF Prize is chosen by the FIAF Board of Directors on the basis of a shortlist of nominations proposed by staff members from all FIAF-affiliated archives around the world.
Walter Salles, whose name was proposed by our colleagues at the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro, is one of the most famous and respected figures in Brazilian cinema around the world. His films have been selected and awarded at the most prestigious festivals (Cannes, Berlin, Venice), as well as at the Oscars, Golden Globes, and the BAFTA Awards. In addition, Walter Salles has been actively involved for almost 30 years in favor of the safeguarding of cinematographic heritage.
Marked by an eclectic and profound cinephilia, Salles very early on took great interest in the memory of Brazilian cinematography. His defense of an enthusiastic, innovative and politically engaged Brazilian cinema was initially intellectual and journalistic, but he gradually turned to a more concrete engagement process, notably through the foundation of the Archive MárioPeixoto, the making of new copies of the classics. Brazilian cinema (for example, films by Nelson Pereira dos Santos and Glauber Rocha) and the development of major restoration projects that will lead it to join the founding group of the “World Cinema Foundation” (now World Cinema Project of the Film Foundation) in 2007. On this occasion, Salles had said “There is a sentence that the producer of Glauber Rocha and his director of photography have said:“ A country without a history of cinema is like a house without mirror ”. It is quickly understood that the problem of film preservation is a problem of preserving cultural identity, plurality and cultural diversity “.
A significant part of Walter Salles’ involvement in film preservation activities is linked to his admiration for the work of filmmaker MárioPeixoto (1908-1992), whose film Limit (1931) is one of the most important films. of the history of Brazilian and world cinema. The rediscovery of this film in Brazil and abroad, as well as the preservation of Peixoto’s archival material, owes much to the efforts of Walter Salles. Discreetly but effectively, he founded the MárioPeixoto Archive, then made Limite’s restoration possible.
The MárioPeixoto Archive was placed under the responsibility of Limite’s first restorer: Saulo Pereira de Mello (1933-2020). Thanks to Walter Salles, he was able to accomplish his life’s mission – to preserve and present the work of Mario Peixoto. Since its creation in 1996, the Mario Peixoto Archive has been managed by VideoFilmes, the production company of Walter Salles and his brother João Moreira Salles, also renowned filmmaker.
Walter Salles also played a key role in the restoration and distribution of Limite. Initiated shortly after Peixoto’s death in 1992, the digital restoration project was carried out by the CinematecaBrasileira in partnership with the Cineteca di Bologna and its laboratory, the ImmagineRitrovata, was one of the very first titles to obtain the support of the World Film Foundation. . Salles presented the restored film himself at Cannes Classics in 2007, and has been promoting it around the world ever since.
By deciding to award the 2020 FIAF Prize to Walter Salles, the FIAF Steering Committee wanted to honor a great filmmaker whose commitment to safeguarding film heritage is no longer to be proven. He also wished to show by this gesture his support and solidarity to the three affiliates of the FIAF in Brazil – the CinematecaBrasileira, the Cinemateca do MAM, and the ArquivoNacional – for their unwavering commitment to the cause of cinema in Brazil, in a context extremely worrying policy. At a time when the very existence of CinematecaBrasileira, a historic member of the FIAF, is more threatened than ever, the presentation of the FIAF Prize 2020 to Walter Salles (former member of its Board of Directors and recent signatory of an international petition in support of to the institution) seems particularly opportune to us.
Walter Salles said of the FIAF Prize: “It was with great joy that I learned of your decision to award me the FIAF Prize 2020. I have deep respect for your organization and know the importance of the FIAF Award, which has distinguished from filmmakers whom I deeply admire. It was precisely thanks to Martin Scorsese, at the Film Foundation, that I was able to help most of the restoration projects in which I was involved. On the other hand, this distinction carries a symbolic aspect of great importance. At this moment, as you have pointed out, Brazil is undergoing a violent process of erasure from our collective memory. Our public universities are strangled by budgetary restrictions, writers’ books fundamental to our identity building are banned in several states, and top institutions like the CinematecaBrasileira see their functioning compromised by drastic cuts in personnel and budget. The MAM Cinémathèque is resisting, like other institutions which defend the memory of our country. It is in the name of all these institutions which fight for the preservation of our memory that I would like to receive the FIAF Prize. “
Due to the global Covid-19 health crisis, the 2020 award ceremony to Walter Salles had to be postponed to a later date, which we are currently reflecting with the winner.