Brussels, March, 2nd, 2017 (KUL/Guido Convents). The Flemish Catholic Film League, the current Filmmagie, member of SIGNIS, built since the 1930s through its Catholic Film Press Documentation Center (DOCIP) a huge archive for its informative and forming task. For every movie released in Belgium, press cuttings of comments and reviews from all possible periodical publications were collected. This resulted in an archive of more than 60,000 files (movie titles) or 10 million documents. Because a storage space for such a huge collection was no longer available, it was decided to digitize them. The Flemish government gave resources, a digitization company cleared the job and KADOC offered his expertise and systems. The paper documents were destroyed, with the exception of the valuable (press) pictures.

Currently, the digital copies can be consulted via LIAS. There you can search by movie title. Once on the file of the desired movie, click on the link under Archival Storage, and you can access the scanned documents. The collection is of great historical importance for the history of film and the release films in Belgium in general and for the assessment and reception of those films in particular. Through a few clicks, they are available to any interested party.

It all started in 1931 with the film apostolate of the 27 year old Belgian Dominican Felix Morlion. It was an answer to the remarks of some Catholic intellectuals that the Catholic press should inform the faithful about the films shown in the cinema. The Catholic press should have more interest for cinema, since millions of Catholics were looking daily for entertainment. Most European countries had Catholic periodicals which informed the public about the films, like the Filmrundschau published by Richard Muckermann in Germany. It was the work of the national Catholic Action in cinema. They wanted to promote those films which could enrich the cultural and spiritual world of the faithful. But this was clearly not enough: Morlion wanted to go further. Catholic action in cinema without the Press was for him senseless. In promoting and directing the Catholic film audience to artistic quality films which were promoting Christian values, he believed that he could have a positive influence on the film distribution, film programs in the cinema and even on the film production. And in such way he wanted to serve not only the Faithful but also the cinema world.

At that time in Belgium there was the Catholic Film selection committee part of the Catholic Film League in which the Fr Abel Brohée, future president of OCIC, was involved. Their work and information on cinema were distributed in 1931 in the press through the Catholic Cinema press documentation Centre (DOCIP), headed by Morlion. He did this with professional Catholic film journalists, mostly lay people, who saw the films before they were seen by the public and collected all necessary information about them to get the maximum of information on the films. The DOCIP journalists were also member of the National and international film press associations like the Fipresci. In fact, it was kind of professional press agency for selling film reviews of the Belgian Catholic Film Selection committee and articles of Catholic film critics to the press. Through the daily Press and radio broadcasting the faithful obtained easily the Catholic film appreciation on every film which would come on the screen in the country. In such a way, the public – catholic or not – could have the necessary information to decide themselves which film they would go and see. He was also organizing film debates and film forums. These ideas of Morlion were soon taken over by European members of the in 1928 founded International Catholic Office for Cinema (OCIC). DOCIP and the Belgian Catholic Film League were the result of catholic lay associations working in the secular world.

This was the opposite of the way the Legion of Decency, directed by the American Bishops Conference handled the information towards the faithful. Its film guidance was rather to forbid and to warn the Catholic film-goers than to educate them to decide on their own. Morlion left Belgium in May 1940, when the Nazis invaded the country. After the war, he lived in Italy and didn't return to Belgium. DOCIP continued without him until 2007. The work of Morlion and DOCIP resulted into an accumulation of a huge amount of documentation: articles published in the Belgian and international press on films and photographs of films which had come on the Belgian screens. It contains also thousands of cards – files made by the Catholic Film Selection committee in Belgium. The last twenty years, it became more and more a source for research for students on film and film history which explains the effort of the Catholic film league, the Flemish government and the Catholic Documentation Center (KADOC) of the Catholic University of Leuven to save it. It is also an example of how a member of OCIC (today SIGNIS) did work in the world of cinema for almost eight decades.