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Brussels, October 27, 2017 (Unesco/GC) "Discover, remember and share" is the theme of this year's celebration of the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage. Audiovisual documents, such as films, radio and television programmes, are our common heritage and contain the primary records of the history of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Unfortunately, that heritage is now endangered, because sound recordings and moving images can be deliberately destroyed or irretrievably lost because of neglect, decay and technological obsolescence. Through initiatives such as the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage and the Memory of the World Programme, the work of preservation professionals is encouraged, in order to manage the range of technical, political, social, financial and other factors that threaten the safeguarding of our audiovisual heritage.
One of the preoccupation of SIGNIS is saving the audiovisual heritage of its institution and its members. SIGNIS and its members have audiovisual productions from the 1940s (films about the local Church, on topics of the Bible and for evangelization work). But SIGNIS also wants to help saving the audiovisual productions of local Catholic media, such as radios and television. This material is extremely vulnerable and important: it is not only part of the audiovisual heritage of the Church but also of the local communities.
For this reason, SIGNIS works with the Kadoc (Katholiek Documentatie Centrum), at the Catholic Univeristy of Leuven, which takes cares of its paper archives but also of its audiovisual materials. SIGNIS also gave to the Kadoc many Catholic TV and audiovisual productions which belonged to the fund of the OCIC Catholic Video Distribution of the 1990s and video- and film productions of OCIC members.
In 1962, OCIC made an audio tape of its world congress in Québec: all the discussions and the events were kept on magnetic tapes. The Kadoc restored and digitized them and these precious recordings are now available for the researchers and audiovisual producers for the future. The Kadoc is one of the main archives that keeps and preserves films made by missionaries worldwide - not only Africa – as well as films made by Catholic institutions in Belgium from the 1920s till today.
The Vatican Film Library is also a member of SIGNIS. Pope John XXII established this film archive in 1959. The collection includes more than eight thousand films including historic films, Church events, commercial films and documentaries. The Vatican Library is part of the international federation of film archives.
SIGNIS is well aware of the importance of the audiovisual heritage in Africa and since the 1970s, gives an important attention to this issue. Due to the latest digital technologies, the films made on video, 35 and 16 mm risk to get lost, because there is no money to save these "voices and images" of the emerging African nations. The many productions on DVD risk to get lost because, in many countries, there are no archives to take care of this material.
This preoccupation is also shared by Martin Scorsese, guest of SIGNIS at its congress in Quebec in June 2017. His Film Foundation World Cinema Project agreed on June 7, 2017, with UNESCO and the Federation of African filmmakers to launch the African Film Heritage Project, a joint initiative to preserve African cinema. In that way, about fifty African film classics like Soleil O of the Mauritanian filmmaker Med Hondo and Touki Bouki (Djibril Diop Mambetu) will be restored and digitalized. Both are OCIC awarded African directors.
The General Conference of UNESCO approved the commemoration of a World Day for Audiovisual Heritage in 2005 as a mechanism to raise general awareness of the need to preserve and safeguard important audiovisual material for future generations, and for urgent measures to be taken to conserve this heritage and ensure it remains accessible to the public now, and to future generations.