Andrew Lampert’s Bastard Film Invocation

We are buried by
We are drowning in
We cannot get out from under
The 20th century and the moving image

We are residents of 2013
Spacemen to our ancestors
Ancient to the future
Inheritors of countless reels
In all gauges and lengths
Shrunken, brittle, vinegared, broken
Musical and visual magnetic tapes
Captured on formats short-lived
Lost in our own time

We are generators of terrabytes, data dumps
Crowding the cloud with
Files named “final” and “final final”
Building labyrinths for our children’s children
Moving forward, accumulating backlog
Piles overflowing on palettes
stacks rising atop heaps
Films gathered from all corners of the world
Filling every cubic square foot of our cellars
Barely alive in dead storage
Cataloged with the barest of information
Mysterious unseen images in musty unmarked cans
That smell of boredom
Offering improbable entertainment value
Dated social significance
Negative production value
Subjective educational quality
Limited artistic integrity
Subpar acting 
Unintentional surrealism
Stupefying content
Flawed construction
Questionable intentions
Dubious execution.

We are outnumbered.

For all the films canonized
listed on registries
taught in classes
Obtusely analyzed in syllable heavy dissertations 
Read by no more than four people on planet Earth
For every certified classic
There are two million turkeys
DOA or RIP
In all sizes, styles and budgets
Not abandoned, but rejected
Unthinkable sums of movies 
For which eyes are scarce
Life is fleeting
Films are rotting

We are witnesses
Archivists
Artists
Janitors
Protectors of analogue ways of seeing
Pioneers of digital access
Driven by altruism
Fueled by good will
Bound by our belief in
Illumination

We gather together
Drink in hand
Asking each other
How can we get ahead
Keep pace with
Catch up to
The endless clutter of moving images
Demanding our attention
Depleting our resources

The solution is time and money
But this is not an answer
There will never be enough of either
Our orphanages are running out of beds
Preservation is privilege
And let’s be honest
Not all films were made equal.

If we look
In the attics of widows
There will be cans
In New Jersey warehouses we will find negatives
On a reef in the Pacific Ocean prints are oxidizing
Films will be discovered in the North Pole, and Antartica, too
It is said that Kim Il Sung assembled a mammoth collection of stag movies.
Where are they today?

What is to be done with those films and by-products
Burdening institutions
Crushing collectors
Held in such low esteem by their keepers 
That when we speak of them 
All we do is lament the space they occupy?
Existence and irrelevancy is not a given

My fellow Bastards
It is time for us to acknowledge 
Our most misguided
Our most banal
Our most deviant
Our least expected
Examples of
Cinema gone wrong
Because we can only declare what is good by knowing what is bad
And having the evidence to prove it

Film is not the truth at 24 frames per second
It is proof that can be played at any speed.
Quality is illusory
This weekend we will prove it

To save and project?
To project is to save
If not for the public at large
Then for present company
Whose collective memory
Will usher these failures forward
To oblivious researchers
Inquisitive viewers
Hopeful future audiences
Who will demand to see what we have shown
Who will be curious to find out the who what where why and when
Well after we are gone
If not sooner

However honest we can be with ourselves about
Relative merit and historic record
We persist to find interest in the niche
See context in the whole
Recognize what is important and what could be if given a push
Our preferences and opinions
shape our impulses
And cannot not be ignored in the course of our work
We seek objectivity 
But we are cheerleaders
We play favorites
Wishing to save everything
Wanting to make it all available
Knowing that we cannot
We are tour guides pointing fingers who
must ignore prevailing conventions of taste because
It will change
It always does

We save masterpieces
We preserve relics 
We do this for history
We do this for the future
And in salvaging we must continually
Problematize the record
Ignore the facts
Wrestle with bureaucracy
Follow our assumptions
Question our initial negative reactions
Set aside some garbage rather than throw it away
Yes, even polish a turd
Because if we cannot save it allLets at least hold onto
Representative samples of our worst moments
Which in hindsight might be
Our golden hour