The Self-Preservation Society.


It’s Budget Day in Canada! How exciting that is. We already had the Ontario budget come down earlier this week and I didn’t pay much attention to it, though the COVER of the Metro was a paid political ad by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals about how awesome this province is and how we’ll be deficit-free soon. That sure makes me feel better. Even the cinema thinks advertising in the Metro is kind of a waste of time. (Metro: Virtually content-free since…well, always.)

Anyway, I know virtually nothing about politics, but I do know that the Federal Public Service is being cut and that some friends of mine are very worried about their jobs. I wish them all the best on this terrifying day.

Because my ‘thing’ is film, and because I got to watch some little-seen archival gems last night at this show (which was absolutely fabulous, BTW), I’m especially worried about the state of Library and Archives Canada. Paul Gordon, who helped put last night’s screening together, is a Film Conservator (for now, anyway – he doesn’t expect it will last) there and says the place is being gutted, more or less. Conservator jobs are being cut and, if things continue as they are, there will be no real specialist archivists – everyone will be an generalist. This is absolutely not the way to go. A book is not the same as a film. A film is not the same as a record. A record is not the same as a videotape. Our national archives needs experts. Fact.

Audiovisual stuff is complicated to keep, store, and restore. The CBC is selling off most of its music libraries, so although their archives are immense and full, they are still streamlining hugely by becoming more reliant on digital copies. The National Music Centre (still being built) can help with keeping some collections safe, as can museums (presuming they aren’t budget victims), but will they be able/willing to?

The Cinémathèque québecoise, which actually acts as the dépot légal* for a lot of films made in Quebec (along with the LAC), as well as a museum and film screening centre, is 50 years old this year, but is on the verge of bankruptcy. They won’t be able to take up any of the slack if the LAC cuts back. So what’s going to happen?

(‘If things are digitized, does it matter?’ It matters. And in ways we aren’t even sure of yet.)

As much as the AV Trust wasn’t terribly useful in many ways, at least they were a nagging voice in the ear of the big players in Canadian media and an advocate for archives across Canada. I’m not sure if the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television is doing much these days with the mandate they inherited after the Trust shut down, but I haven’t heard much/anything about it (though I’ve been approached by a couple of journalists asking ‘So, what happened to the Trust?’ recently). But I want to get more involved in this kind of advocacy again – I just need to find a constructive way of doing it. Once I have that, I think I know where my volunteer hours are going to go.

* The Legal Deposit number is one of those things that people ignore at the end of films (or in the first pages of books) and might not understand: A copy of every feature film (and many, many shorter ones) is ‘deposited’ in a library, archive, or, in this case, Cinematheque. In Canada, there are two copies of every book published in this country in Library and Archives Canada by law (hence the ‘legal’ part).

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