Tatjana Rezec Stibilj, M. A. Slovenian Film Archive at the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia

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Tatjana Rezec Stibilj, M.A.

Slovenian Film Archive at the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia


In this day and age of massive utilisation of electronic media and digitalisation, it is becoming apparent yet again that the film, as the carrier of motion pictures is still the fastest of them all.

Among other things, kudos go to the fact that it has been in existence for more than one hundred years, this is something reconfirmed every day. Film has received rapid affirmation as a potential means for developing mass culture aimed at awakening social conscience and guiding towards protecting and preserving film material.

Film history named the Polish photographer and filmmaker Boleslav Matuszevski as the pioneer who set out to collect and maintain film material.

In 1898, the literary publication entitled ‘New Historical Sources’ emphasised that this particular material was of equal importance and held the same status in society as any other archive material.

The beginnings of film production activities in Slovenia go back to 1905.

It was then that Dr. Karol Grossamn, a solicitor, using a 17.5 mm film tape, produced three short films that are today stored in our film archive. This date marks the beginning of film making in Slovenia and it is this year that we are celebrating the centenary of the Slovenian film industry.
The road to establishing the Slovenian Film Archive

Until 1945, Slovenian film production was limited to individual filmmakers, most of whom started as photographers and later became attracted by the magical power of motion pictures. Some of them even had their own film making studios, however without the resources to support film production, most of them soon failed. Veličan Bešter, in 1922 was the first person to receive the concession to set up a film production company. He was followed by Metod Badjur who worked in film continually until World War II and following the end of the war in May 1945 he continued working as an all-around film maker. When we talk about him, we must mention his wife Mila who shared his enthusiasm for the new art form from the onset. She remained devoted to film to the very end as an excellent editor. Among the names from the history of filmmaking in Slovenia, I would like to mention Dr. Mario Foerster, a filmmaker and editor who during this early period was perfecting his knowledge of filmmaking in one of the best-known filmmaking studios of the German filmmaking company UFA (Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft). Artist Božidar Jakac was the best-known amateur filmmaker. His most creative period was between 1929 and 1940, in which he was making films during the war, especially on the territory freed by the partisans in 1944.

After 1945, the newly established system of the socialist Yugoslavia provided new conditions to facilitate filmmaking. There were state run filmmaking companies set up in different republics. The first ones were set up in the republics that had already had the pre-war tradition of filmmaking, namely Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubljana. In 1946, a filmmaking company was set up in Ljubljana under the name ‘Triglav film’. All film productions took place within its framework, heavily controlled by the state, taking into account that film presented a powerful propaganda vehicle of the ruling communist regime until the end of the 1950s.
As soon as regular film production had started the problem of maintaining film material, became apparent. At the beginning, ‘Triglav film’ stored films in a wooden shed. Because film tapes suffered exposure to dampness, fluctuations in temperature, and other harmful effects, for a while they were kept in the National Bank’s treasury.

Filmmakers expressed serious warnings about the need for the proper protection of film material. They expressed their concerns to the authorities and the mill wheels of the law moved forward, although slowly.

The Law of Archives and Archival Institution adopted in 1966 (Official Gazette of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia 4-24/66), specifically defined film as archive material. Legal foundations were laid but practice failed to bring the desired results immediately. The Archives of the Socialist republic of Slovenia were entrusted with accomplishing this task, however they were not responsible for providing financial assistance or training opportunities for young professionals.

In 1968 the new film department was set up and its task was to keep a record of the collected film material, to maintain and protect it from damage and make it available to users.

Archivist Ivan Memanič was appointed head of the department and remained in this post until his retirement in 1997. Until 1984, he was the only archivist, but soon the archive became more technically accomplished and subsequently recruited new specialist trained personnel.

The department currently employs seven people. In 2004, the department became an archive sector within the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia, in which Alojzij Teršan, M.A. was appointed as head.

The Slovenian Film Archive at the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia is the only state institution that is preserving the Slovenian film heritage and is the second oldest institution of its kind in the territory of former Yugoslavia besides for the Yugoslavian cinematheque in Belgrade.

The Rules Regarding the Preservation of Archives and Records

The protection of archival material was regulated by the Law of Archives and Archival Institution adopted in 1966. The rule, stated that all filmmakers were obliged to hand over all original film material thirty years following its creation. This soon proved to be inefficient.

Producers and film companies were not capable of ensuring suitable protection for film material since there was no appropriate storage available. The situation improved somewhat after 1974 when the new Law of Film stated that producers must hand over to the archive one flawless copy of the film six months after it had been made. However, complete protection had not been taken care of, since the original films had remained with the producers.

In 1981 the Natural and Cultural Heritage Act was adopted and it stated that the producer must, two months following the completion of a film, transfer to the archive two faultless copies and three years later, the original work. A fundamental change came with the Rules on the Preservation of Archives and Records (Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia no. 20/97), which clearly and precisely stated that archive material meant an original film negative, recorded on a film tape plus another copy of the same film, as well as all films using digital and analogue carriers, made by Slovenian or foreign filmmakers or were co-produced by Slovenian and foreign producers in the Republic of Slovenia and as such considered to be Slovenian films.

The producer must, immediately following completion, hand over film archive material to the National Archives. In return, the Ministry of Culture grants financial support to cover the cost of producing a film intermediate copy, consisting of interpositive and internegative film, which enables the production of 20 to 30 projection copies.

Up to the year 2000 this guideline has proven effective. Arrangements about producing film intermediate copies were being made by the Slovenian film archive, which also covered the cost of this work with funds received from the Ministry of Culture. In 2000, financial support was withdrawn and as a result we have not received the majority of the original Slovenian full-length films. As a rule, five copies at the most can be produced from an original film tape. For some films, this is sufficient. However, for some of those, which journeyed to different festivals, as many as ten copies had been made, since there was no financial assistance to cover the cost of producing film intermediate copies. For example, the film ‘Spare Parts’ (orig. “Rezervni deli”), made by director Damjan Kozolet was literally lost, since due to too many copies made, the original was badly damaged. The final phase of the new Law of Film Material and Archives will be concluded in autumn and some amendments concerning film archive material will be put forth. The law will state that after a film is completed and has been handed over to the archive, the producer will receive funds to cover the cost of producing film intermediate copies, indirectly, from the Ministry of Culture via the Slovenian film foundation, which is responsible for planning and realizing film productions to be co-financed from the national budget.

A brief overview of Slovenian film archive material

The central part is represented by a film collection, which includes some 10 million metres of film material.

Films are saved in a central computer under a title, also including a short resume, information about the authors and technical data (length in metres and minutes, number of copies, condition of copies, name of the deliverer, production date). There are currently 5,800 film titles on 25,000 reels. Some 70% of the films were saved by 1941. These are mainly documentaries, which are a valuable source for research into Slovenian history. These films show different public manifestations, folklore, construction, unveiling of monuments and other public buildings. The first two full-length films, ‘In the Kingdom of the Goldenhorn' (1931, orig. Kraljestvo Zlatoroga) and ‘The Slopes of Triglav’ (1932, orig. “Triglavske strmine”), have been saved. Their aim was to emphasise the natural beauty of the Alpine world. The only copy of the ‘In the Kingdom of the Goldenhorn' was, immediately after its premiere in Ljubljana, sent to Poland. It returned in very poor condition and its subsequent showing in Ljubljana was only in 1932. The reason for this could have been a great number of showings or poor qualities of cine-projectors, or both.

During World War II, the film industry in Slovenia was limited to filmmakers-soldiers fighting for freedom. More material was saved after 1944. Some propaganda films, showing the collaborators in the Slovenian army, have also been saved. After 1945, film productions became state managed. In 1946 the first state owned film company, Triglav film, was founded and in 1957 it was joined by another company, Viba film. At the same time, these two companies remained the largest film producers until the independence of Slovenia.

After 1991 a number of private production companies appeared and are still present today, fighting for their piece of the motion picture industry at home and abroad. We have been entrusted with archive material from other institutions, museums, educational organizations, companies, private producers and collectors. This way, much of the Slovenian film material, including documentaries, short films, animated films and experimental film productions, have been saved. These films have been and will continue to be produced with state financial support. In addition to the film material, the Slovenian Film Archive also contains a priceless collection of written archival material from Triglav film, Viba film and other film producing companies, which are intended to accompany the films. These are scripts of films which have been made and those that have not, shooting logs and film contracts, which are very important today for copyright arrangements and the use of archival material. We also keep a small collection of film posters and an extensive collection of photographs and diafilms.

Storing of films

Material protection is a very complex task, which includes the protection of everything, from a restaurant to film documentation. The aim of all procedures is to offer an image and sound preservation medium, suitable for long term archiving. By producing a substitutive original (intermediate), it is possible to use film material for producing projection copies.

With both procedures, it is important to take into account different types of film tape, since every type has its specific characteristics (the type of base, chemical composition, sensitivity to humidity and temperature fluctuations) and therefore requires the use of specific methods and procedures.

From 1895 until 1951, the film tape that was used worldwide, had a cellulose nitrate base, which was unpredictably flammable. In Slovenia, it was used until 1954. This is a very sensitive film tape, susceptible to decomposition and self-ignition at 40°C. Therefore, one of the Slovenian film archive’s primary tasks was to copy the material onto a safer film with an acetate base. Despite the copying, it was still necessary to store the nitrate base original films under special conditions, separated from the rest of the film materials, which today our archive provides.

After 1951 the acetate base film, black and white as well as colour, gradually came into use.

Each one requires its own special storage conditions, regarding temperature fluctuations and humidity. In both cases, original films and copies must be stored separately.

The latest recommendations advise storing black and white films at 5°C and 35% humidity, which for most Archives this remains only a theory. In our Archive, they are stored at 8°C to 10°C and 55% humidity, with the original films separated from the copies.

Our collection of colour film tape containing productions created over the past 20 years at home and abroad, presents a special problem when it comes to storage.

Above all else, the problem is the decomposition of colour images. Colour films must be inspected and copied more often. According to the experts, the temperature, which would stop the decomposition process, should be an unattainable –18°C.

New spaces are being constructed for our Slovenian Film Archive. There will be new working areas, a laboratory, a projection hall and most importantly, contemporary storage areas for films. We will endeavour to provide optimum storage conditions for a permanent protection of film archival material.

In our collection, there are also films that require a little or sometimes more extensive restoration work. Usually a simple copying, using a classic laboratory method is enough and for some years now we have been using a laboratory in Budapest for such work. The only Slovenian film laboratory was closed down during the 1970s.

In this jubilee year, we have decided to restore the oldest films made by Karol Grosman with the digital restoration method. The original films, on a special 17.5 mm format, were in very poor condition (damaged film base, deep scratches in the base, unstable picture, torn film).

The film was scanned into a computer and corrections were carried out. The corrections were then transferred onto an audiovisual carrier. It was then again scanned in a classical laboratory, copied onto a negative and made a copy onto a 35 mm film tape. The restoration work was carried out in a laboratory in Munich. The restored copy will be shown on the 5th June, 2005 at the Academy Celebrations of the Centenary of Slovenian Film.

During recent years acetate film has been replaced by a new, harder film, produced on a polyester base. It is said that the new film will survive 500 years. Film producers have become quickly enthused about the new film, whilst the archivists showed more caution since the characteristics of the new film in a longer period have not yet been identified.

The use of film archive material

Film archive material is accessible to domestic and foreign users who wish to use such information for educational, scientific, cultural, or commercial purposes. Its use is governed by valid regulations concerning the use of archival material and special provisions, which allow copyright owners to protect their material and moral rights. For example, the films made by Metod and Milka Badjur cannot be copied to electronic carriers without the express written permission from their heiress.

As a rule, a copy is always used for the projections and never the original. In the past, archival material was leased as a whole and cinema halls were its main users, devoting much more time than today to projections of old Slovenian films. One reason is in the fact that no commercial admission can be charged for showing archival material; in addition, showing this material was subject to more rigorous conditions. Unfortunately, we still do not have our own projection hall; therefore, we show our films in Ljubljana in the Slovenian Cinematheque and in small towns where local authorities make it possible to show old Slovenian films during cultural and public holidays.

Nowadays, there is much demand for film inserts (museums, galleries, commercial television stations) which can be shown to a greater number of people with the use of modern technology. We cannot imagine an exhibition without multivision that often uses archive shots. When television programmes are made, especially documentaries and educational films, their authors often request archival material.

In each of the above cases, all of the aspects concerning legal and aesthetic values must be considered. An insert must be incorporated into the new material, which in most cases represents copyrighted work and cannot be changed; picture and sound both form an inseparable unit. All inserts must be marked correctly, giving information about the author and the source of the archival material.

Last year we prepared 1,232 film units for 91 users.

International cooperation

Since the very beginning, the Slovenian Film Archive endeavoured to register films about Slovenia, made by foreign authors, as well as films made by Slovenian authors abroad. For this purpose, extensive research was carried out in film archives abroad, namely the cities of Vienna, Koblenz, Prague, Rome, and film archives of the French filmmaking companies Pathe and Gaumont. The international exchange of film information as well as film material is taking place.

Sometimes we receive a foreign film which then becomes a subject of international exchange.

Discussions are currently taking place with the Yugoslavian Kinoteka in Belgrade, as the central professional institution of the former Yugoslavia.

Back in 1991, a short time before the independence of Slovenia, the Slovenia Film Archive, in agreement with the Yugoslavian Kinoteka, succeeded in transferring all cellulose nitrate films that had been stored in Belgrade.

In 1996 the Slovenian Film Archive was one of the first to join the Association of European Film Archives (ACE). In 1999 it became a regular member of the well known and respected International Federation of Film Archives and Cinematheques (FIAF), which connects and supports 138 film archives, museums and cinematheques from all over the world. In its ethical codex, it very clearly defines the basic roles of film archives, and general as well as special principles of business conduct. We are very proud that the FIAF committee has entrusted us with the organization of the 61st FIAF Congress, which will take place in Ljubljana from the 6th until 11th of June, 2005.


Let me stress once again that in this day and age of massive utilization of electronic media a consistent protection of film archives for permanent protection of film material is of the utmost importance.

At the same time, there must be a coexistence between them, since electronic and digital carriers help us protect filmstrips that we use every day.

Film art and film as a medium have left an indelible mark on our history and culture. Therefore our most important task is to communicate to future generations the Slovenian film heritage in its original historic context; that means in its original filmstrip format and in the cinema.


-Mato Kukuljica: Protection and restoration of film material. Croatian National Archive in Zagreb, 2004

- The protection of the Slovenian film heritage, 30 years of Slovenian film archive within the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia. Archives of the Republic of Slovenia, Ljubljana, 1998

- Marta Rau Selič: New sound carriers and motion picture. Contemporary archives 99, Maribor 1999

- Marta Rau Selič: What is real and what is right when using film archive materials? Keeping records of relevant information sources on the history of Slovenes; New Slovenian legislation;

Archive information system, Postojna 1999

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