From: Iris Elezi
March 27, 2013
Dear all,I've always believed that during this transitional period, the only true success story out of the Albanian lands has been Dokufest - the international documentary and short film festival in Prizren, Kosovo.In these past 12 years, their superb programming and persevering dedication against all odds, has already made them one of the top 25 documentary film festivals in the world.Exactly a year ago, when we started what became The Albanian Cinema Project, we were all aware that it wasgoing to be a long term project and that it would acquire endless amount of effort to overcome all obstacles.Little did we know, that in just this first year ACP will gather such 'momentum' - for this is what we initially called all these great strides we've achieved day after day after day.
At first we believed we were alone and cut off from the big world as the invisible enemy of the vinegar syndrome risked the wealth of films in the AQSHF vaults. Most people we contacted simply told us to join the long line of other Eastern European countries facing the same issues.Yet, we continued... until comforting words came from Tilda Swinton, Mark Cousins, and our fantastic life saver, the superwoman and archivist, Regina Longo.For months Regina kept emailing and Skype calling the archivist of AQSHF, counselling them on all the aspects needed, til the day she herself arrived with Roxanne in Tirana's archive.What followed, most of you are already aware:)
We always believed in the power of film to unite film professionals, academics and archivists to do the impossible: Helping to save a whole's country archive (!) yet we could never imagine what Regina and all the ACP board members and supporters managed in just one year!
Thanks again to Stephen Parr for fiscally sponsoring our project so needed funds can be raised for Colorlab and the other labs that will collaborate with us in the future.Yes, things did happen fast and improbable deadlines were met, and the response to the wonderful job Colorlab did of the 1st restored film, NENTORI I DYTE, has been overwhelming.The actors and the DP himself couldn't believe their eyes: what they saw was indeed even better than the original material in its premiere back in 1982! For the 1st time in an Albanian film I saw lush colors as if it werea Kubrick film.So thank you again Nancy & Russ and everyone in the amazing team at Colorlab: Dean, Adam, Kevin, Eleanor,Laura, Chris & Jake!You all helped us understand that in Albania's case, due to the lack of proper chemicals from mid 1970s - on, we are not doing just restoring...As Thomas often says, these films have secrets in them, so together we are resurrecting treasures we are not fully aware off, yet they are there.I'm using mostly first names for in this short time we have became part of each others life, even though some of us have yet to meet in person:)
Thank you again to the Association of Moving Image Archivists, president Caroline Frick and ACP board member Dennis Doros, who recognized the value and the importance of our project, and dedicated a whole day in the AMIA conference in Seattle for Regina and Eriona of AQSHF to present the journey of ACP this past January.And what a journey it has already been! In November when Regina and Roxanne returned, this time with therestored version on NENTORI I DYTE and Ken Weissman and JeanP., they had to even overcome the storm that closed many airports in the East coast.Their contribution, along with the dedication of our friend, Mark Cousins, is still felt in various ACP endeavours.That day, in November 3rd, when the ACP board member, Artan Minarolli, gave us the perfect platform to screen the restoration, all of us sat in different seats around the theater to better feel the audience. And it was electric!
Humbly, when in front- we didn't mention the name of ACP as much as maybe we could have; we simply let the work speak for itself. These many months later, we have reasons to smile, for in today's screening ACP is the name that will just-fully remain in everyone's head.Personally I think it is only fitting that this US Premiere of NENTORI I DYTE is happening at NYU. Thank you to ACP's Dan Streible for your hard work in arranging this and also restoring two other 16mm shorts from the RTSH archive.While studying at NYU I wondered often when Albania will also be mentioned in classes, and as of yesterday thanks to Dan, Regina, Thomas and Fatmir a whole class was dedicated to ACP's efforts.Yes, dreams come true when amazing people come together and put their minds and hearts to a selfless cause!To this long list of thank you's, I have to add Andrea McCarty for making it possible for the Albanian-American community to experience the 1st ACP restoration. I know in my heart it will be an unforgettable experience for all.
For such is always the outcome of so much work, vision and sleepless nights. So many wonderful people andinstitutions working for the same goal, which now thanks to Regina's speed of light have grown: to five films restored in five years!Thank you all and more extra thanks to Elvira, Eriona and all at AQSHF, Fation, Ela, Sarah, Rain, and so many more, who together have helped in making ACP the new success story coming out of these lands!When I imagine the work that lays ahead, I smile knowing that ACP will in the years to come bring Albanian cinema and filmmakers to new audiences everywhere. I rejoice at the fact that even the film I'm preparing, BOTA, will somehow help the archive situation.And I know that in the next twenty years, even if ACP is not mentioned in the Katz film encyclopedia:) it will most definitely be part of the history books of this tiny country not so far away with so much of misunderstood history to share.Best,Iris Elezi--