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'Archive is like a gift to documentaries'

“Who needs archives when you have YouTube?” joked director Kevin Macdonald at last night’s second annual Ernest Lindgren Memorial Lecture (Lindgren was founder and first curator of the BFI’s National Archive) at the British Film Institute (BFI) Southbank. Nigel Algar, moderator of the event and senior curator at the BFI, was not amused.

Macdonald was the featured speaker for the lecture that focused on the use of archival footage in film.

Speaking to a packed house, Macdonald explored the differences between YouTube and archival footage, the difficulty of working with archives and how to balance fiction films with archival interludes, such as The Queen, or his own Last King of Scotland. Clips were shown from many of his documentaries, as well as a sneak peak of his upcoming Bob Marely doc Marley (which will premiere in Berlin).

Macdonald has used archive material extensively in films incuding One Day In September, Life In A Day, My Enemy’s Enemy and new documentary Marley. But footage of the reggae star was surprisingly hard to come by: “Every two-bit band has acres of footage on the internet today, and yet nothing of Bob Marley until 11 years into his career,” lamented Macdonald. And that was his biggest issue with today’s archival filming: there is too much of it.

The Scottish director plans to take a break from archival footage for his next piece but admitted: “archive is the most exciting thing for documentaries. It is like a gift.” Algar finally had something to smile about.

Watch Macdonald’s Life in a Day free on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/movie?v=JaFVr_cJJIY&feature=mv_sr

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