In August the BFI Southbank, Britain’s only venue with a licence to show nitrate film, will continue its showing of nitrate prints that haven’t been screened in the UK for over a decade.
The screenings are part of the BFI’s film series Dangerous Beauty: The Joy of Nitrate Film, within the season Long Live Film: Celebrating 75 Years of the BFI National Archive, a two-month celebration of the BFI’s archive.
Four original nitrate films from the 1930s and 40s will screen at the BFI, including George Sidney’s Oscar winning Anchors Aweigh (1945), starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, and Volga-Volga (1938), a Soviet musical comedy alleged to be Stalin’s favourite film.
The BFI archive contains in excess of 180,000 nitrate film cans, in what is believed to be among the world’s largest holdings of nitrate film.
Despite the digital boom the survival of nitrate prints and negatives continues to be important – the recent restoration of Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948) depended on original nitrate negatives held by the BFI National Archive.