Sydney Film Festival 1954 to Now: A Living Archive has thousands of “pages” including 37 essays.

The Sydney Film Festival’s (SFF) new ebook, celebrating its upcoming 60th anniversary, went live today and most definitely has the wow factor, in part because of its sheer size.

Sydney Film Festival 1954 to Now: A Living Archive has thousands of “pages” including 37 essays amounting to 35,000 words, more than 10,000 words of memories and stories from festival goers, a searchable list of all 8,580 films that have ever screened at the festival, more than 1,000 photographs and all 59 complete program guides. And there’s also 50 videos including award-winning shorts, news clips and trailers.

As Sydney Film Festival director Nashen Moodley said at this morning’s launch, there was so much content it could never have been printed. “They took the simple idea of doing an online publication and completely exploded it,” he said of his colleagues.

Indeed, the treasure trove of content, its multi-dimensional flavour and the inclusion of many voices makes it not just a history of the SFF but a broader exploration of film festivals, filmgoing and filmmaking. And the intention is to add to the ebook regularly, hence the use of the words “living archive”.

Putting film aside, Sydney Film Festival 1954 to Now: A Living Archive can also be seen as a model for what is possible when the traditions of publishing are combined with what’s possible using new technology.  For example its navigation is all very high-tech and it is easily accessible, but it also has an ISBN (International Standard Book Number).

“The ISBN gives it a legitimacy,” said Dr Lisa Murray, city historian at the Sydney City Council, which was the major sponsor of the project. “It means it’s not just a website but a serious publication that has longevity and will be catalogued by libraries around the world.”

David Stratton, the SFF’s longest-serving former director, told some very amusing stories of festivals past, including one set in 1975. To celebrate the opening night film Sunday Too Far Away and a retrospective of Australian film, a city street was blocked off so that a gun shearer and actor Jack Thompson could give a sheep shearing demonstration.

“That year there was a query from the auditor about why we had purchased 40 sheep and sold them the next day.”

Take a look here: 

(Sandy George was one of the many contributors.)