Animated Archive

Natxo Checa and Leão at the INCA archive, June 2012 © Filipa César
View of the archive at INCA, June 2012 © Filipa César

The National Film Institute of Guinea-Bissau (INCA – Instituto Nacional de Cinema e Audiovisual) is home to important documentary material from the period of the country’s struggle for liberation (1963–1974) and first years of independence. There are also foreign film productions there which reflect the geopolitical relationships of solidarity with other countries in the 1970s.
The historical film material from the period of militant cinema in Guinea-Bissau was almost completely destroyed in the civil war of 1998/99. Only a small part of this material survived this destruction. As part of the "Animated Archive" project, the film holdings were able to be digitized with the support of the German Foreign Office’s Cultural Preservation program.

Historical Background

The history of Guinean cinema starts during the 11-year-long war for independence with Portugal when Amílcar Cabral, the leader of PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde), sent four young Guineans – Flora Gomes, Sana na N’Hada, Josefina Crato and José Bolama Cobumba – to the Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) to learn how to make cinema. Cabral’s propaganda strategy was to make his people and the world aware of the ongoing struggle, utilising the power of the image of the individual in order to visually create a new national identity. Cinema was a political tool, a way to establish the pillar of a collective memory, to promote the raising up of the newly-liberated Guinea.

Cinema in Guinea-Bissau thrived for some years after independence but after the coup d’état in 1980 it stopped being a governmental priority (with the exception of one of the most important Guinean productions, MORTU NEGA (1988), by Flora Gomes) and with outbreak of the Civil War in 1998 it was completely abandoned.

Today, all that is known to have remained from this period of production is an archive of films and unedited footage made between 1972 and 1980 and stored in Bissau at INCA (Instituto Nacional de Cinema e Audiovisual). Assembled with this material are other films and news reels originating from countries which supported the Guinean struggle (Cuba, Sweden, the GDR, Senegal, the USSR, Holland, France, India and Algeria) and by Portuguese filmmakers struggling against colonial politics as well as copies of several films left by Chris Marker during his visits to Guinea-Bissau in 1979.

(1) (1) Flora Gomes and Julinho Camará shooting GUINE-BISSAU, 6 ANOS DEPOIS, 1980 (unfinished film) © INCA Guinea-Bissau, José Cobumba, Josefina Crato, Flora Gomes, Sana na N’Hada (2–3) Footage from GUINE-BISSAU, 6 ANOS DEPOIS, 1980 (unfinished film) © INCA Guinea-Bissau, José Cobumba, Josefina Crato, Flora Gomes, Sana na N’Hada (4) Amílcar Cabral at Apartheid NO!, 1976 © DEFA (5) Aristides Pereira, Julius Nyerere, Luís Cabral, Bissau, 1976 (unedited footage) © INCA Guinea-Bissau, José Cobumba, Josefina Crato, Flora Gomes, Sana na N’Hada (6–7) Amílcar Cabral and Seku Touré at the week of Information at Palais du Peuple, Conakry September 1972 (unedited footage) © INCA Guinea-Bissau, José Cobumba, Josefina Crato, Flora Gomes, Sana na N’Hada (8) Sana na N'Hada (in the back with camera) shooting O REGRESSO DE AMILCAR CABRAL, 1976 © INCA Guinea-Bissau, Lennart Malmer

Digitization and Preservation

The archive’s holdings include 16mm and 35mm film rolls, which include some uncut material, as well as magnetic sound tapes. Due to poor storage conditions, all of this material is in a very advanced state of degradation due to "vinegar syndrome". At the archive itself, the technical prerequisites that might allow these films to be viewed or projected to make them accessible to the public are not in place. The central idea of the "Animated Archive" is thus to preserve this collective cinematic memory and allow it to be accessed.

The first step involved registering the existing material in Bissau. Andreas Sollacher (ARRI Munich) constructed a manually operated screening tool to this end that can be used to create individual stills from the rolls of film. This enabled the material to be catalogued and its condition established. The viewing of the film rolls was supervised by Filipa César and filmmakers Flora Gomes and Sana na N’Hada. The second step entailed transporting the film material to Berlin to be cleaned and digitized.

The digitization carried out by the “Animated Archive” project offers a starting point for further projects that will be able to engage with this film legacy in the future.

“Animated Archive” is a project by Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art conceived and carried out by Filipa César in collaboration with the filmmakers Suleimane Biai, Flora Gomes and Sana na N’Hada and Carlos Vaz, head of INCA.

Project staff Reiner Meyer (Kornmanufaktur, Berlin), Nuno da Luz (assistant), Marta Leite (assistant), Andreas Sollacher (ARRI München), Marian Stefanowski (film preparation, Arsenal), Suleimane Biai, Onélio Cardoso, Joaquim Gomes, Fátima Silva, Felismina Tavares, Carlos Vaz (INCA, Bissau)

The project was made possible with funding from the Cultural Heritage Preservation Program of the German Foreign Office with the support of the Goethe-Institut in Dakar.

Thanks to Jaime Azinheira, Jorge Biague, Suleimane Biai, João Botelho, Elsa César, Rosa César Waschke, Natxo Checa, Manuel da Costa Cabral, Renata Diack, Antje Ehmann, Rita Fabiana, Harun Farocki, Diogo Ferreira, Gonçalo Galvão Teles, Gorka Gamarra, Flora Gomes, Cristina Guerra, Doris Hegner, Tobias Hering, Tanja Horstmann, Marta Leite, Mónica Lima, Victor Lopes, Policarpo Marcos Lopes, Nuno da Luz, Colin MacCabe, Chris Marker, Diana McCarty, Doreen Mende, Philip Metz, Reiner Meyer, Avi Mograbi, Eglantina Monteiro, Sara Moreira, Christian Ndombi, Sana Na N’Hada, Silvia Nissen-Hülse, Filipa Oliveira, Júlio Pereira, Stefan Pethke, Alexandra Pinho, Angela Reedwisch, Uwe Rieken, Markus Ruff, David Rych, Silvia Scharf, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, Carlos Schwarz Silva, Maria João Seixas, Catarina Simão, Valerie Smith, Andreas Sollacher, Fábio Sousa, Inês Teixeira, Guillaume Thiériot, Carlos Vaz, Mark Waschke, Carsten Wille and Guilherme Zeverino.

Further projects by Filipa César: Luta ca caba inda, From Boé to Berlin – A mobile lab on the film history of Guinea-Bissau