I’m not sure if I would have done what the incoming CEO of the National Film & Sound Archive has done. Following a report by the esteemed Don Groves published in Inside Film (click here) which gathered up both professional and cinephile muttering about yet another appointment of a foreigner to our major film institution, the new appointee Jan Muller of the Netherlands has penned his own response, taken up the cudgels to defend himself and inadvertently perhaps giving a lot more oxygen to the argument that is being mounted against him coming here. You can read his response if you click here. It may only serve to enrage rather than calm.
For my part, I say only that Dr Muller’s experience seems to suggest a highly technocratic view of things. His current archive is not a preserver of feature films as far as I can see and he may come here with little knowledge of just what is the key element of the archive’s work – collecting, preserving, restoring and showing through as many platforms as possible the output of our national cinema. It’s the works of Weir, Noyce, Armstrong, Duigan, Miller, Lawrence, Jeffrey and dozens of others who followed them that is the key focus of the archive no matter what the raw stats show about hours collected and the breadth of the holdings.
Still, while I’m not sure that getting into an argument is the best track to take before you even arrive (that moment is still months away), the Inside Film piece quite possibly might signal that the new CEO is prepared to butt heads. This may be good because nobody in charge at the NFSA for quite some time, neither staff nor Chair nor Board has been prepared to raise a public peep about the state of the NFSA and its desperate need for resources to carry out its tasks. Governments have starved the place into the condition it is in and someone from the NFSA needs to stand up soon and tell it like it is.
If you want some more background then these posts on the Film Alert blog may assist as well. Go here for an earlier rant by moi and here for the official press release announcing the appointment.