Tuesday 19 May 2020

The International Film Guide and World Cinema 1963-2011 - Bruce Hodsdon pays tribute to one of the longest running publications devoted to the current cinema -

Bruce Hodsdon has reviewed the five decades of the International Film Guide's (IFG) documentation of world cinema written as a contribution to the documentation the AFI-RMIT research collection (see a link below).


“Art cinema can be defined by its impurity; a difficulty of categorisation that is as productive to film culture as it is frustrating to taxonomy.” (Global Art Cinema p.6)

I saw my first foreign language film, Umberto D, age 13, in 1953 in the local suburban cinema (“the pictures”) where for a decade I had viewed exclusively English language, mainly Hollywood, product. In addition to this classic of Italian neo-realist cinema, also screened at the local pictures about this time I recall, were La Symphonie Pastoraleand La Ronde. Sustaining the opportunity to imagine cinema as a domain outside Hollywood, within a decade international art films were screening in four dedicated art house cinemas in Sydney's CBD and also from time to time with increasing frequency, on other city and suburban screens. By the late sixties film festivals had begun their transformation from film society initiated events in university grounds to international event status. The appearance of a publication announcing the priority of  “international film” and the association of art - often a code for foreign (European) cinema - challenged the industry-promoted connotations of “continental film.”

IFG spanned the spread of a world film culture parallel with the exponential growth of international film festivals. The brainchild of its founding editor Peter Cowie, the publication in 1964 of the first issuea mark of the emerging concept of an art cinema as something of a hybrid alternative to Hollywood at various points intersecting with popular genres, national cinemas, engag√© and avant-garde filmmaking. The Guide,in its editor's words in 2008, aspired to be “a definitive annual survey of contemporary global cinema” as it unfolded year by year.

The AFI Research Collection at RMIT in Melbourne's CBD is a principal research collection and information archive on film and television open to the public. The Library on which it is based has a long and productive history. Its origin was as the personal collection of George Lugg who was information officer and editor of  Federation News for the Federation of Victorian Film Societies  from 1956-73. The Federation acquired George Lugg's extensive collection of books and magazines on film in 1973 which had been a primary source of information for the Melbourne Film Festival to which George was an advisor for many years*. It subsequently formed a central part of the AFI Research Library for which the RMIT assumed responsibility for staffing and growing in 2002. As a frequent user it was suggested I might have a contribution to make to the “Gems of the Collection” section in the preface to the online catalogue. Also being in personal possession of a full set, I settled on the Library's complete holdings of the International Film Guide – 48 annual volumes 1964-2012.

For an account of all that is known of the genesis and history of George Lugg's collection and his career as a CSIRO research chemist, see John Turner's monumental  The History of Australian Film Societies, A.C.O.F.S 2018.

Click here to go the link to find Bruce's scholarly survey  of the IFG AFI Research

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