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The Search for Missing Films: The IDA/Academy Documentary Collection

By ed carter

One of the missions of the Film Archive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is to acquire, preserve and provide research access to documentary films. The Archive collects documentaries of all kinds, now having more than 2,000 titles. As documentary archivist, I am responsible for the devel­opment and care of the IDA/Academy Documentary Collection. These films come from a variety of sources. Each year since 1994, we have received copies of all the films nominated for Academy Awards, and we've acquired copies of nominees and winners in the annual IDA Distinguished Documentary Achievement Awards competition since we began our close association in 1993. We provide on-site viewing access to qualified students, scholars and filmmakers, to the reference materials in the collection.

In addition to building a comprehensive collection of viewing prints, a primary goal of ours is the conservation and preservation of original film elements. As documentarians know, the cost of proper storage of films is often prohibitive, making their upkeep difficult. Unfortunately, prints and elements of many (even quite recent) films have been damaged, misplaced or lost. Often the surviving materials are in poor condition due to improper storage. Many filmmakers are shocked to learn that their original film or video elements have disappeared in just a few years.

Although preserving feature films is well-established and partially funded, for documentaries this process is only in its infancy. We are working to change that situation. The Academy Film Archive has begun an active program to preserve documen­taries, and we store many pre-print materials (including camera negatives) of documentary films for filmmakers. Our facilities provide the highest quality temperature and humidity control, also 24-hour security. Many filmmakers are now taking advantage of the Archive to insure that their films will have a future. We need your help and cooperation in this endeavor: we can't save your films if you don't let us.

Part of the Academy's mandate is to collect prints of all films that have won or been nominated for Academy Awards. These prints become part of the Academy's permanent collection and are used in our research and preservation programs, as well as for occasional institutional screenings. However, the Academy's rule—"one print of every film nominated for final balloting for all Academy Awards... shall become the property of the Academy"—has not always been enforced over the years, due in part to space limitations at the old AMPAS building. We now have the space and proper archival storage conditions which will allow us to store a complete collection of Oscar-nominated and winning films. Since 1994, the Archive has held its collections in a temperature and humidity-controlled building. However, our collection of Oscar-nominated films has many missing titles.

The same is true for films nominated for IDA Awards. Since the creation of the IDA/Academy Documentary Collection, we have been trying to assemble a complete selection of the nominees and winners of the IDA awards competitions. There are many missing titles for the years prior to 1993. The following is a list of some of the Oscar-nominees/winners and IDA nominees/winners that we are seeking:

  • The American Experience: Nixon, Part III: The Fall
  • The Anderson Platoon
  • Adventures in Perception
  • Alaska Wilderness Lake
  • Albert Schweitzer
  • Always a New Beginning
  • America and Lewis Hine
  • Ape and Super-ape
  • Arthur Rubenstein—The Love of Life
  • Background
  • A Baltic Requiem Beginning Places
  • Black Fox
  • Boy Soldiers
  • A Brief History of Time
  • Chariots of the Gods
  • Chasing a Rainbow: The Life of Josephine Baker
  • Chernobyl: The Bitter Taste of Wonnwood
  • Children at Work
  • Christo's Valley Curtain
  • Le Ciel et la Boue (Sky above Mud Below)
  • Color Adjustment
  • Czechoslovakia 1968
  • Damned in the USA
  • The Day after Trinity
  • Dream Deceivers: The Story Behind
  • James Vance vs. Judas Priest
  • Exploratorium
  • Four Stones for Kanemitsu
  • Generation on the Wind
  • Genocide
  • The Gifts
  • Good Morning Miss Toliver
  • Half Life: A Parable for the Nuclear Age
  • Handsworth Songs
  • Hearts of Darkness
  • Hearts and Minds
  • Hollywood on Trial
  • Home from the Hill
  • Hundertwasser's Rainy Day
  • Hunting Tigers
  • Incident at Oglala
  • The Incredible Machine Indianapolis: Ship of Doom
  • Is It Easy to Be Young? (Legko Li Byt Molodym)
  • Jacques-Yves Cousteau's World Without Sun
  • John Muir's High Sierra
  • K-Z
  • Koryo Celadon
  • A Long Wayfrom Nowhere
  • Manson
  • The Mormons: Missionaries to the World
  • Mother Teresa
  • Naked Yoga
  • The Numbers Start with the River
  • The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir
  • Paris Is Burning
  • People of the Wind
  • Politics of Greed
  • Probes in Space
  • Raoni
  • Recollections of Pavlovsk
  • River People: Behind the Case of David Sohappy
  • Robert Frost: A Lover's Quarrel with the World
  • Serengeti Shall Not Die
  • Shayna Maidels: Orthodox
  • Jewish Teenage Girls
  • Shoah
  • Somebody Waiting
  • Speed Racer: Welcome to the World of Vic Chesnut
  • The Sorrow and the Pity
  • The Ra Expeditions
  • The Silent Revolution
  • The Silent World
  • The Tide of Traffic
  • Threat
  • Thy Kingdom Come... Thy Will Be Done
  • Time Is Running Out
  • Tosca.'s Kiss
  • Treasures from the Past
  • Twilight City
  • Walls of Fire
  • The War Game
  • Why Korea?
  • The Yellow Star: The Persecution of the Jews in Europe: 1933-45

Are you, or do you know, the current distributor and/or rights holder to any of these films? At the very least, we would like to acquire reference copies, on film or tape, of all of these titles, to build a complete collection of both Academy Award and IDA Award nominees and winners. Ideally, however, we seek the original materials for these films-negatives, tracks, pre-production footage. Of course, a few of them may already be in good hands and in fine shape, but for those films that aren't, we welcome any submissions or information. Conservation of documentaries begins with the filmmaker, so we also ask you to reflect on the films you have made and the location/condition of your film and video elements. Are they getting optimum protection?

If you want to deposit or donate materials, or have any leads to contact the owners of any of these films, please contact us:
Ed Carter — Academy Film Archive
333 S. La Cienega Blvd — Beverly Hills CA 9021


ED CARTER is Documentary Archivist for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He was recently involved in the restoration of three Robert Drew films (the so-called "Kennedy Trilogy": Primary, Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment and Faces of November) for public exhibition on October 27th, the first restoration collaboration between AM PAS and the IDA.