The technology to make movies has been around since the late 1800s. But to watch those early movies again, we needed to wait for technologies invented in just the last few years.
The advent of digital cinema has meant not only new methods of filming and screening movies but also new opportunities to restore degraded nitrate reels and cans of 35-millimeter film that had become unwatchable.
Sharon Rivo, co-director of the National Center for Jewish Film, acquired a collection of rotting Yiddish films in 1976 and went on to accumulate the largest archive of Jewish film outside Israel.
“This was really what I would call a lost period of world cinema,” Rivo said. “Every country has at least one major film archive. There was no place that was particularly interested in films that were either in the Yiddish language or films about Jews, because the Jews didn’t have a country then.”
For her work preserving Jewish film, Rivo was honored Monday during a special screening of a film her center restored. The screening was part of the Washington Jewish Film Festival.