Arts & International Affairs: Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2018 - Page 18

THE ENDURING VISION OF A WORLD WITHOUT WAR are the best films to illustrate the civilisation and contemporary work of individual Asian Member States of Unesco” (UNESCO 1957a). After negotiations stretching over several months, a contract was signed with the BFI, the main role of which was to prepare the catalogue. According to the initial agreement, UNESCO was to pay the BFI £1050 to compile the catalogue (£350 for part one and £700 for part two)�about £23,700 in current value (This is n.d.). On top of this, UNESCO agreed to an additional payment for including the U.S.S.R. in the catalogue half way through the project after some confusion about whether or not the Soviet Union was to be categorised as an Eastern country. The BFI was founded in 1933, following a recommendation made by the Commission on Educational and Cultural Films. The Commission reported that: “A film has a national conception and an international life. [ ... ] No nation which produces films and no nation which imports films produced by others can afford to ignore the cinema, and any society of nations such as the British Empire or the League of Nations must look on the cinema both as an international force and as an international problem” (Quoted in Druick 2007:36). As Zoë Druick notes, in the early years, there clearly was a nationalistic and imperialistic aspect to the BFI’s mandate (ibid.). But of course, a lot had happened since 1933, most notably the collapse of the British Empire, which then called for a change of direction. Since 1948, the focus of the Institute has been on encouraging the development of the art of film and on fostering public appreciation and study of it. During the project, James Quinn as the director of the BFI handled most of the communications with UNESCO. Known as a true cinema aficionado, he is credited as a key architect in the development of the BFI. He established the London Film Festival and during his tenure, 1955–64, the National Film Theatre was built and the regional film theatres system sponsored by the BFI was created. James Quinn was well aware of the geopolitical realities that framed the times of the catalogue project: “A film cleared for television distribution in the West today might be withdrawn for political reasons tomorrow,” he explained his proposal for changing the wording of “available” and “cleared” for television to “films suitable for Television” based on more than just legal and technical matters (UNESCO 1958d). Quinn’s correspondence also reveals an unwavering attitude towards the quality of cinema and an occasionally poorly concealed disappointment in having to compromise his vision. For example, Pakistan was nearly left out of part one, as the quality of their feature film production was not seen to be good enough for the catalogue (UNESCO 1958a). This was agreed by both the BFI and the Pakistani High Commissioner in London. Later on, it was suggested that it might, in fact, be a preferable option to include “bad Pakistani films” in the catalogue instead of not including any (UNESCO 1958b). The final publication includes four feature films produced in Pakistan. It was noted that because countries not featured in the catalogue would undoubtedly, in the future, be producing films of high enough quality to be screened abroad, the publication should be brought up to date from time to time. Mrs. Winifred Holmes of the British Film Institute took on the task of compiling the catalogue in practice, although being aware that the process might be prolonged as “it 17