In 2002 the Giornate del Cinema Muto (aka Pordenone Silent Film Festival) produced a CD-ROM that listed and described every film shown at the festival 1982-2001. The CD-ROM is now out of print, but what was really wanted was an online version which could be updated year by year. And now we have it.
The Giornate database lists every one of the 6,330 films featured at the festival 1982-2008. You can search by year, title, director, year of release, production company, country and archive. It is a little disappointing that no searching is offered by cast member or other credits, still more that there is no searching of descriptions or a free-text search generally. Hopefully such functionality can be introduced later (such search options are available on the CD-ROM version), but as it is the database is still a very useful and welcome resource.
The database lists every film shown at the festival since 1982, with additional entries for films which have been shown more then once (i.e. in later years). The information available varies, with no synopses for earlier years, though that’s because such data was not included in the festival catalogue/booklet. More recent records are richer in detail as the catalogue has become an ever more handsome production, with background information in both English and Italian. What every record does provide is title, any alternative titles, year of production, year in which it was shown at the festival, the production company, director (where known), format (i.e. 35m, 16mm etc), the film speed at which it was shown, its duration, and the archive which supplied the copy. You even get the name of the musician who played to the film.
Such core data yields all sorts of information. For instance, the festival has shown 473 films directed by D.W. Griffith, 104 films made in 1905, 71 films made by the Cines company, 374 films made in Germany, and 505 films from the Nederlands Filmmuseum. One can find out so much – not just about the contents of films shown at the festival, but their provenance and location. Moreover, it is information that was rigorously researched in the first place for the Pordenone catalogue, and which can be relied upon. Also, there are records here for films from across the world of silent cinema which the researcher will simply not be able to find anywhere else. It is a treasure trove.
That said, it could be even better. The potential for searching by credits or across synopses has been mentioned. However, it might be that the festival could open up this resource still further to our research community, with a bit of Web 2.0 functionality. For instance, where there are gaps in the data for earlier years (if this is the case – it’s not clear is the database represents all the published information in the festival catalogues from 1982), volunteers might be willing to type in the missing text or credits. Contributing archives could add updated information on prints that they provide, likewise the scholars who contributed information to the catalogue could add updated information – in both cases not altering the original catalogue record, but putting data into a separate notes field. Anyone might contribute comments on films that they have seen – obviously with some form of moderation. Databases are such powerful tools – we mustn’t just see them as searchale lists, but instead must make full use of them as structured and updatable data.
But even as it is the Giornate database is a fabulous resource, and one that hopefully will be updated year-on-year from now on. Grateful thanks and congratulations are due to the Giornate del Cinema Muto for making the database available to all. Go explore.