The Turin Film Festival has faith in Digital
by Giovanna Arrighi

For years in festivals and conferences around the world there has been talk of the possibilities of digital technology for the future of the cinema: the new formats, the new supports, the new media, and how they may influence the survival or demise of the seventh art.
Whilst there have been dark forecasts as to the imminent disappearance of this illustrious and over 100-year-old expression of human imagination from many quarters, from the vantage point of the 25th Turin Film Festival this prospect is, to say the least, reversed.
Not only does the cinema enjoy splendid health today, but technological innovations only seem to help it along. Of course, most of the works on the programme are still presented on an analogical support but already a certain number of films in digital or semi-digital format are present.
A glance through the programme shows that there are around twenty-five full-length or medium-length films, as well as a dozen or so shorts in DigiBeta format and ten works entirely in HD.
This may seem to be a small number, compared to the classic 35 and 16mm formats, and they cannot yet be projected in all the Festival theatres but they certainly represent a beginning.
Moreover, this is already the third year that it has been possible to project films in high definition – as confirmed by Luca Andreotti, responsible for programming and film-finding – even though the only screens equipped for digital projection are those of the Multisala Cinema Massimo, which is an integral part of the Film Museum. “Of course,” continues Andreotti, “we also have a satellite connection but films still arrive on a material support. It would also be possible for us to organize a whole series of decentralized screenings starting from here, if the other theatres had digital booths, like ours. For now, the problem is linked to the high costs of this equipment, which limits widespread diffusion.”
“On the other hand,” the Director of the Film Museum, Alberto Barbera, confirms, “this was the very reason why we made this decision. It seemed only fair to us that, as a public institution, our structure should assume the cost of purchasing the necessary facilities. In the two previous years we rented the equipment but, since the Museum hosts and supports as many as four festivals a year, it only took a few calculations for us to realize that both the organizational and the economic aspects had to be rendered more efficient. This is why we decided it was important for the theatres of the Massimo to be equipped with a digital system, also in view of the increasing number of digital works in foreign catalogues. Moreover, in this sector, we are witnessing an acceleration in the conversion from traditional to digital supports, under pressure from Hollywood and others and if there was talk of medium-term or long-term developments up to a short while ago, now the timing would seem to be much faster. Certainly costs are still high, although not for long, I think. In any case, as far as the Museum archives are concerned, up to now we have limited ourselves to converting photos and posters into digital format, whilst for the films we are still rather more at the beginning, since the copies for digitalization have to be in perfect condition and we do not have the funds to restore our entire catalogue. Instead, for the festivals it is now necessary to proceed in this direction, since almost thirty percent of the films that are selected on each occasion arrive on this type of support. Because of its vocation the Museum also has the task of collaborating on experimentation, research and professional training and this is why I believe it should not limit its work to archiving but act as a stimulus and a driving force in this field.