During the Soviet era, it was customary to incinerate outtakes of negative film stock so the silver could be recycled. Through miraculous circumstances, the outtakes from Parajanov’s classic The Colour of Pomegranates (1969) were saved, granting us a remarkable insight into Parajanov’s creative process and glimpses of ghost films, tantalising suggestions of what these could have been had Parajanov retained control over his material. The Colour of Pomegranates is therefore an 'open' book we can finally explore, 50 years after the film’s release.
Five years ago, Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation supported the digital restoration of the film, but now restoration specialist Daniel Bird takes it a step further, fully restoring the original camera negatives of hours of outtakes, not only offering extra visual splendour, but also allowing better understanding of the maestro's process, as well as the censors' decisions at the time of the film’s release.
How to present this cornucopia of fragments without turning them into a new artwork lacking the blessing of Parajanov (who died in 1990)? Instead of a linear documentary, the approach here is to project a selection of outtakes on loops in a space evoking a church interior, with moving frescoes, icons and miniatures. Temple of Cinema #1 is above all a signal that there is a need to create a safe space for film from the Caucasus; a repository where films can be preserved, studied and disseminated. To do this, Bird instigated a partnership whereby leading experts will train local technicians in how to save and restore gems of Armenian, Azeri and Georgian film. (Edwin Carels)