In Cinema Regained, investigations into cinematic history are not confined statically to the past as lifeless antiques – they are alive, reimagined, and reinvigorated. IFFR’s programme dedicated to living film history is where restored classics and unknown masterpieces, documentaries about celebrated filmmakers, essays in unusual genres, and experimental explorations of cinema's heritage meet and play.
Until 2018 it was thought that Neck ‘n’ Neck, an early Disney work, had been lost completely, and with it the first introduction of the character of Oswald, precursor to Mickey Mouse. In a find that captured the attention of even the press not usually concerned by film history, a private collector in Japan identified a shortened fragment of the film in his collection. IFFR is thrilled to present this newly restored version, which it supported in collaboration with Japan’s Kobe Planet Film Archive.
This collaboration also brought to life another extraordinary film of historical importance – Sea Palace, a live-action piece from 1927 by Japanese master animator Masaoka Kenzō. A precursor to his pioneering work which included the first anime ‘talkie’, this fun and inventive children’s fairytale was also considered lost before its restoration together with the Kobe Planet Film Archive.
Elsewhere, the programme foregrounds experimental investigations into cinematic history. Canadian filmmaker, historian and preservationist Stephen Broomer presents the world premiere of Fat Chance, a darkly comical tribute to Hollywood heavy (in this case, quite literally) Laird Cregar, who found stardom thanks to two 1940s noir thrillers. Broomer subjects these films, as well as other extracts from Cregar’s brief career, to chemical image manipulation to create an operatic montage which reflects on the grandeur and despair of this Hollywood life cut short at the age of 31.
Iranian director Shahram Mokri’s Careless Crime is a surprising meeting of fiction and essay on the connections between cinema and the 1979 Iranian Revolution, which in fact began in 1978 with the arson of the Cinema Rex in Ābādān during a screening of The Deer by Masoud Kimiai. This much loved classic of the Iranian New Wave is ingeniously built into Mokri’s latest work, which through its invisible presence reflects on the seismic importance of the tragic screening to the nation’s collective memory. Both films are made available in the selection.
Cinema Regained also features the silliest film in the IFFR 2021 programme, and perhaps one of the weirdest treats the festival has presented in its history: Mat Magic. This 1971 Singaporean classic features Southeast Asian comedy superstar Mat Sentol in a crazy mix of silly comedy with a documentary record of American magician John Calvert’s signature tricks. As with much of the programme, feature length titles will be screened with an accompanying short, in this case 1967’s Vincent Van Go-Go from West Germany, a pop-art infused surrealist animation, about which barely anything is known, even it’s production year: a double-bill of cinematic sorcery!