Where Burmese Films go to Retire – and Die

AS soon I step into the cool, dark vault, the overpowering smell of vinegar floods my nostrils.

Rusty, cylindrical cans are strewn across the floor and on the dusty wooden shelves lining the room. Some are open, with their contents – 35mm cellulose acetate film – lying in brittle heaps on the wooden floor.

U Bhone Myint Win, one of the caretakers at the Film Archive office, picks a can off the shelf, wipes off the caked dust and pops it open releasing a plume of vinegar fumes into the air.

“It is smelly when a film starts to decay,” he said. “So, we can’t store them together with the other films in the film vault. We must keep them separate.”

This is the degradation room, a vault in the Film Archives office in Yangon where films come to die.

Decades of neglect under extreme conditions hasn’t been kind to some of the country’s most treasured films. Of the countless hours of news reels, 127 colour, and 12 black and white reels being stored at the archives, many have succumbed to the dreaded ‘vinegar syndrome’, a chemical degradation which affects films made on acetate backing, accounting for most films made prior to 1980.

 

Source: Myanmar Times

 

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