Beyond the bookshelves of the Miami-Dade Public Library System’s Main Library (101 W. Flagler St., Miami), a peculiar scent will strike you. It’s bitter to the nostrils and smells like vinegar. It’s the smell of film decaying.
Don Chauncey, a longtime film archivist, explains that for 16mm film to remain in good condition, it must be played. But since the advent of cable, the use of the library’s holdings has steadily declined. “The worst thing for film is to sit in air-tight cans,” he notes.
Most precious to the former librarian’s heart are the library’s avant-garde holdings by directors who worked to make the medium the message. These filmmakers went beyond story to celebrate the format itself at the height of abstract art’s mid-20th-century heyday.
He won’t reveal any titles of the two hours of film he has cleaned up and repaired, but some directors include pioneers such as Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage. “If this is a success, I may want to do a second series,” Chauncey says. In the meantime, he will spend his free time upstairs behind a couple of labyrinthine turns while cleaning and trying to preserve reels of film at the Main Library.
The collected results, Avant-garde Cinema: Selections From the Miami-Dade Public Library 16mm Film Collection, will screen Saturday at 1 p.m. The screening is free. Call 305-375-2665 or visit mdpls.org/info/locations/mn.asp.
Sat., June 29, 1 p.m., 2013