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Renowned Film Preservationist Robert Gitt to Receive FOCAL International's 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award

David Seevers

Film preservationist Robert Gitt is to receive the FOCAL International Award for Lifetime Achievement at the thirteenth annual FOCAL International Awards, to be presented in association with AP Archive on 26th May, 2016. This Award is a gift of the FOCAL International Executive and has been endorsed by many eminent people, amongst them Director Martin Scorsese.

“Bob Gitt has dedicated his life to film preservation, and in all honesty I can't think of anyone more deserving of FOCAL's Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Director Martin Scorsese.

In 1970, Gitt joined The American Film Institute in Washington, D.C., where he served initially as film booking and technical manager of the AFI Theater at the Kennedy Center. Three years later, he became AFI’s technical officer and began to work on film restoration projects, including Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937), which he completed at UCLA, and The Blot (1921), influential in cementing Lois Weber’s reputation as an important pioneer woman director.

In 1977, Robert Gitt began work at UCLA Film & Television Archive as its first preservation officer, where he was actively involved in the preservation and restoration of hundreds of classic Hollywood films, both silent and sound. Most recently he was asked by Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker to supervise the digital restoration of perhaps the most beautiful Technicolor film of all time, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948), in collaboration with the BFI and ITV.
“Bob has led the preservation and restoration team at UCLA for many years and is one of the world's most admired and respected conservation and restoration experts,” said film historian Clyde Jeavons. “He has restored probably more important American movies - silent and sound, classic and obscure - than all the other US archivists put together, and has been a pioneer of techniques to recover early and late Technicolor and to restore the first Hollywood sound-on-disc systems, even working from cracked and broken shellac recordings. In short, he has helped to make available to the highest possible standards countless films threatened by loss and decay.”

“Bob Gitt set the standard for what we call film restoration,” said Grover Crisp, Sony Pictures EVP asset management, film restoration and digital mastering. “Film preservation existed prior to Bob Gitt, but the kind of restoration we know of today is the result of Bob’s standard setting work for almost forty years.”

Gitt has also specialized in resuscitating early sound films, including over one hundred 1926-1931 Vitaphone one reel short subjects, and has lectured widely on the subject of film and sound preservation. His latest project is Part II of his epic history of sound on film (A Century of Sound, 1933-1975) - described as "a gold mine for specialist researchers and technology buffs" - which was launched earlier this year on BluRay.

'It's great news that our FOCAL International Executive has voted to honor Bob Gitt in this way,' said FOCAL International's Chair Sue Malden, 'Bob has also accepted our invitation to present the Jane Mercer Memorial Lecture a few days prior to the Awards Ceremony on 26th May. It will be a wonderful bonus to a thrilling week of archive industry events.” 

Kate Adie OBE, the former Chief News Reporter for the BBC and current presenter of From Our Own Correspondent on BBC Radio 4 will host the gala FOCAL International Awards Ceremony on 26th May at the Lancaster London Hotel. Apart from the Lifetime Achievement Award, sixteen further awards will be presented on 26th May to celebrate achievement by producers and directors in the creative use of footage in all variety of genres, across all media platforms plus the contribution made to the global production industry by archivists, film libraries, researchers and technicians, as well as the work done to restore and preserve these irreplaceable assets.

Organizer of the Awards competition Julie Lewis went on, 'It's going to be another gripping competition. We received 191 submissions to the FOCAL International Awards 2016 from 17 countries - amazing archive heavy productions featuring, for example, Amy Winehouse, Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando and Kurt Cobain all vying for a place in the final nominations - and that is just in the Cinema category! We also have an unprecedented 12 nominations for the Jane Mercer Footage Researcher of the Year Award so it’s going to be a very tight race in all 16 Award categories. Our amazing team of over 50 international jurors are already stuck into viewing their respective submissions and we will be announcing the final shortlist in the second week of March.'

Tickets for the Gala Awards Ceremony 26th May go on sale today, so you'll need to hurry if you want to book a table