CANNES, France (Reuters) - Director Martin Scorsese launched the World Cinema Foundation on Tuesday in a bid to preserve neglected films for posterity and restore others that have been damaged.
Inspired by a similar venture in the United States which Scorsese launched with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood, the non-profit foundation was formally unveiled at the 60th Cannes Film Festival.
“This goes back to the founding of the film foundation in America,” Scorsese told a press conference.
“That was started in 1990 and for the past 16 years that actually has changed and things have gotten different there in terms of restoration of films and preservation of archives.”
The maker of classics including “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull” and “Mean Streets”, who finally won an Oscar this year for “The Departed”, said it was too late for many old films.
“In America, we know that 90 percent of all silent films are now gone. We know that all American films made before 1950 are gone, nothing exists.”
The foundation launch is being marked at this year’s festival with screenings of films from Morocco, Brazil and Romania dating as far back as 1931.
The work can be laborious and time-consuming. Scorsese said one film can take as long as 10 years to track down and 15 years to restore.
Scorsese was flanked by directors including China’s Wong Kar Wai, Britain’s Stephen Frears, who is the head of the Cannes jury this year, and Mexico’s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
Scorsese, 64, said film was as much about education as entertainment.
“Coming from a working class background in New York, my parents were not educated, were not in the habit of reading books, so I saw a great deal of film,” he said. “This opened up a new world to me. I find that I was fed by those cultures.”
Understanding another culture can also breed tolerance, Scorsese argued.
“Most importantly, once you begin to understand or begin to have less of a feeling of strangeness towards other cultures ... through cinema, this can hopefully bring about some sort of political understanding.”