Capillary, Migratory, Projective: Inventing cinema’s past so that it may have a future: An Introduction

by Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, Vinzenz Hediger

Cinema did not always have a future.

Louis Lumière—according to the history of cinema as it is now told one of the inventors of the medium together with his brother Auguste—famously declared that cinema was “an invention without any future” in 1895. Lumière spoke as an industrialist and a businessman. He was wrong on the economics, but he had a philosophical point. To have a future, that is, a shared realm of possibility, one needs to have a past, a set of shared experiences. At the beginning, and for quite some time, cinema didn’t have a past. A first attempt at a history of cinema was published in France in 1914, a sign of an incipient historical consciousness. But at least in the film industry thinking about the past was not encouraged, certainly not in Hollywood. Devoting attention to old films would shift the audience’s focus away from new films, studios feared. For the industry the future and the past of cinema were restricted to the latest film—the one currently showing, or soon coming, and the fleeting memories it left in the viewer’s mind. Film history in that sense could not exceed the horizons of protention and retention, the immediate future and past of phenomenological consciousness.

In the 1920s and 1930s film clubs, cinematheques, and archives began to pry this narrow temporal window open. By collecting films deemed economically worthless and discarded by their producers in the transition to sound and projecting them out of tune with the cycles of commercial distribution, these usually self-appointed custodians of the moving image turned cinema from commerce into art. In the process they gave it a past, because, at least in Europe and since Giorgio Vasari’s Vite, to be an artist means to be, potentially, a figure in the history of art. But the custodians of cinema and their disciples also emphatically connected the cinema’s past to its future. The cinematheque was not just a temple of cinematic art, but an academy for cinema’s future practitioners.

Arsenal—Institute for Film and Video Art got its start in West Berlin in 1963 under the name Freunde der Deutschen Kinemathek (eng. Friends of the German Cinematheque). In the early 1960s the first generation of temple-trained artists began to shape cinema’s destiny as an art form (a generation also known under a name which was projected, like the concepts of revolution and human rights, from France onto the rest of the world, as the “new wave”). From the beginning Arsenal was part of the network of institutions and practitioners who shaped cinema’s future by projecting versions of its past. But Arsenal was different from the cinematheques and archives of the early 1930s and even those of the 1950s. Perhaps most importantly Arsenal, not unlike the Österreichisches Filmmuseum or the Anthology Film Archives, founded in 1964 and 1970 respectively, was not a national film archive or national museum.

This meant that Arsenal was not bound by a mission of preserving film as part of a national heritage. By implication this also meant that it was not bound by a notion of cinema as a canon of great works by great, mostly male directors from a limited number of great film nations (typically these included France, Germany, Russia, the US, Italy, and to a certain extent Japan, with occasional add-ons from Central Europe and Scandinavia, and a razor-thin sliver of the cinemas of India, mostly arthouse films from West Bengal). Instead, Arsenal became the “home of independent cinema,” the “Zuhause” of films from almost all the new cinemas that sprung up around the world after 1960. Arsenal started collecting to build a pool of films for its own programs and for distribution to other independent cinemas. Rather than by intent the archive grew by historical accident. Among other things the Arsenal archive served as a hiding place and safe exile for films threatened by censorship and suppression in their countries of origin. Arsenal further became the destination of film libraries and estates that fell through the cracks of the collection policies of the big heritage archives, and the home of orphaned collections like the Red Army films, which the Soviets abandoned when they left Berlin in the early 1990s.

In the wake of the political turmoil of the late 1960s, which had led to the cancelation of the Berlinale in 1970, the Arsenal team, Erika and Ulrich Gregor, together with Gero Gandert, Heiner Roß, and Manfred Salzgeber, established the International Forum of Young Cinema as an independent part of the Berlin International Film Festival in 1971 with Ulrich Gregor as speaker and from 1980 to 2001 as director.

Over the next decades Arsenal and Forum in concert explored a space of cinematic possibility beyond the Eurocentric canon and redefined cinema in the process. Starting in 2006, the Forum Expanded, co-founded by Stefanie Schulte Strathaus and Anselm Franke, created an interface between cinema and the art world and further expanded the framework of Arsenal’s original cinematic explorations.

In this same spirit, over the last fifteen years large-scale curatorial and conservation projects evolving around Arsenal’s steadily growing archive like “Living Archive—Archive Work as a Contemporary Artistic and Curatorial Practice” and “Archive außer sich” have contributed to a rethinking of the possibilities of archives as laboratories of cinema’s futures in a global perspective. Archival Assembly, a biennial festival launched in 2021 and organized by Arsenal, provides a platform for the continuation of this work.

On the occasion of Arsenal’s 60th anniversary, “Accidental Archivism” takes stock of the ways in which artists, curators, scholars, and archivists have used this multifaceted space of experimentation (as well as other similar and cognate spaces) to re-invent cinematic pasts to shape cinema’s future.

One of the common traits of their projects is that not much goes according to plan. The laboratory that Arsenal, Forum, and Forum Expanded have built has become a space not of fixed plans and grand symbolic gestures but of chance encounters and archival accidents. With remarkable frequency artists, curators, and scholars have turned into accidental archivists, to cite the term Didi Cheeka used to describe his transformation from off-Nollywood filmmaker and film society activist into a preserver of Nigeria’s post-independence celluloid heritage. And with similar frequency these accidental archivists have already been, or have become, activists for the cause of the films and repositories that ended up in their custodianship by chance. The often life-altering encounters of the accidental archivists show, among other things, and on a personal as well as conceptual level, that cinema is more than a succession of great works: a string of productive stumbles.

Together these encounters have contributed to expanding the possibilities of cinema not least by including more of what Eric de Kuyper, in an essay written in 1994, at the halfway point between the founding of Arsenal and today, described as “the vast domain of cinema as non-art” (1994, 107). This vast domain includes fragments, orphan films, science, educational, and other utility films, but also a growing body of video and digital native works, in particular activist films and videos.

Activist repositories are particularly significant. They are born from conflict, usually between a more or less informal opposition group and a larger, more solid state apparatus. As a result they remain highly precarious, both institutionally and materially. They also highlight how much the work of accidental archivists is shaped by the affordances, but also the limitations and pitfalls, of the digital media ecology.

The moving image has always been an image on the move, and cinema has long since ceased to be bound to celluloid and the brick-and-mortar context of projection. The promise of digital infrastructures and formats is that of unlimited access to moving images, anywhere, anytime. But the reality of the new, digital configurations of film is that of a new form of ephemerality and material and institutional precarity, and of new thresholds and barriers to films’ visibility. And it is not just films that are scattered about platforms and digital niches, but audiences as well. Cinema’s audience has always been the most democratic of publics, and by that virtue, an epitome of democracy. Equal, diverse, and inclusive, the public of cinema has the makings of a political force, however ephemeral. In a post-pandemic world the challenge is to relocate and harness this political force. Because when it comes to cinema’s future, the audience, as Gaby Babić, Karola Gramann, and Heide Schlüpmann write in this volume, are the archive.

The question, then, is what kind of an assembly the archival assembly of accidental archivists/activists can and should be.

One insight offered by the contributions to this volume is that accidental archivism involves a new form of criticism, and with it a different form of film historiography. When the Cahiers critics wrote a manifesto in 1969 proposing that a film’s meaning was somehow connected to the technology and economics of its production and distribution, Paris was still the capital of film culture, and their discovery changed the course of cinema studies.[1] Their work has since been further refined in various places around the world. In that spirit, the accidental archivist is very much someone who will not separate questions of aesthetics from questions of the politics and affordances of what now (but some will perhaps say: still) is called “infrastructure.” The accidental archivist is also someone who will not focus primarily on single authors and their artistic accomplishments. Rather, they will understand cinema as a distributed practice that involves artists, often in multiples, but also curators, archivists—accidental or otherwise. It is a practice that requires a historiography of film that is capillary, migratory, and projective. And the accidental archivist-activist will be someone who will not just enlighten the audience about the artistic success of a given work or film and recite a historical litany of great achievements, but who will explain, by working them through with the audience, the value of productive stumbles.

This book, in addition to being a celebration of Arsenal’s legacy and future, and to the networks it has built, is a contribution to such a form of criticism, and such a historiography.

The book brings together essays that speak to each other in a variety of ways. The order in which we present them is one of several options to put them in sequence. But any point of entry into this collection is as good as any other, and the trajectory we propose is only one of several, which will make sense to the reader after they have read the entire of the volume. The book opens with a prologue, two essays by the editors. The remainder is structured in seven sections, an interlude, and an epilogue.


Stefanie Schulte Strathaus opens the prologue with her essay “An Incomplete Series of Archive Incidents. Or: Trust the Archive,” which surveys the multi-faceted archival and curatorial projects of the Arsenal and the Forum over the last two decades. She shows that archives hold some of the most important answers for those who want to think about the future directions of cinema. In “Digital Scavenging and the Limits of the Archive: Excavating the Lagos on the Internet” Vinzenz Hediger asks how digital infrastructures shape critical archival practices in a case study of what he proposes to call “scrap films,” fragments of amateur films shot by oil engineers in Lagos, Nigeria.

I Never Wanted to Be an Archivist: Accidental Archivism and Biographical Turning Points

The first section brings together a series of essays that discuss how unplanned detours through the archive shape artistic practices and film historiographies. In “Accidental Archivism—A Necessary Accident” Didi Cheeka connects his search for the analog film heritage of Nigeria to the obfuscated memory of the Biafra war. Cheeka proposes a dialectics of the archive in which the opening of the archive turns film into a memorial site and lays the groundwork for a new politics of memory. In “Accidental Encounters, Incidental Care, Shared Archival Practices” Sonia Campanini asks what exactly constitutes an archival accident. Addressing the coming challenges of preserving Nigeria’s video heritage, she advocates for the creation of networks of care and archiving that evolve independently of the established national institutional frameworks and cultural policies. In “Situatedness: Accidental Archaeology of When and What” Ala Younis discusses Rachid Benhadj’s 1980 film Rakem 49 (Number 49), in which an Algerian family arrives for a picnic on the site of their future home and encounters objects from their future lives on this site. Younis takes the film as the starting point for an archaeology of power relations in the contemporary Arab world in which accidental encounters create an opening for revolutionary change. In “Seeing Again: Nuit et brouillard—Nacht und Nebel—Night and Fog” Tobias Hering reports on a screening of the East and West German versions of Alain Resnais’s seminal film about the Nazi camps at the Oberhausen festival to disentangle the rhizomatic binds that connect each film print to different layers of the past and the present. A seemingly obvious programming choice thus opens up the space for a capillary historiography suggested by the materiality of the film itself. In “Against Forgetfulness, Against Monumentalization: Round and Around (2020)” Hieyoon Kim focuses on a recent documentary by artists Jang Minseung and Jung Jae Il. Commissioned by the National Film Archive the film commemorates the 1980 Gwangju uprising, a key moment in South Korea’s transition to democracy. Archivists by the accident of commission, the artists brought together archival footage with contemporary views of the memorial sites and ambient music to create an affective encounter with history.

New Archival Spaces and Places of Cinema

The second section brings together essays on archival sites beyond heritage institutions and across urban and other landscapes. In “Transnational Archival Practice as a Necessity in Cinema Practice: The Film Series The Invitees at Sinema Transtopia and the Rediscovery of Kara Kafa” Can Sungu discusses the film programs of Sinema Transtopia and the rediscovery of Kara Kafa, a film shot in 1979 by a Turkish team in Duisburg, Cologne, and Berlin as a model for a curatorial practice and film historiography of migrant cinema that moves beyond the frameworks of national heritage to reflect the complexity of multi-sited and multi-language biographies and filmographies. In “’Can’t You See Them?—Film them.’” Asja Makarević, a film scholar and long-time curator of the Sarajevo Film Festival, talks to artist Clarissa Thieme about her long-standing artistic collaboration with Hamdija Kresevljakovic Video Arhiv Sarajevo, a collection of video testimonies of the siege of Sarajevo 1991-1996. Thieme discusses how this archive transcends the context of its origin and speaks to and through her work as an artist. In “Action-based Archivism” Alexandra Schneider talks with Mareike Bernien, Madhushree Dutta, and Merle Kröger about their work as documentary filmmakers and cultural activists. The conversation focuses on how artists become archivists and revolves around a set of online archives that have come out of projects engaging a cultural space between Germany and India. In “Navigating/Activating: Working with Harun Farocki’s Estate” Volker Pantenburg draws on Suely Rolnik’s concept of the poetic force of the archive to highlight the multiplicity of potential discoveries and connections in the legacy of an individual artist, in the networks of which he was part, and in the city in which he lived and worked. In “Pirated Lubunca Films: Lambdaistanbul’s Counter-archival Practices” Sema Çakmak delves into the screening practices of a queer underground film festival in Istanbul. She traces program histories, revisits localities, and talks to programmers and audiences to evoke the ephemeral and precarious experience of queer festival culture in Turkey’s metropolis. In “Forgetting the Cinema of Transgression by Looking for Its Traces” Marie-Sophie Beckmann recounts the challenge of mapping 1980s marginal film cultures in New York’s East Village and Lower East Side. Focusing on the work of Nick Zedd, Beckmann emphasizes the resistance to reconstruction of what she calls fluid practices and unruly objects. In “On Transnationality and Archive Practice: A Chronicle of the Rafla Collection” Tamer El Said chronicles the discovery of a private collection of amateur films and reduction prints, which was compiled by Madgy Rafla, a jewler in Cairo’s Heliopolis neighborhood. Kept by Rafla’s family in their bedroom, the collection contains unique footage of Egypt from the 1920s through the 1960s and points to the importance of private film collections as repositories of cultural and political memory, and all-too neglected part of film history.

New Cinephilias: Beyond the Manspreading Machine

The third section brings together essays which revisit the concept and practices of cinephilia from an accidental archivist vantage point. In “Afterword, Three Years Later: For a New Cinephilia” film critic Girish Shambu takes stock of the impact his manifesto “For a New Cinephilia,” which offered a critique of the inherent biases of auteurist approaches and set the debate about the largely male-dominated canon of classical cinephilia on a new course. In “Kinothek Asta Nielsen: Fugitive Archives” Gaby Babić, Karola Gramann and Heide Schlüpmann, the curators of the Kinothek Asta Nielsen e.V. and “Remake,” a feminist film festival in Frankfurt, talk about the movement of their work as curators away from mainstream cinema and back to the space of the cinema. Advocating for the transformative power of public screenings of seemingly marginal films, they insist that the ultimate repository of film history and cinematic knowledge is the audience. In “From Singular to Plural” scholar and curator Erika Balsom, who redefined the histories of feminist filmmaking with the 2022 show “No Master Territories: Feminist World Making and the Moving Image” co-curated with Hila Peleg, defends the complexities of archives against the abstraction at play in the notion of “the archive” and acknowledges the multiple lives lived by moving images in and outside of archives and heritage institutions. In “My Little Lady Digs: Vaginal Davis on ‘Rising Stars, Falling Stars’” scholar and curator Marc Siegel and artist Vaginal Davis review more than fifteen years of Davis’ work as a curator on the prowl in the Arsenal archive and her uniquely glamorous way of shining a light on (re)discovered traces of early queer and feminist cinema. In “We Have Always Been Fabulous: Fragments of an Unfinished Manifesto” Mohammad Shawky Hassan unravels the layers of Egyptian cinema’s queer archive, from crossdressing scenes in the 1950s to allusions to homosexual desires in more recent films. He proposes to use Esteban Muñoz’s concept of disidentification to move beyond straight tools to build a queer archive. In “On Decay: Reflections on Working with Neglected Films” Lisabona Rahman and Julita Pratiwi discuss the work of Kelas Liarsip, an activist research collective that conserves the informal film heritage and the memory of women’s work in Indonesia’s Nusantara archipelago. Working with decaying films, the group turned to archiving by accident, exploring the tension between material loss and memory.


In the interlude, “The Arsenal in Berlin,” Ulrich Gregor, one of the founders, offers a vision for a curatorial platform that transcends the established paradigms of the auteur/nation canon of the first generation of heritage institutions—a mission statement that has lost nothing of its productive power.

Cinékinships: Creating New Networks of Film Culture

The fourth section brings together essays which think of accidental archivism as a relational practice connecting people, sites, and objects with institutions, but most importantly with each other. In “The Eloquence of Odradek: Hussein Shariffe’s Exilic Film Objects” Erica Carter traces the trajectories of filmmaker and artist Hussein Shariffe from London to Sudan to exile in Egypt. Carter discusses the challenges of making his last, unfinished film and other parts of his work come alive in a digital database of documents and fragments. In “Cinema-ye Azad: The Lost History of the Iranian Independent Cinema Collective” Hadi Alipanah reviews the small-gauge filmmaking movement that emerged out of commissioned film work at the margins of the film industry in pre-revolutionary Iran. Dispersed and suppressed by the post-revolutionary government, the Independent Cinema Collective contributes an important element to a broader understanding of the global moment of small-gauge filmmaking in the 1970s, which is only now coming into the focus of curatorial and archival practices. In “Collaborative Dialogues and Calcutta’s Super 8 Film Movement” Amrita Biswas shifts our attention to India as she reconstructs the history of Kolkata’s amateur filmmaking networks in the 1970s and 1980s. Biswas discusses the multi-layered investigative challenge of tracing an ephemeral film practice through dispersed archival fragments of films and other documents. In “The Pyramid Used to be a Mountain” Almudena Escobar López discusses the work of the Colectivo los Ingrávidos, an activist film collective from Tehuacán in Mexico, formed in opposition to both the dominant political parties and the commercial film industry. Documenting political protests and interweaving activist with archival work, the Colectivo traces contemporary political conflict to the enduring violent legacies of colonization. In “Destabilizing the Official Film Archive from Within: S.N.S. Sastry’s And I Make Short Films” Ritika Kaushik takes a misplaced film from the Arsenal archive as the starting point for a reflection on how S.N.S. Sastry used his position with the government’s Film Division to engage in a filmmaking practice that remixed and reappropriated footage from various sources, and which provides a model for the official archive’s transformation into a dynamic entity which challenges the monolithic histories of the Indian nation state. In “A Festival Under Fire” Shai Heredia reflects on her twenty years of experience as the founder and curator of the Experimenta film festival in India. At a juncture when the pandemic has thrown the failings of the current Hindu nationalist government of India into sharp relief, opening the 2023 edition of the festival with a government film from the 1960s, which offered a defense of secular democracy, illustrated the political potential of reviving the long-neglected “vast domain of cinema as non-art” to create new avenues for a political historiography of and through film.

The Vast Domain of Unseen Films: Mapping the Cinema We Never Knew

The fifth section brings together essays which speculate about potential archives and open up a future for those not yet secured. In “An Archive of the Future, An Archive for the Past” Constanze Ruhm engages in historical fabulation to expand the feminist film archive into the eighteenth century, an illustration of the productive force of the archival imagination. In “The Non-Human Archive” Veena Hariharan follows in the footpaths of a lone canine who—as Delhi dogs do—showed up out of nowhere in the photographic record of the Delhi Dunbar procession in 1903. Focusing on the accidents of animal vestiges in the human archive, Hariharan advocates for histories in which the non-human in the animal-human relationship becomes the event rather the accident, starting with the myciological study of the bio-deteriorated image in the film archive. In “Found or Lost? Turkey’s Vulnerable Film and Video Heritage” Özge Çelikaslan discusses the precarious trajectories of activist film and video archives in Turkey since the 1970s and argues for an approach that offsets the archives’ vulnerability with new forms of archival activism. In “Pleasure in/of the Archive: Porn Workshops at the Schwules Museum” Nils Meyn draws on his work as an accidental steward and archivist of the Berlin Gay Museum’s porn video collections to discuss the way in which VHS collections as personalized legacies of queer sexual biographies speak to the vagaries of queer memorial practices. In “Cross-Fading Archives, Resurfacing Infrastructures: The Cinema Historian as Accidental Archivist and Activist” Simone Venturini takes a recent research project as his point of departure to show that even in consolidated archives accidents, which reveal the “grain of the archive,” that is, unexpected nodes and layers of connections, play a formative role for research agendas. In “Flotsam and Jetsam” filmmaker and scholar Mila Turajlić delves into the archives of “Filmske Novosti,” the official newsreel agency of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which also served as the personal film service of president Tito. Taking the last surviving cameraman of “Filmske Novosti,” Stevan Labudović, as her guide, Mila Turajlić focuses on the naval travels of Tito and the records of the Algerian war to distinguish between different types of cinematic maritime debris, flotsam and jetsam.

Lost Platforms: Accidental Archivism and the Overpromise of Technology

The sixth section brings together essays which connect the promise of digital access to stories of collecting and loss. In “Unexpected, Contingent, Accidental: Cinema in the Contemporary Digital Archive” Ravi Vasudevan focuses on video in India in the 1980s to propose the concept of the contingent archive. He traces the trajectories of accidental finds on the internet and connects the infrastructural affordances of digital platforms to the activities of the collector as a complex media entity as theorized in recent work by Indian scholar Ravikant. In “Film Heritage at the Curb” Philipp Dominik Keidl addresses the fate of fan collections of movie artefacts. Repositories of objects which derive their value from intimate histories of desire and admiration, these collections fall through the cracks of the collection prerogatives of heritage institutions and often literally end up on the curb. Lost with them is an important part of the archive of the audience, a personal knowledge of film. In “Don Quixote in the Archive: Or, Making Sense of Film Heritage in the Age of Overabundance” Francesco Pitassio engages in a metahistorical reflection and takes a recent European project as the point of reference to think about the problem that in film, too, there is more history than anyone can usefully remember—particularly in the age of digital access. In “Babylon’13—as it is” the Kyiv-based video collective Babylon’13 reviews the emergence of its online repository of videographic records of Ukraine’s struggle for democracy since 2013. Collating the work of a network of videographers covering the entirety of the country, Babylon’13 is itself a thoroughly democratic entity, a “cinema of civil society” with distributed agency rather than hierarchical authorship structures.

Trajectories of Restitution

The seventh section brings together essays that connect the question of accidental archivism to the current debate about decolonization and restitution. In “Ejo Lobi: Reimaging a Future Past” Petna Ndaliko Katondolo proposes a cosmological literacy of time, in which the confluence and congruence of yesterday and tomorrow go hand in hand with an understanding of the relation of past and future that connects the visible to the invisible as a plant is connected to its root. In this cosmology, Ejo-Lobi is the concept that opens a link to reconnect time and enact human stories which make sense for the living. In “An Accidental Virtual Archive of Colonialism” Grazia Ingravalle recounts her discovery of films that document the unfulfilled colonial fantasies at work in interwar Poland and connected to Polish settlements in Brazil. An online presentation leads to unexpected readings and connections that call into question established readings of the colonial imagination. In “African Film Heritage: The Case for Restitution” Nicholas Perneczky expands on the current debate about the restitution of material artefacts stored away in European and American museums to their areas of origin across the Global South to provide the outlines for a policy of restitution of film works held in archives in the Global North and difficult or impossible to access for scholars, filmmaker, and educators from the Global South. In “Accessing the Nigerian Film Archive: Tensions and Questions” Añulika Agina and Didi Cheeka engage in a controversial debate about the current state of film archiving in Nigeria. Zooming in on the defects of post-colonial governance Agina argues for a distribution of labor between Global North and South in securing access to Africa’s film heritage, while Cheeka argues for archival autonomy and full restitution. In “Remnants of the Central Film Library and the Rethinking of Ghana’s Audio-Visual Heritage” Rebecca Ohene-Asah combines the perspectives of a heritage scholar and filmmaker to discuss the precarious state of non-fiction film holdings in the country’s national film archives and makes the case for the importance of preserving educational and other utility films as part of the post-colonial film heritage. In “Phenomena of Ukrainian Cinema: Director’s Cut by Ukrainian Film Archive” Olena Goncharuk and Mariia Glazunova recount how the Dovzhenko Centre in Kyiv emerged out of the Revolution of Dignity in 2014. If decolonization usually involves moving beyond the framework of the nation state, establishing a national film archive for the first time in Ukraine’s history marks a departure from the tenets of Soviet and Russian imperialism and its legacies. In “Fragments of Our Memories: On the Incompleteness of Broken Nostalgia” Lynhan Balabat-Helbock and Laura Kloeckner weigh the charge of living in and with archives of objects related to the racist histories of German colonialism. Drawing on their experience with the project “Colonial Neighbors,” which Savvy Contemporary developed as part of Archive außer sich, they reflect on the blockages that keep contemporary Germany from acknowledging the country’s past.


The volume closes with an epilogue, a longer essay on one of the projects that got this project of accidental archivism underway. In “Cine-Animism: The Return of Amílcar Cabral and Many Returns” Filipa César offers a multi-voiced engagement with the first film produced by filmmakers in Guinea Bissau after the war of liberation from Portugal in 1974. The film documents how the remains of revolutionary leader Amílcar Cabral, who had been assassinated in Conakry in 1973, were returned to Guinea Bissau in 1976. Responding to the film’s pace and form César’s essay is a séance about the impossibilities and limitations of transcribing the ciné-animism of post-colonial cinema in the established modes of archiving. With her text César exemplifies the necessity of inventing new ones.

The publication of Accidental Archivism was made possible through the generous support of the DFG (Research Training Group “Konfigurationen des Films”—, the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education (as part of as well as the the German Federal Cultural Foundation.


de Kuyper, Eric. 1994. “Anyone for an Aesthetic of Film History?” Film History 6 (1): 100–109.

Fairfax, Daniel. 2021a. The Red Years of Cahiers du cinema (1968-1973): Volume I: Ideology and Politics. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

———. 2021b. The Red Years of Cahiers du cinema (1968-1973): Volume II: Aesthetics and Ontology. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Naremore, James. 2014. An Invention Without a Future: Essays on Cinema. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Vasari, Giorgio. 1987. The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. London: Penguin.


[1] See Daniel Fairfax’s (2021a; 2021b) comprehensive history of the Cahiers post-1968.