The tireless Serge Bromberg, is an indispensible force for film restoration and preservation as well as a film programmer, filmmaker and first-rate showman to boot. Bromberg founded Lobster Films in Paris in 1984 to aid in the collecting, preserving and sharing of rare film treasures. He is also director of the celebrated Annecy International Animation Film Festival and the maker of the fascinating documentary about, and partial reconstruction of, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno (SFIFF 2010). Bromberg will engage in an onstage interview at the Castro Theatre followed by the screening of a selection of rare and new 3-D films.
Retour de Flamme: Rare and Restored Films in 3-D presents some of the earliest examples of 3-D motion pictures as well as some contemporary gems, with gifted raconteur Bromberg himself providing delightful piano accompaniment. In addition to the 3-D work of the Lumière Brothers, rarities by Georges Méliès, Norman McLaren, Charley Bowers, Chuck Jones and the Disney Studios are included. (total running time 150 min)
Named in honor of legendary San Francisco film exhibitor Mel Novikoff (1922–87), the Novikoff Award is given annually to an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the filmgoing public’s knowledge and appreciation of world cinema.
Serge Bromberg, All Around Whiz
By David Shepard
Although Serge Bromberg is based in Paris, France, he is an international crusader for cinema. His enthusiasm is bottomless, his energy even more so. He lives the lives of four men, all of them passionate and amazingly accomplished cinephiles.
Serge began collecting Laurel and Hardy comedies as a child and soon discovered that rare old films come to him as flies come to honey. Serge will go to a butcher shop to buy some chops and instead bring back a pile of 100year-old 35mm prints. I was in his office one day when a kid rode up on a bicycle with a basket full of films. He had found them in the milk house of a farm and wanted to donate them because he thought they might be interesting (they were). In another lucky find, Serge discovered 17 Méliès films that were previously unknown.
Serge founded Lobster Films in Paris in 1984, when he was barely out of his teens, with the hope of collecting, preserving and sharing rare cinematic treasures. Today the Lobster collection comprises some 40,000 reels. Standing in Lobster’s vault and looking at the vast accumulation of wonders stretching into the far distance, it is hard to imagine that all this is the work of Serge Bromberg and his self-effacing colleague Eric Lange. But Serge is not a collector who gloats over his rare holdings; he has deposited thousands of unique original negatives and prints with pubic-benefit archives in Europe and the United States, where they will be preserved and made available for study.
Several times a year, Serge becomes a cinema evangelist and takes to the road. Since 1992, he has presented brilliant programs to the public, accompanying the silent films on piano and providing all the films with high-energy personal introductions. He calls these unique film concerts “Retour de flamme” (flashback). Beginning with showings at vintage music halls in Paris, at the Cannes Film Festival, the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre and in the Tuileries Garden, he has performed them not only across France and Europe but also in many US venues and in Mexico, India, South America and heaven knows where else.
The films go even where he cannot. Through Lobster Films, Serge organized a website, europafilmtreasures.eu, on which hundreds of rare films from many archives are streamed for the pleasure of anyone who wishes to watch them. He has coproduced award-winning DVD sets including Georges Méliès, First Wizard of Cinema, whose 200 films comprise almost all of Méliès’ surviving work; Chaplin at Keystone: An International Collaboration, offering eye-opening restorations of all the comedian’s surviving work from his first year in movies; and the previously lost 1926 silent Bardelys the Magnificent, directed by King Vidor and starring John Gilbert.
Animation is another of Serge Bromberg’s special passions. Since 1999 he has been artistic director of the International Festival of Animation, a world conclave held annually in Annecy, France. For several years he also produced and hosted a very popular daily children’s television show called Cellulo, breeding a new generation of cinephiles with the delightful short films he displayed. Most of the profit from this venture he invested in first-class 35mm preservation of unique films that document the work of some worthy forgotten artist or some fascinating, little-remembered event.
As the result of getting trapped in an elevator with the widow of director Henri-Georges Clouzot, Serge won the opportunity of shaping the unedited footage from Clouzot’s unfinished film Inferno into a provocative new docudrama which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and won for Serge ecstatic reviews as well as a 2010 César (the French equivalent of an Academy Award) for Best Documentary Feature. The film, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno, was featured in last year’s SFIFF program and has been released theatrically and on DVD in many countries, including this one. Serge has also produced over 500 newsmagazines, corporate films, documentaries and television programs, having organized Steamboat Films, a production company, as an affiliate of Lobster.
This tornado of activity has not gone unnoticed. Serge is a member of the board of directors of the GAN Foundation for Cinema, the Cinematheque Française and the French Muscular Dystrophy Association (organizer of the annual telethon). He was honored for Inferno and his preservation work by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association in 2011, made a knight of the French Order of Arts and Letters in 2002 and, in 1997, was awarded the Prix Jean Mitry, presented by the Province of Pordenone, Italy, for his lifetime of work in conserving vintage cinema.
Beyond all of this, Serge has a fabulous sense of humor, is an intensely loyal and encouraging friend, a devoted husband and father to three terrific children. The only mystery I’ve never been able to unravel about Serge is how he does it all.
David Shepard is a film archivist and preservationist, a film teacher, founder of Film Preservation Associates, owner of the Blackhawk Films library and has been a leading influence in the film preservation movement for over four decades. He was the recipient of the Festival’s Mel Novikoff Award in 2000.
Mel Novikoff Award Committee 2011
Francis J. Rigney (chairman) Helena R. Foster
George Gund III Maurice Kanbar
Philip Kaufman Tom Luddy
Gary Meyer Anita Monga
Janis Plotkin Rachel Rosen (ex officio)
Mel NoviKoff Award Previous Recipients
2010 Roger Ebert
2009 Bruce Goldstein 2008 J. Hoberman
2007 Kevin Brownlow 2005 Anita Monga
2004 Paolo Cherchi Usai 2003 Manny Farber
2002 David Francis
2001 Cahiers du Cinéma
San Francisco Cinematheque
2000 Donald Krim
1999 Enno Patalas
1 998 Adrienne Mancia
1997 Film Arts Foundation
1996 David Robinson
1995 Institut Lumière
1994 Naum Kleiman
1993 Andrew Sarris
1992 Jonas Mekas
1991 Pauline Kael
1990 Donald Richie
1989 USSR Filmmakers Association
1988 Daniel Talbot