Mr. Best makes a good point, when he states that the AFI list should be
used to further discussion about the usefulness of such lists,
especially in reference to canon building (a point I will return to in
reference to Jessica Rosner's post about the BFI best list), however, I
disagree with his statement that this particular campaign is harmless.
The AFI is giving "academic" credibility to a purely commercial product,
thus legitimizing the effort in the eyes of the puiblic. This is of
course not the first time the AFI has engaged in such a "modification"
of the facts. For as long as any of us can remember, the AFI has been
going directly to the public via telephone campaigns to raise money
supposedly "for film preservation". How much money was collected in
these campaigns is unknown. However, this money was never used for film
preservation, but to finance the AFI. In point of fact, as any of us
know who have been directly involved in the preservation of American
cinema, the AFI has never directly preserved any films with its own
money. For years they "administered" the NEA film preservation program
(now defunct), which meant that they took their overhead cut, then gave
the remaining 2/3 of the NEA's money to the public archives. Yes, the
AFI has colelcted films, but they have placed these in public archives
(GEH, MOMA, LOC, UCLA, and a host of others), where the preservation of
the AFI Collection is the sole financial responsibility of the archives.
The question for me, then, is, what are all these monies going
towards? Is this just another under-the-table fundraiser to keep the AFI
in business or will the $ 5 - 10 thousand being collected per ttile
fromt he video industry by the AFI actually go to a worthwile cause.
Someone should ask the AFI, why they have not publicized the fundraising
aspect of this campaign?
As far as the construction of canons go, I don't think the AFI 100 list
will ever be accepted in a canonical sense. A year from now the list
itself will be forgotten. Moreover, even the BFI list, put together by
David Meeker, has its detractors. The list is a classical art film
canon, but close inspection reveals that independent, third world,
minority, avant-garde, newsreel, documentary (with the classical
exceptions) films are in short supply.
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