Celebrated motion-picture curator co-founded L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation
Rochester, N.Y., June 15, 2011—George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film announces the appointment of Dr. Paolo Cherchi Usai to the position of senior curator of motion pictures, a title he held from 1994 to 2004. He is currently Curator Emeritus of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia and director of the Haghefilm Foundation in the Netherlands. The appointment of Cherchi Usai, a leading figure in film preservation, marks his return to Eastman House, where he began working in 1989 with what is the third largest film collection in the United States.
He will assume his George Eastman House post in September 2011, also resuming the position of director of the Eastman House’s L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation, the country’s first school of film preservation. Cherchi Usai served as director of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) from 2004 to 2008, and in 2009 established the Haghefilm Foundation to support research on film preservation technologies and curatorship. The NFSA Board of Governors appointed him as Curator Emeritus in 2010.
“Dr. Cherchi Usai brings authority, vision, and character to a position he in so many ways shaped through three significant decades at George Eastman House,” said Dr. Anthony Bannon, the Ron and Donna Fielding Director at George Eastman House. “This museum is home – George Eastman’s house — and we are delighted to welcome Paolo’s return.”
Cherchi Usai will oversee the development, preservation, and exhibition of the motion picture collection at Eastman House. The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation was co-founded by him and Mr. Selznick in 1996. The school has teamed with the University of Rochester to offer a two-year master’s degree program, the Selznick Graduate Program in Film and Media Preservation, the first museum and university collaboration of its kind encompassing both curatorship and film studies.
“I take my return to Eastman House as a great honor and, yes, as a great surprise. But there is a beautiful symmetry in this turn of events,” Cherchi Usai said. “Quite literally, I toured the world of film preservation in seven years. Having worked in three different continents and in very different contexts, I now have a 360-degree view of the challenges and opportunities offered by our field at a time of dramatic change.
“George Eastman House has never ceased to be my spiritual ‘home’ and I intend to honor this new responsibility with a renewed commitment to work with the museum as a whole – a single, united cultural force in the national and international community,” he said, “There are endless creative possibilities to be explored through a fresh, responsible approach to new technologies. Digital and analog don’t need to be in mutual opposition; tradition and innovation always go hand in hand. This principle, I think, is the essence of George Eastman House’s future as a collecting institution.”
Cherchi Usai co-founded in 1982 the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, the major annual event dedicated to the rediscovery of the early cinematic heritage. He is also Resident Curator of the Telluride Film Festival — together with theater director Peter Sellars, filmmaker Godfrey Reggio, and film critic Pierre Rissient — co-founded in 1974 by Eastman House’s first film curator, James Card.
Cherchi Usai’s extensive publication record includes a 12-volume monograph on film director D.W. Griffith and Film Curatorship: Archives, Museums, and the Digital Marketplace (2008). He is the author of the experimental feature film Passio, presented with live music performances in the official selection of the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, following its U.S. premiere at Telluride.
Among the awards received by Cherchi Usai are the College Art Association/Heritage Preservation Joint Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation from the College Art Association and Heritage Preservation (CAA) in 2005, and the Mel Novikoff Award at the San Francisco Film Festival in 2004. He was knighted in 2002 by the French Ministry of Culture as “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” for his achievements in the development and advocacy of film culture.
During his tenure at Eastman House, the museum earned awards for its preservation efforts from the International Documentary Association and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and sciences.