Archiving ISKCON Films
Here's a Krsna conscious project you might like to support or get involved in.
From the time Srila Prabhupada came to America, professional and amateur photographers began shooting photos and films of his activities. Yaduvara Dasa is gathering, organizing, cleaning, editing, and transferring to state-of-the-art digital video all of the films of Srila Prabhupada.
An early film, if not the first, came from Richard Witty. It was his first professional film. In the fall of 1966, Richard and his wife loaded up their gear and headed for Tompkins Square Park in New York City, where they shot their first roll of film of Srila Prabhupada, seated on the lawn playing his small drum and chanting Hare Krsna.
Richard and his wife went on to visit and cover the activities of the temple at 26 Second Avenue. They developed their film, edited it, added sound tracks, made a print at their lab, and released it under the titleMatchless Gifts. They carefully stored the film and kept it for years.
One day in 1981, Richard, now a successful commercial filmmaker, saw a devotee distributing books in New York City and offered the film as a gift to ISKCON. The timing was perfect. Yaduvara was nearing completion of Your Ever Well-Wisher, a film on Srila Prabhupada's life, and he was missing footage of the very beginnings of the Hare Krsna movement in New York. Matchless Gifts fit perfectly into the film biography.
Yaduvara Dasa carefully stored Richard's film along with others he himself had shot. William Kerr, another filmmaker, added to the stock by contributing films of Srila Prabhupada shot in Australia. And others added their films.
In the early '80s, the Bhaktivedanta Archives, in Los Angeles, took over the responsibility of storing the films. When the Archives moved to North Carolina, Yaduvara moved the films to an underground vault near Butler, Pennsylvania. Age had taken its toll, especially on the color films. In the twenty-seven years since the first color films had been shot, many of them had turned a light purple.
In 1994 the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International gave a grant to transfer the film to digital video. In May 1996, Yaduvara gathered all the films from the vault, the Archives, and ITV (ISKCON Television) and started the project.
Over the years, the footage had been cut up and used in seven films produced by ISKCON Cinema. Yaduvara wanted to fit the films back together and try to recreate the original scenes as they were shot.
First he had to clean the films, which were gummy from splicing tape. Then he had to synchronize the sound with the picture a daunting task, since many of the films and sound tracks had no audio and visual clapsticks or startmarks.
Sometimes Yaduvara had a film of Srila Prabhupada speaking but no sound. So he would try to read Prabhupada's lips. When he picked up a few words, he would call Ranajit Dasa at the Archives and have him look up the phrase in VedaBase, the CD-Rom containing all of Prabhupada's recorded words. If Ranajit found what Yaduvara was looking for, he would him send a transcript along with a matching audio cassette of Srila Prabhupada speaking. Then Yaduvara would match the audio with the film, cutting out spaces between the words in the audio track so it would match the picture, frame by frame.
Yaduvara transferred the last frame of 16mm film to digital video this past June. A lab in Hollywood with digital technology brought back the color-faded film so it looked nearly new.
Phase One of the project was complete. Copies are now stored safely at the Bhaktivedanta Archives, ITV in Los Angeles, and the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust in Sweden.
Phases II and III: All the Super 8mm and Regular 8mm film of Srila Prabhupada needs to be transferred to digital video, and finally all the films of ISKCON at the time Srila Prabhupada was present. ITV plans to release these never-before-seen films in the near future.
How you can help
Be aware that there are more films to be found films recorded by TV stations, films still being kept in private homes, and so on. If you find any, contact either the Bhaktivedanta Archives or ITV.
More funds are needed to complete Phases II and III.
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The Bhaktivedanta Archives
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