There’s much to love about the festival. The Castro Theatre is a treasure, the staff and volunteers are welcoming, the programming is an entertaining mix of the familiar and new discoveries, the sponsors, donors, and board members are truly invested in the festival’s success, and the variety of musical accompaniment is a special delight. For archivists like me, the festival feels like home. We’re proud to help preserve our global cinematic heritage and share that work with our fellow cinephiles. There are several festivals that feature classic films and they all rely on archival sources to one degree or another, but the SFSFF is so celebratory of its archival partners that the affection is palpable. I was honored to participate in the first Amazing Tales from the Archives program in 2006, a now regular feature where my colleagues talk about the always fascinating and sometimes miraculous mysteries of film preservation.
That same year I was also pleased to introduce the Library of Congress’s recent restoration of Mary Pickford’s Sparrows (1926). Being on stage at the Castro talking about something you love is always a treat. It gives me a chance to publicly recognize my LOC coworkers who actually do the work (as opposed to me, a friendly mid-level government bureaucrat). I can also testify that the festival audience is so enthusiastic, so appreciative, gracious, and warm, that one can’t help but get caught up in the moment. And so it was at the end of my remarks, during which I had sung the praises of our film lab and others who had labored so diligently on the project, that I was moved, knowing precisely the geographical and ideological area in which I was standing, to proclaim that “I would rather my tax dollars pay to preserve films than fight an unjust war in Iraq.”
Rapturous applause—a veritable crescendo of noisy affirmation—accompanied me off the stage. San Francisco! My people! For the rest of the festival I was the amused recipient of many handshakes and hugs because, let’s face it, I had an obviously sympathetic audience … save for one person who took exception to my “inappropriately political” remarks and sent a complaining email to the Librarian of Congress. I sheepishly accepted a written reprimand and dutifully wrote a genuinely sincere note taking responsibility for my remarks without retracting them. I also want to state that nothing in this remembrance is intended in any way to be a political statement so please, don’t write the Librarian!
Mike Mashon is the head of the Library of Congress’s Moving Image Section. LOC provides prints for this year’s screenings of Penrod and Sam and The Fire Brigade.