A damp room, with no windows, in the basement of the Télé Liban building in Tallet el-Khayat, Beirut, houses some of Lebanese state television’s archives. Its air is permeated by the smell of films that have started deteriorating.
In this basement, a treasure is slowly wasting away. These 16 mm reels hold no less than an account of the history of a country, Lebanon, and a region, the Middle East.
A few years ago, about 100 hours of archives were saved thanks to French funding and the dogged determination of restoration company The Gate.
A memorable speech by Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba before the Arab League, the burial of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the election of Charles Hélou as head of the Lebanese state, scenes of life in Hamra in the 1960s… These are only some of the treasures that were rescued from the humid basement.
Today, over 600 hours of 16mm film archives remain to be restored and digitised, besides over 45,000 hours of film archives in other formats. Operation Memory Rescue is ready to launch back into action.
But there’s only one thing missing: money.