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The 54th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 21 – May 5) will present the 2011 Mel Novikoff Award to the extraordinary showman Serge Bromberg for his invaluable work as a collector, preservationist, exhibitor, programmer and enthusiast of cinematic treasures, Sunday, May 1 at 5:00 pm at the Castro Theatre. The award, named for the pioneering San Francisco art and repertory film exhibitor Mel Novikoff (1922 – 1987), acknowledges an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the filmgoing public’s knowledge and appreciation of world cinema.

“It’s a real pleasure to acknowledge the work of Serge Bromberg, an indefatigable champion of cinema, with the presentation of the Mel Novikoff Award,” said Rachel Rosen, the Film Society’s director of programming. “We have all benefited from his relentless passion for unearthing both long lost and recent treasures and getting them in front of audiences.”

Following the award presentation Bromberg will enthrall the audience with his remarkable collection dedicated to stereoscopic works, Retour de Flamme: Rare and Restored Films in 3-D. Attempts at three-dimensional motion picture presentation began almost at the same time as the invention of movies themselves. It’s a common motion picture legend that the early Lumière Brothers film Arrival of a Train had audiences fleeing from their chairs as the train approached the station, threatening to run directly off the screen into the auditorium. You might not know, however, that the Lumière Brothers reshot the sequence in 3-D, and organized a technically improved screening of it and other 3-D shorts in 1935. Or that René Bunzli was making 3-D shorts in 1900. Bromberg’s special program presents some of the earliest examples of 3-D motion pictures — as well as some contemporary gems. The inimitable Bromberg not only discovers rare treasures, he restores them, preserves them, archives them and tirelessly roams the world screening them to astonished and delighted audiences. In his showman persona, he also accompanies them on the piano and sometimes even sings along! In addition to the Lumière Brothers’ 3-D work and other rarities by Georges Méliès, Norman McLaren, Charley Bowers, Chuck Jones and the Disney Studios, Bromberg unveils films from the Soviet Union and contemporary shorts by Matthew O’Callaghan and Pixar’s John Lasseter.

Films include Arrival of a Train and other shorts (1935, Auguste Lumière, Louis Lumière); Coyote Falls (Matthew O’Callaghan, USA 2010, 3 min); Falling in Love Again (Munro Ferguson, Canada 2003, 4 min); Fur of Flying (Matthew O’Callaghan, USA 2010, 3 min); The Infernal Boiling Pot (George Méliès, France 1903, 2 min); Knick Knack (John Lasseter, USA 1989, 4 min); Lumber-Jack Rabbit (Chuck Jones, USA 1954, 7 min); Melody (Ward Kimball, USA 1953, 10 min); Motor Rhythm (John Norling, USA 1940, 15 min); Musical Memories (Dave Fleischer, USA 1935, 7 min); The Mysterious Retort (George Méliès, France 1903, 2 min); The Oracle of Delphi (George Méliès, France 1903, 2 min); Parade of Attractions I: Fish (USSR, 3 min); Parade of Attractions II: Birds (USSR, 3 min); Parade of Attractions III: Jugglers (USSR, 5 min); Working for Peanuts (Jack Hannah, USA 1953); and 3-D experiments by René Bunzli (France 1900).

Bromberg’s passion for old movies began in 1969, on the night that his father brought home a Super-8 projector and Charlie’s Chaplin’s A Night in the Show (1915). His collection began with the comedies of Laurel and Hardy and has grown exponentially in the ensuing years. In 1985, he cofounded Lobster Films with Eric Lange to collect, preserve, restore, share and show rare film treasures and the archive now contains over 20,000 rare, unknown and classic films. One of their most important discoveries, which came to be known as Treasures from a Chest (SFIFF 2001), because it was found in an antique cupboard, included 98 films made prior to 1905, among them 17 previously unknown films by Georges Méliès. Bromberg produces silent film programs for European television and DVD collections of works by Chaplin and Méliès, among others, and created a website,, that provides public access to archival collections. But his enthusiasm is hardly limited to silent works. He has headed the Annecy International Animation Film Festival since 1999, and edited the footage from Henri-Georges Clouzot’s unfinished film Inferno (SFIFF 2010) into a César Award-winning documentary. As Paolo Cherchi Usai (Novikoff Award 2004) has noted, “Bromberg has created a new model by focusing on connecting cinematic treasures with the widest possible audience.” Bromberg has said that he is dedicated to restoring the audience and reviving the power of amazement.

Previous recipients of the Mel Novikoff Award are Roger Ebert (2010), Bruce Goldstein (2009), Jim Hoberman (2008), Kevin Brownlow (2007), Anita Monga (2005), Paolo Cherchi Usai (2004), Manny Farber (2003), David Francis (2002), Cahiers du Cinéma (2001), San Francisco Cinematheque (2001), Donald Krim (2000), David Shepard (2000), Enno Patalas (1999), Adrienne Mancia (1998), Judy Stone (1997), Film Arts Foundation (1997), David Robinson (1996), Institut Lumière (1995), Naum Kleiman (1994), Andrew Sarris (1993), Jonas Mekas (1992), Pauline Kael (1991), Donald Richie (1990), USSR Filmmakers Association (1989) and Dan Talbot (1988).

The Mel Novikoff Award Committee members are Francis J. Rigney (chairman), Rachel Rosen (ex officio), Helena R. Foster, George Gund III, Maurice Kanbar, Philip Kaufman, Tom Luddy, Gary Meyer, Anita Monga, Janis Plotkin and Peter Scarlet.

source: San Francisco International Film Festival

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