Restoration Spotlight

The Sacred Act of Saving The Apu Trilogy

Inside Criterion / Tech Corner — Dec 16, 2015

The story behind the restoration of Satyajit Ray’s masterpiece The Apu Trilogy is an astonishing one—which we present in two programs by the filmmaker :: kogonada, included in our release of the trilogy. While creating a tribute to Ray for the 1992 Oscars, the producers of the telecast discovered that his films were in desperate need of care and decided to spearhead the first concerted effort to preserve his body of work. But while that process was underway in 1993, a film lab in London that was holding several of Ray’s films caught on fire. And although Ray’s negatives were severely damaged, the Academy Film Archive at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, rather than discarding the film, chose to preserve all that was salvageable.

The restoration of The Apu Trilogy began nearly twenty years later, when the Academy initiated a collaboration with the Criterion Collection and L'Immagine Ritrovata. It was an arduous process, but the landmark films were ultimately returned to their original glory, and are perhaps even more stunning than when they originally premiered in the 1950s. Now, the Academy has created its own documentary, An Act of Faith: Saving “The Apu Trilogy,” highlighting this painstaking process and the dedication of the restoration artists and archivists who worked meticulously to ensure that Ray’s vision would have a second life. Above, watch the video, which also features Criterion president Peter Becker and technical director Lee Kline discussing their involvement in the restoration.