The challenges of restoring ‘Karnal’
The restored version of the Marilou Diaz-Abaya film “Karnal” (1983) was among the films exhibited at the recent 2015 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.
According to ABS-CBN film archives head Leo Katigbak, the restoration of “Karnal” started last year but was discontinued when technicians spotted some defects in its acquired copy.
“The process, however, was not so convoluted for ‘Karnal.’ We were lucky to have generated print from the master negatives before they got lost. Ours is a very good print. While there was a fair amount of damage, we were able to pull it off with today’s digital capabilities,” Katigbak told the Inquirer during the special screening on Aug. 13 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City.
Katigbak, whose team has already restored some 30 films this year alone, said the most daunting task was “finding a copy that’s restorable. Owning the rights to the film is also a complicated issue, especially if this involves multiple ownership. For some of the movies, we have opted not to continue with the restoration because of disputed ownership.”
“More than half” of the rights to “Karnal” were already owned by ABS-CBN, he added.
“We just had to negotiate for the remaining rights,” he said. “Ideally, one should be able to acquire all the rights to be able to utilize it in all the platforms. We wanted ‘Karnal’ on iTunes and video-on-demand.”
Being able to “bring the film to where its audiences are,” was another consideration. Katigbak pointed out: “If they want to watch this on their tablets, on their mobile phones or cable, this has to be available in a quality that’s very good. We want to be able to make this available in all the platforms. This is so that we can fully utilize all the prospects of the movie.”
Another problem was the music rights, he said, citing Mike de Leon’s “Hindi Nahahati ang Langit” (1985) as an example. “There were so many foreign songs used in the film that to clear the rights was so prohibitive. It was better for us to change the music. The problem was its mono material. We had to hire a really good team of technicians that was able to replace the audio elements without affecting the dialogue.”
ABS-CBN has commissioned the Central Digital Lab in most of its restoration projects. “Everything else outside the physical restoration is done by us—planning, looking for materials, designing new posters and promo campaigns,” Katigbak said. “For ‘Karnal,’ Central Digital Lab came in as a copartner. This helps us offset some of the costs because, in a lot of cases, we pay in full.”
Katigbak added: We work on restoring at least 40 titles a year and have already restored over a hundred.”
Restoration cost can be as low as P25,000, but could go up to as high as P10 million, he said.
“We restore the classics that we have access to… I would have wanted to restore ‘Pagputi ng Uwak, Pagitim ng Tagak’ (Celso Ad. Castillo, 1978). We were able to find a copy but it was already in an advanced state of deterioration. It’s sad that a lot of our producers didn’t preserve copies of their films.”
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