The Digital Witness: Film Reconstruction and the Forensic Imagination in New Media Environments


  • Serena Bellotti University of Udine
  • Andrea Mariani University of Udine



Film Restoration, Digital Witness, Philology of Film, Film reconstruction, Film Inspection


Early on 2020, University of Udine signed a collaboration with Instituto LUCE, aimed to a digital restoration of a supposedly lost expedition film: Spedizione Franchetti nella Dancalia (Mario Craveri, 1929, b/w, silent). LUCE and University of Udine brought to light a large amount of film materials that included 35mm original negatives, DupPos Lavanders, Positives, and a 9.5mm reduction print but no trace of an edited version of the 35mm film. The pandemic forced the project to shift remote and forbid working on the original film materials. Therefore, an inspection of edge-to-edge digital scanned copies of every element was planned: a “digital fac-simile” (Gschwind 2002) through continuous scanning. Planning the philo-genetics of each digital element, on one hand we assume that digital environments support and sustain an “ideal allographic environment” (Goodman 1976), as to say “a premeditated material environment built and engineered to propagate an illusion of immateriality” (Kirschenbaum 2008) – a premise that legitimate a philological authentication of digital copy of analog films. On the other hand, digital technology tends to and “must produce perfect outputs from imperfect inputs, nipping small errors in the bud (Kirschenbaum 2008). Given this premise and the pivotal role that errors and innovations play in the stage of recensio and collatio, this proposal intends to reframe the “digital witness” by stressing the materiality of film (in digital film preservation) as an ongoing interpretation, where digital philology is always digital hermeneutics.




How to Cite

Bellotti, S., & Mariani, A. (2021). The Digital Witness: Film Reconstruction and the Forensic Imagination in New Media Environments. Cinergie – Il Cinema E Le Altre Arti, (20), 27–43.