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John Ferrari: "I was delighted to hear Santiago Marré had won the UNICA award.

John Ferrari. (Photo: Tino Valduvieco)

It is an honour for the Festimatge to have an interview with one of Europe's top 9'5mm collectors. John Ferrari has been attending our meeting during the last 20 years and he won't miss these 2013 40th anniversary celebrations in Calella. These relaxed conversation it is conducted with a man who really loves the 9'5mm format and who really cares about cinema.

By: Àlex M. Franquet

- What took you to this format, what made you collect 9'5mm films and even shoot them?
- I started with the 9.5mm gauge over 60 years ago, and the big attraction was the number of films available for sale and in the libraries. Also the small Pathe projectors were plentiful, cheap, and easy to use.

- Why do you think that people still love and use this format?
- There are many vintage films which only survive on the 9.5mm gauge and this makes it a great attraction for people trying to find these very rare films.

- I am sure you also use the newest digital technology in your daily life. How can 9'5mm and the newest digital technology live together?
- You may be surprised when I tell you that I have never yet used any form of digital photography and i still only use my 9.5mm cameras. Unfortunately the future looks bleak for film in general as the whole film industry has gone over to electronic vision and film is no longer being manufactured. But some people are recording their 9.5mm `treasures` on to disc with surprisingly good results so in some small way the electronic age has helped 9.5mm.

- Could you explain which are the films you collect at your home that you would say that they are the most interesting, the most valuable, the rarest. Some time ago you mentioned you even mentioned had old films by Charles Chaplin.
- Over the past 30 years I have been attracted to the optical sound films on 9.5mm, again some of these are very rare and I enjoy the excitement of collecting them. Particularly interesting are musical reviews and the old sound feature films many of which are now `lost` films. I also found that watching a silent film with just the chatter of the projector is a bit outdated, so I have added a magnetic stripe to some of my silent films and recorded music and sound effects to THE ITALIAN STRAW HAT, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, FAUST, etc... I find this is a much more entertaining way to watch silent films, but of course it demands much patience and is very time consuming.

- Are these rarest pieces the ones you love or appreciate the most? Maybe, some cheap thing of your collection brings you special memories for other reasons (like it is was harder to get or because it was part from another friend collection... you'll never know the reasons for...).
- Having been colecting for such a long time I think In have found most of my favourites. But I always keep an eye on EBay. One film I had been searching for was THE MISTS OF ERROR. Over the years I had never seen this film for sale anywhere. You can imagine my delight when it appeared on EBay, I was detemined to get it - and I did! I was very pleased with the end result.

- What about the UK 9'5 mm followers? How many of them are still active? What do you do to be in touch? I remember talking to some one of them a couple of years ago in Calella who were from Liverpool.
- Although we have around 300 members in UK, indicated by the sale of our magazine, numbers are decreasing slightly every year as there are very few young new members enlisting. Again, Ebay is excellent for keeping in touch with many 9.5mm users and a great means of introduction to collectors I never new existed.

- Why do you think that people still love this format?
- Because the 9.5mm format presents a challenge, especially with equipment being sold, old and often worn out. The number of modifications and improvements made to projectors, cameras, and other pieces of equipment must be immeasurable. This happens only on 9.5mm and I think this is one of the reasons people are attracted to it. This, and the thrill of collecting I think makes it popular.

- Do you attend any other meetings in Europe?
- I always attend the 9.5mm International Festival hosted annually in different European countries. This is held generally in late May and attracts a good representation from most countries.

- This year, we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 9'5 mm Meeting. What do you think of the Calella meeting?
- I was introduced to the Calella festival by Ted Smith from England about 20 years ago. And apart from only one, I have attended all of them. Even although I cannot speak Spanish, I always enjoy the atmosphere and meeting my Spanish friends.

- Santiago Marré has just received a medal from the UNICA as a recognition for his task during the last 40 years. What do you think about this recognition for him?
- In 1999 I had to organise the International Festival in Edinburgh and it was a monumental task! Santiago has this to do every year! And he does it with great enthusiasm. I was delighted to hear he had won the UNICA award, which he richly deserves.

- Even if this is a cinema interview, may I ask you about the political atmosphere in Scotland these days? Do you want to say something about it? The whole world is watching at Scotland, your relation with England and the UK, and the referendum.
- "United we stand, divided we fall". I hope we never see Independence. It is simply madness!