Forward to the past with film footage of 1947 Jaca Fest
A FILM reel that sat in a suitcase in Brisbane for almost six decades, containing rare colour footage from the 1947 Jacaranda Festival, will premiere during this year's 80th anniversary celebrations at the Schaeffer House Museum.
The film's owner, Rod Jackson, said it was very lucky that the footage was salvageable as it was almost at the point of disintegration when he sent it off to a Sydney company that specialised in making digital copies.
"I thought Grafton city might be interested in this but had to get the film inspected to see if they could do anything with it. They said we were lucky as it probably had another three weeks before it perished. They could tell from its smell, which is like vinegar, and it was very warped."
It took the company 12 hours to run the 120m of fragile 16mm colour film through a "very gentle machine" to digitally copy it frame by frame to create a 21st century reel on DVD in high definition.
"You could never have run this film through a normal projector. It would tear it to pieces. The company did a fantastic job, restoring the colour balance where some of the frames had faded so what you see is as close to how it looked when originally shot."
The film was shot by a relative of Rod's who died a few years ago, leaving a suitcase full of films to Rod and his late father.
"I never got around to doing anything with it until last year when I retired. I found it again while cleaning out the garage and started to go through it. There was a handwritten strip at the start of the film mentioning the Jacaranda Festival so I took it down to Schaeffer House Museum".
Rod said museum president Frank Mack was very obliging and arranged for the Clarence River Historical Society to fund the retrieval project. "It can be a very expensive process but after the society's help, I just had to pay the postage down to Sydney."
He said as the film was silent the CRHS also found an appropriate soundtrack in their archives to run with the footage - Jacaranda Rock from the 1950s featuring Dorothy McPherson singing and The Provost Brothers.
The film runs for about 13 minutes and features folk-dancing in Market Square, schools displays including bike parades and marching at the Grafton showground as well as the arrival of the 1947 guest of honour the Governor of New South Wales, Sir John Northcott.
Rod said because of the high costs it was rare to have black and white footage let alone colour during the post-war period.
"Our relative was by no means wealthy but he loved film so invested in his hobby which is a good thing for us. It wasn't easy going filming in those days, there was no auto focus or anything like that. You had to set everything up manually but he obviously knew what he was doing as the footage is very good."
The original reel that Rod will be donating to the Film and Sound Archive in Canberra, also contained family footage and Rod is already sizing up what to do with another reel he has uncovered that features another regal event in the Jacaranda City.
"It's footage of the Queen Elizabeth's coronation celebrations in Grafton when she visited the North Coast in 1953."