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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Imaginero - The Image Maker

Jorge Prelorán filming Hermógenes Cayo, 1960's“It is a fact that when you see films made in the past by anthropologists, they almost always depict the rare, exotic, strong, bizarre, odd, and/or colorful activities of “primitive” people. But seldom did we have a chance of getting into their minds, to fathom deeply into their souls, to find that they are human beings, which means that they have in common with us the core of all human experience.” (Jorge Prelorán, 1976, quoted in Sharon R. Sherman, “From Romanticism to Reflexivity”, Memories of the Origins of Ethnographic Film, Beate Engelbrecht (ed.))

Jorge Prelorán – gifted filmmaker, prolific storyteller, inspired teacher – passed away one year ago last week. His films and papers, which he donated to the Human Studies Film Archives (HSFA) in 2007, are currently being processed. Much of the film was found to be degrading due to acetate deterioration and we are preserving these titles as we find the funds.

This video clip shows the results of the recent film-to-film preservation of Prelorán’s best-known film, Hermógenes Cayo (Imaginero) (1970), a portrait of a religious icon maker from a remote village in northwest Argentina. The previous access copy (left side of frame) had dirt and scratches, color fade, poor shadow detail, and blur. The new access copy (right side of frame) is clean, color accurate, properly exposed, and sharp. Even more importantly, the deteriorating original film is now supplemented by a pristine preservation copy which will last hundreds of years with proper storage.

Hermógenes Cayo is as relevant today as it was forty years ago. It is a beautiful work of cinema, and also an invaluable record of life in Argentina’s Andean high plateau. As an inquiry into the human experience, it is transcendent and enduring; thanks to the preservation work, the film can once again be seen as the artist intended.

Karma Foley, Human Studies Film Archives


  1. I hope to be able to see this exhibit. Should be very interesting. I'm also looking forward to seeing the exhibit on The Gay civil rights. Thank you!

  2. Fantastic post! Thanks so much for adding the video clip--it's amazing to see the difference. Thankfully now, in many years to come, researchers will still be able to appreciate the original intent of the video in the restored version.

  3. Great example of why preservation is so important.