A warehouse of Latin America’s largest film collection has been hit by fire in the Brazilian city of São Paulo. It is not yet clear how much damage the Cinemateca Brasileira has sustained.
The fire broke out in a building where, in addition to some 2,000 films, old movie posters, antique projectors and documents about South American film history are kept. Fifteen fire trucks and dozens of firefighters were called in to prevent the fire from spreading to other buildings.
Cinemateca employees recently warned that overdue maintenance and unpaid electricity bills pose a fire risk: many of the old films were shot on nitrate film, which can ignite spontaneously at higher temperatures.
“This collection is our audiovisual memory, but it has not been properly taken care of for more than a year,” says a professor of film studies who came to watch the fire. “The federal government is responsible for this.”
Founded in 1940, the Cinemateca has been hit more often by major fires. In 2016, for example, more than a thousand film roles were lost. Last year, part of the collection was lost in a flood.
Brazil has often lost important heritage due to fire in recent years. In 2018, the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, the oldest scientific institution in the country, was hit. In the process, 20 million objects were lost, such as dinosaur fossils and a 12,000-year-old human skeleton.