The rescue of baby seals trapped in the ice field, concern over environmental issues, the protection of endangered species, these are some of the initiatives and issues widely tackled by the media in the name of humanity’s safeguard.
Yet, amidst a general lack of concern, we also forget that every day part of the world cultural heritage disappears for ever. Its protection is not listed as a priority by the existing states… An earthquake and Boticelli’s Spring could well be lost … But who really cares ?
9 March 2001 : the giant statues of Bamiyan are blown up. The explosion of the two Buddhas, sculpted in the very rock between the third and fourth centuries of our era and listed as part of the world heritage by UNESCO, is a shattering blow to the world. This work of art is unique and its loss, irreparable.
11 Sept. 2001 : the collapse of the World Trade Center twin towers underlines again the fragility of this world. Terrorism, wars, natural disasters are a growing threat to the world cultural heritage.
August 2002 : the floods devastating Central Europe and damaging the baroque jewel cities of Dresden and Prague throw the Parisian museums into a panic. Last winter, their directors decide in a mad rush to have their reserve collections stored far from the Seine river. Without the protection of the concerned states, the disappearance of this heritage is inescapable. This is quite obvious ! Yet, the concern over this issue is tardy and the protection of cultural goods still not a priority.
From Paris to Los Angeles via Dresden, Florence, Madagascar, the film will tell us the story of these endangered masterpieces but also of the passionate fight carried on by many obscure protagonists – curators, archivists, firemen or museum attendants – who wish to save them. In 1996, some of them set up the International Committee of the Blue Shield, a cultural equivalent of the Red Cross. Others, in charge of the greatest museums in the world : the Louvre, the Paul Getty Foundation, keep a careful watch over priceless treasures. All of them fight in their own way against time, disasters, men. The French president of the republic has even coined the phrase : cultural crime against humanity. The collapse of the Manhattan twin towers also led to the loss of whole art collections. And yearly, the four natural elements keep on raging against the memory of men : floods, earthquakes, fires, storms.
The film will consider the question of art and its role in our scheme of values and priorities through the destinies of a few men and works of art. What must we first protect, rescue, rebuild ? Is the protection of works of art a luxury for the richer nations ? Do the lesser privileged ones need first-aid archaeologists when they have no water, food or health care ? Is art man’s most valuable good ?
In an age where safety, the principle of precaution and the doctrine of zero dead, zero damage prevail, must we still open museums to the public or definitively store up works of art in indestructible pyramids to all eternity ?
And what if one of art’s essential functions was its own disappearance ?
« Ce documentaire est pertinent à plus d’un titre. Par les exemples choisis. Mais aussi par la qualité de sa réflexion. »