BFI National Archive silent film curator Bryony Dixon honoured at Bologna film festival for services to safeguarding cinema heritage

Dixon was praised by the festival organisers for “her outstanding achievement in bringing the films from the past to the present".

Bryony Dixon at the Vittorio Boarini Awards presentation at Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, with Davide Pozzi, director of L’Immagine Ritrovata film restoration laboratory

Bryony Dixon, the BFI National Archive’s silent film curator, has been honoured with the prestigious Vittorio Boarini Award in Bologna. The awards took place on Monday as part of Il Cinema Ritrovato Film Festival.

The Vittorio Boarini Award is given in honour of the founder and long-term director of the Cineteca di Bologna, an institution focused on restoring and preserving films. Vittorio Boarini was a pioneer in the field of restoration, a scholar of contemporary cinema and art, an educator, critic, and energetic disseminator of culture who passed away in 2021.

Bryony Dixon is a recipient of the 3rd edition of the awards, which are given to international figures who, like Vittorio, have distinguished themselves in the safeguarding and dissemination of cinema heritage. This year, in addition to Bryony, the award was also given to Daniela Michel, the founder and general director of the Morelia International Film Festival in Mexico, and Grover Crisp, the executive vice president of Sony Pictures Entertainment. The Il Cinema Ritrovato Film Festival runs until 30 June.

Recognised as one of the world’s leading curators and programmers of early film, Bryony Dixon was praised by the festival organisers for “her outstanding achievement in bringing the films from the past to the present, from invisibility to new life, from oblivion to new recognition” as well as her untiring work over three decades, for the benefit of audiences, in organising screenings and events to “give people the unique pleasure of living the experience of silent cinema”. Noted as an important ally for Il Cinema Ritrovato in proposing and curating entire programme strands and contributing many films from the BFI National Archive to the festival, her award is in recognition both of this and her “generous and unstinting help to projects of other archives, universities, researchers and festivals worldwide” and more.

“We are thrilled that Bryony’s expertise and tireless dedication to championing British silent cinema have been officially recognised,” said Ben Roberts, BFI Chief Executive. “We, Bryony’s colleagues, already know just how important her contribution has been to the world of silent cinema appreciation. The depth of her knowledge and passion is simply unparalleled. To receive this endorsement from her world-leading peers, in preservation and restoration is a massive acknowledgement.”

Bryony, who has been with the BFI for 32 years, said: “Receiving this award from Il Cinema Ritrovato is a huge honour. The festival programme is a glorious melting pot spanning the history of film, across all decades and representing every country. The BFI National Archive has contributed many films that have screened to audiences at Bologna over the years, in a variety of programme strands. I have particularly enjoyed working closely with Mariann Lewinsky, a programmer of genius at Bologna, on presenting an astonishing range of subjects and inventive programming combinations of early film.”

Bryony Dixon (left) receiving her award from Swiss silent film curator and Il Cinema Ritrovato programmer Mariann Lewinsky

As co-director of the pioneering British Silent Film Festival, Bryony was in the vanguard both of the popular rediscovery of silent cinema in Britain and the reappraisal of Britain’s contribution to the silent period. Her work at the BFI as silent film curator covers an amazing range of fields and topics, including suffragettes, polar expeditions to Antarctica, early colour systems and leading on major restoration projects for Silent Hitchcock, Chaplin and Victorian Film. She has written about silent film for Sight and Sound and other outlets worldwide, as well as authoring the BFI Screen Guide 100 Silent Films (2011) and, most recently, The Story of Victorian Film, published in BFI/Bloomsbury’s British Screen Stories series.