DW Griffith Film Archive was officially established in 1975, but its origins date back to 1973, when Angelo R. Humouda – film scholar and researcher – had a chance to attend a retrospective of David Wark Griffith, organized by Jacques Lourcelles at the Cinemathèque Française, in Paris. Humouda was so fascinated by Griffith’s works, that he started to collect some of his rarest films. In doing so, he could count on the help of other two collectors - Claudio Clavarino from Genoa and the more famous Piero Tortolina- who directed him to MOMA Film Department, in New York. The first acquisition incorporated barley more than 30 ‘one-reel films by Griffith, produced at Biograph between 1908 and 1911. A national preview screening of this first group was shown at Cappella Underground, in Trieste, in 1974: it was such a success that Humouda decided to acquire other titles and started to plan the creation of a film library dedicated to the American director. The project officially began following the encounter with Alessandro Cozzani - another American film scholar; its motivations and proposals were detailed in the volume “Ragioni di una Proposta (Reasons for a Proposal)” written by Humouda and Cozzani and published in 1975, the same year in which DW Griffith Film Archive was founded. Alba Gandolfo (in charge of the Film Section of Tigullio Cultural Centre, which had organized a retrospective of Griffith in Chiavari) and Patrizia Poggi, expert in motion picture (future area of specialization of the Film Library) were among the founding partners. In this period the initiatives by the new Film Archive increased: ‘Griffith at Biograph’, held during the 35th Venice Film Festival in 1976, the first edition of the festival after an interruption of some years; the participation in the Festival dei Popoli in1977, to name but a few. In addition, the magazines “Griffithiana” and “Quaderni della Cineteca “ were founded, new collaborators joined, such as Renato Venturelli, reviewer and film historian, and Aldo Padovano, scholar and experimental director. By the end of the ’70s, DW Griffith Film Archive’s collection contained about 2000 films - all on 16mm – including a number of works by Griffith, as well as titles belonging to early cinema (Mèliès, Porter, ecc.), motion-picture rarities, avant-gard films and films in their original version, considered to be classics in cinema history.
In 1978 an important event organized by Edoardo Bruno (President of Film Critica) in homage to G. Mèlies - which also saw the participation of his son - was held in Rome, within the Ex-Macelli area. At the beginning of the ’80s the idea of a collaboration with the Town Council took shape. An agreement with the Municipality of Genoa was drafted and approved, but it didn’t last long (about three years), due to reasons too long to explain here. Humouda also had some health problems which forced him to quit his activity; so DWG’s adventure seemed to be at the end of the line.
In 1987 Alba Gandolfo decided to gather the old collaborators in order to regain control of the situation. A new member joined: Massimo Patrone – researcher and passionate about cinema. In 1995, year of the Centenary, DW Griffith Film Archive acquired Lumen Film Collection owned by B. Quaquarelli, a regional distribution Agency licensed for screening on vessels. The collection included about one thousand items, both 16 mm films and 35 mm films, with 16 mm rarities. These copies were intended for circulation on merchant ships and not cruises, thus being unique pieces in Italy: a list of the titles was sent to Adriano Aprà, who was the director of the Cineteca Nazionale (National Film Archive) in Rome, at the time. Also, at the end of the ’80s, DW Griffith Film Archive undertook the restoration of three films (The Battle by DW Griffith; La Coltura del Riso in Giappone (Rice growing in Japan), Pathè; L’Eclisse del 17 Aprile (An Eclipse of the Sun), Ambrosio). In 2000, on occasion of its 25th anniversary, DW Griffith Film Archive received the homage of the Venice Film Festival, within the section dedicated to restoration works. It also received an award from the Cinematèque Française and in 2006 from the Barcelona Film Library. DW Griffith Film Archive resumed its intense activity both in Italy and abroad; new collaborations were established, for example with the Bergamo Film Meeting, the Cineteca Nazionale and Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. DW Griffith Film Archive also received the homage of the major European Collections. In 2007 in collaboration with National Museum of Cinema in Turin and the Cineteca Nazionale in Milan, it carried out the restoration of the film “I mille” (The Thousand) by Alberto degli Abbati, the first film “featuring” Giuseppe Garibaldi.
Today the film library holds more than 5000 items (700 documentaries and newsreels), 16 and 35mm films, including an invaluable collection of rare Italian films from the 1930s to the 1970s, and antiques (magic lanterns, cameras, old projectors, vintage magazines, posters, uncatalogued books and a collections of important magazines (catalogued) donated by the film historian Roberto Chiti.