José Manuel Costa Elected FIAF Honorary Member

On 25 April 2024, José Manuel Costa, former director of the Cinemateca Portuguesa and a well-known figure of the FIAF community, was elected a FIAF Honorary Member by a unanimous vote of the FIAF General Assembly gathered in Bangkok during the 2024 FIAF Congress.

José Manuel Costa, who had graduated in Electrical Engineering, dedicated almost his entire professional life to the Cinemateca Portuguesa – Museo do Cinema, with which he started collaborating in 1975. He became its Director in 2014, a post he held until his retirement in February 2024. During his long career at the Cinemateca, he was involved in several important projects, including the creation of ANIM, its conservation centre.

His personal dedication to the preservation and promotion of film heritage was not, however, limited to Lisbon. He also became an important figure the worldwide movement of film archives, via his active involvement in the FIAF community over four decades. Although he served only briefly on FIAF’s Executive Committee (1993‒1995), he attended most FIAF Congresses from the early 1980s to the early 2020s. These provided a platform where José Manuel Costa could convey his thoughts on the complex issues involved in safeguarding and giving access to world’s film heritage. In 1989, he was one of the organizers of the only FIAF Congress ever held in Lisbon, and co-led that year’s important FIAF Symposium on “Rediscovering the Role of Film Archives: To Preserve and to Show”, which led to the creation of the FIAF Programming Commission.

FIAF Honorary Member and former FIAF President Eva Orbanz wrote in support of José Manuel Costa’s nomination for an Honorary Membership: “I have known José for a very long time and besides knowing that he is a wonderful person, a dedicated film archivist, and a creative film historian, I also remember the many key discussions he started within FIAF. His views on FIAF and on its importance for the film archiving community has often helped our community find the way in which FIAF should go. His convictions on the work of film archives – not only the technical side but also moral and ethical considerations – have been for many of us a great example to follow.”

Robert Daudelin, also a FIAF Honorary Member and former FIAF President, added: “For all those who have had the pleasure of visiting him in Lisbon or meeting him at our annual Congresses, Jose Manuel Costa is the very image of the passionate, even militant, but open and warm film archivist. He has always been a formidable defender of FIAF’s objectives, and he will continue to be so as an honorary member.”

Costa’s personal vision of the role and missions of non-profit film archives was also expressed in several important texts published in the Journal of Film Preservation (see below) and elsewhere.

In the early 1990s, he also played a key role in the organization of a regional association of FIAF-affiliated film archives based in Europe – today known as the Association des cinémathèques européennes (ACE), and he continued to be closely involved in the work of this association until his retirement earlier this year.

On 22 March 2024, Costa was presented with a Medal of Cultural Merit for “five decades of devotion to public service and passionate dedication to cinema” by Portugal’s Ministry of Culture, at a special ceremony at the Cinemateca Portuguesa.

José Manuel Costa joins our small exclusive club of FIAF Honorary Members, which currently consists of Robert Daudelin, David Francis, Edith Kramer, Peter Kubelka, Vladimír Opěla, Eva Orbanz, Roger Smither, and Iván Trujillo Bolio.


Selection of articles by José Manuel Costa in the Journal of Film Preservation

José Manuel Costa, “A Personal Note on Jan de Vaal and (the Importance of a) FIAF History”, Journal of Film Preservation, No.63, October 2001, pp.74‒76.

José Manuel Costa, “Film Archives in Motion”, Journal of Film Preservation, No.68, December 2004, pp.4‒13.

Robert Daudelin, “De l'avenir des cinémathèques: entrevue avec José Manuel Costa”, Journal of Film Preservation, No.71, July 2006, pp.4‒15.

José Manuel Costa, “The Place of Analogue and the Double Life of Digital”, Journal of Film Preservation, No.98, April 2018, pp.17‒24.