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Beyond Paper
At a critical moment in the history of the written word, as humanity's archives migrate to the cloud, one filmmaker goes on a journey around the globe to better understand how she can preserve her own Romanian and Armenian heritage, as well as our collective memory.

Depending on availability and locations, filmmaker Oana Suteu Khintirian, her husband, Dr Sha Xin Wei, media philisopher or special guests may be invited for a Q&A or panel discussion after the screening. The filmmaker lives in Montreal.
Photo entête
Oana Suteu Khintirian 
2022 | 130 min
English and French, Romanian, Italian, Arabic, Spanish with English subtitles

Awards and Festivals

Cercle d'or Best Documentary/Festival cinéma du monde de Sherbrooke (2023)

Official Selection – International Feature CompetitionInternational Festival of Films on Art – FIFA (2023)

With the digital revolution, the transmission of knowledge and memory has undergone huge upheavals. All over the world, archives are migrating from paper to the cloud, and the tech giants dream of creating the first completely virtual universal library. In all fields of knowledge, preservation has become synonymous with digitization. What challenges does the ongoing abandonment of books create for the transfer of knowledge? What is the future of our individual and collective memories?

In a personal quest with universal resonance, director Oana Suteu Khintirian simultaneously explores her personal heritage and identity and the philosophical side of technological progress. More than 25 years ago, she left her hometown of Bucharest with only a few suitcases filled with books and letters. Now, she wonders about how to share these family records with her son. As a member of a double diaspora—Romanian and Armenian—she embarks on a journey, with many stops along the way, to understand her cultural heritage and how best to preserve it. While the digital shift allows us to imagine infinite possibilities—at the risk of becoming lost in the "Library of Babel" as imagined by Jorge Luis Borges—have we really grasped the impact the disappearance of physical records will have on thought and learning? As valuable vestiges of the past, are paper and handwriting imbued with a sensory value as important as the actual words on the page? And don't virtual archives require just as much care and maintenance as their printed predecessors, raising fears that their obsolescence could sink humanity into a new dark age?

Beyond Paper takes us around the world and introduces us to "guides" of many generations and backgrounds who are building bridges between paper and digital. Filmed in locations including a "city of libraries" in the midst of the Mauritanian desert and El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires (one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world), as well as in Bucharest, Montreal, San Francisco, Milan, Copenhagen and Lons-le-Saunier, France, Beyond Paper features nearly twenty archivists, librarians, professors, philosophers and new media specialists offering thoughtful and nuanced critical reflections. Maria Sebregondi, president of the Moleskine Foundation, speculates on the possibilities of "augmented paper." Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, describes the massive web library as "fabulous and terrible." Maria Kodama, the widow of Jorge Luis Borges, brings to life the words of the Argentinian writer, breathing contemporary meaning into them as they echo Kahle's descriptions.

The filmmaker also hears from members of a younger generation who've grown up with faith in a world in which textbooks are stored and consulted online. "It used to be the inkwell, and now it's the charger," one child says. Interspersed with this mosaic of interviews are the experiences of several of the director's family members, who, having felt the impact of genocide, political upheaval and exile, have scattered across the four corners of the earth.

In this film essay, Oana Suteu Khintirian brings together the intellectual and the poetic. Instead of placing the virtual and physical worlds in opposition to each other, she freely navigates the continuum that binds them. The film is deeply evocative, using powerful images, sensual music and brilliantly fluid editing to immerse us in a cinematic experience that's equal parts reflective and emotional. From the hot colours of the Sahara to the snow-covered streets of Montreal, and from the fragile grain of centuries-old manuscripts to blinking servers in digital libraries, Beyond Paper reminds us—at this critical moment in the history of the written word—that human knowledge is above all an affair of the soul and the spirit.
Watch the trailer
Florence Fran├žois
Florence Fran├žois 
Programming Agent, NFB |
P.O. Box 6100, Station Centre-ville, Montreal (Quebec) H3C 3H5
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