The BFI, the Commission for Looted Art in Europe and the Bundesarchiv, in partnership with the Themerson Estate and LUX, are delighted to announce the major rediscovery, restitution and restoration of Stefan and Franciszka Themersons’ long lost 1931 anti-fascist masterpiece Europa, available to new audiences 80 years after it was seized in Paris during the Second World War.
Originally believed to have been destroyed by the Nazis, Stefan and Franciszka Themersons’ incendiary film was rediscovered by chance in the Bundesarchiv, Berlin, in 2019. On behalf of the Themerson Estate, the Commission for Looted Art in Europe negotiated the restitution of the film from the Bundesarchiv which had preserved the original nitrate film since the reunification of Germany in the 1990s. The restitution of Europa in July this year is the first time a unique film masterpiece has been restituted from Germany in decades. Europa has now been donated by the Themerson Estate to the BFI National Archive for long term preservation. Housed at the BFI’s Master Film Store in Warwickshire, it has been brought together with original material from the Themersons’ other surviving films, most made after they arrived in England during the war and where they lived for the rest of their lives.
Fully restored in 2K, Europa will receive its world premiere at the 65th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express on Wednesday 6 October at BFI Southbank, the first time that the film has been seen since the early 1930s. Hosted by Will Fowler, BFI National Archive Curator of Artist Moving Image, the Europa LFF event will welcome special guests to discuss the story of the work’s creation and context and the film’s loss and restitution as looted art. Also showing will be the two reconstructions of Europa created during its absence.