Cinémathèque des Pays de Savoie et de l’Ain

Once upon a time

The Savoie and Ain Film Library

Aug. 2023
3 min.

Our collective memory captured on camera

A learning, memory, and thought-provoking tool for some, or the excitement of their very first time at the theater for kids, there are so many different ways to experience the Cinémathèque des Pays de Savoie et de l’Ain  / Savoie and Ain Film Library, which now occupies the renovated bottom station of the once prestigious aerial tram in Veyrier-du-Lac. 

The tall vertical lines of the building bathe in the sunlight where the view of the lake is nothing less than spectacular. 

We enjoyed a guided tour with Clément Saccomani, the library’s enthusiastic and dedicated director since 2021.

Cinémathèque des Pays de Savoie et de l’Ain

© Clément Saccomani – CPSA

An iconic location dedicated to preserving the area’s memory

Inaugurated in 1934, the building’s graphic architecture was brilliantly restored, creating new spaces like a new, very modern 37-seat theater designed for learning, while still maintaining the spirit of its former glory: the outdoor staircase, the ramp for the old aerial tram, and even the bullwheels that once drove the cables. The latter symbolizes the kilometers of film carefully kept and stored here.

During its fifty years of operation, from 1934 through the 1980s, the aerial tram carried more than two million people to the 1291-meter summit of Mt. Veyrier. The tram shut down due to the cost of bringing it up to code. In 2014 the building was turned over to the city, where the Savoie and Ain Film Library moved after having spent years housed in Veyrier-du-Lac’s city hall.

Cinémathèque des Pays de Savoie et de l’Ain

© Clément Saccomani – CPSA

Pulling reels out of storage

Collecting, preserving, and showcasing amateur films from the area to build a shared heritage and database for the public is one of the library’s main roles.

It currently possesses a catalog of approximately 1100 films – not made for movie theaters – and put together thanks to the painstakingly meticulous work by staff members Raphaëlle Grancher (Colletcion Manager), Claire Macary (Technical and Multimedia Manager), and Clément Saccomani, the library’s director. They also rely on help provided by several dedicated volunteers who are members of the non-profit association.

The first film collected was made in 1908. For €30 in annual membership dues, anyone can bring in their reels and/or VHS tapes to be digitized.

Cinémathèque des Pays de Savoie et de l’Ain

© Clément Saccomani – CPSA

Show and educate

Through a full program of showings, conferences, expositions, debates, entertainment, and activities in the aerial tram building’s movie theater and a few other locations, the film library fulfills its role as a cultural vehicle by being open to a wide variety of audiences: school groups, families, individuals with a disability, anyone curious, history buffs…

By definition each movie at the film library is sorted and filed. The library’s role is to create a passion for film, use the archives to introduce the concept of film analysis, and contribute to public debate and the development of critical thinking.

“The concept of posterity, the idea of what we leave behind after we go, the importance of not leaving any ‘blank spaces’ in the archives, that’s what appeals to me about this project,” explains the library’s director. After spending six years traveling the world as a war photographer, Clément Saccomani became the director of Magnum Photos in Paris, and then Noor Images in Amsterdam, and now focuses his energy on bringing the history of the area to life.

“When the French Ski Federation recently moved, they provided us with 150 reels of film that likely include several gems,” he explains.

Cinémathèque des Pays de Savoie et de l’Ain

© Clément Saccomani – CPSA

What could be more authentic than footage capturing moments and events from the past, and playing a key role in showcasing the values and customs of society at a specific point in time?

During showings to young audiences, he likes to encourage them to reflect, to avoid looking at the past through today’s eyes, and to do their best to understand the path that led to a given era’s commonly held beliefs.

In this manner, film libraries are valuable institutions that play a key role in preserving the past to help us to better understand where we come from.

Cinémathèque des Pays de Savoie et de l’Ain

© Clément Saccomani – CPSA

Cinémathèque des Pays de Savoie et de l’Ain / Savoie and Ain Film Library

Le Téléphérique – 12 bis route d’Annecy – VEYRIER-DU-LAC

Tel. +33 (0)4 50 23 51 09




  • © Clément Saccomani – CPSA

Journalist: Aude Pollet-Thiollier

Translation: Darin Reisman