Former Annecy Director Serge Bromberg Faces Prison Term For Deadly Film Reels Fire

Serge Bromberga former artistic director of Annecy International Animation Film FestivalNitrate is facing a four-year prison sentence for his role in the deadly fire involving the film reels.

The case, which was tried this week at the courthouse in Cretil on the outskirts of Paris, relates to a tragic fire in August 2020, when nitrate film reels he was stocking in the basement of an eight-storey apartment block on the outskirts of Paris was. Bursting into flames during a heat wave.

One person living immediately above the scene of the fire was burnt alive while another person died trying to jump to safety from the fourth floor. The building was relatively empty at the time as it was the height of the summer holidays.

Bromberg, who was prosecuted on charges of involuntary manslaughter and injury as well as endangering others, took full responsibility for the tragedy at trial.

“I would like to say that I am the only person responsible for this drama. It is my fault and exclusively my fault,” Bromberg was quoted as telling the court by local media. “I am unforgiving and I hardly dare to apologize.”

Bromberg was artistic director of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival from 1999 to 2012, but has since stepped down from that role to dedicate himself to restoration and distribution under the banner of Vintage Films. lobster filmsWhich he made in 1985.

He is a respected figure in the film restoration and classic film festival scene. Paris-based Lobster Films, run jointly with Eric Lange, employs a team of about 25 people and has a library of 50,000 vintage films, consisting of more than 210,00 film reels.

Prosecutor Missiva Chermak-Felonneau said Bromberg had stocked his personal film reels as well as those under construction without authorization in the storage space of Lobster Films in the Vincennes area on the eastern edge of Paris.

Old nitrate film reels are notoriously flammable and must be stored in a place under refrigerated conditions. Nitrate film reel fires are difficult to extinguish and emit highly toxic gases. As an experienced film restorer, Bromberg was aware of the dangers of nitrate film reels, Chermak-Feloneau said.

She said the air conditioning in Bromberg’s storage space was cut off in 1998 after neighbors complained about the noise. She said the space was not equipped with a fire alarm and that a firewall was shattered shortly after the fire broke out.

Investigators estimated that between 1,364 and 1,953 reels were being stored in the space at the time of the fire. Bromberg reported that exactly 965 reels had been tested.

He said the space was used as a holding place for some reels that were destined for FranceThe National Cinema Center (CNC) of the United Kingdom was to be restored and preserved under its cinema conservation programs but the handover was delayed.

The prosecutor asked why Bromberg had not thought of storing the reels in a more remote location and said that the fire and tragic deaths were caused solely by his failure to conform to the rules for storing old film reels.

Under the French judicial process, he sought a four-year sentence for Lobster Films, three of them suspended, and a fine of $150,000 (€150,000).

A judge will make a final ruling on sentencing in January 2023.