Tragic Film Reel Fire Could Result in 4-Year Prison Sentence for Annecy Festival’s Ex-Artistic Director Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter

Serge Bromberg, the former artistic director of Annecy International Animation Festival, is facing a four-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter.

Bromberg was put on trial earlier this week at the Court of Creteil, near Paris, due to his role in a fire involving nitrate film reels that caused two deaths in August 2020 during a heatwave, according to TV5 Monde.

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The well-respected film professional has stocked film reels in the basement of a building near Paris that didn’t have a fire alarm. During the heatwave, the reels burst into flames. A person living in the apartment above the basement was burnt alive while another person died after jumping from the fourth floor to escape the fire.

The prosecutor, Missiva Chermak-Felonneau, has requested a four-year sentence, three of them suspended, and a $150,000 fine for Bromberg’s company Lobster Films.

Bromberg, who headed the programming of Annecy festival from 1999 to 2012 and has focused on film restoration since then, told the court that he was fully responsible for the tragic events.

Chermak-Felonneau said Bromberg was well-aware that nitrate film reels were highly flammable and should have been stored in a refrigerated space.

Investigators said that approximately 1,364 to 1,935 reels weighting between 2.5 and 3.6 tons were stored in the basement when the fire erupted, according to TV5 Monde. Bromberg told the court the film reels were supposed to be transferred to the National Film Board (CNC), which didn’t take them.

Bromberg was known for hosting a show called “Retour de flamme” (“Bouncing Flame”) during which he presented restored reels at the Orsay museum, among other venues. The title, “Retour de flamme,” which he chose, references the flammable nature of nitrate reels.

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