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Iconic El Paso film historian looks back at evolution of filmmaking

EL PASO, Texas -- On Tuesday night, ABC news hosted "A Night in the Academy Museum." The special gave fans a look at the amazing history, exhibitions and insight into the art of filmmaking from the past 120 years.

ABC-7 sat down with an iconic El Pasoan who has been involved in film and its history for more than 30 years.

Jay Duncan is one of El Paso’s film historians, film connoisseurs, film collectors and has been heavily involved in bringing anything film to our region for the past three decades.

ABC-7 met up with him at the historic Plaza Theatre downtown, the jewel Duncan helped save from demolition in the 1970s.

ABC-7 asked Duncan: “What captured you about film? What was that one film that captured you?”

“For me, I was very young and I vividly recall sitting in the back seat at a drive in movie theater, my mom and dad in the front seat and seeing the day the earth stood still,” Duncan said. “That’s the one that really made me interested in film.”

He continued, “I thought, the magic of the movies you... I mean you could see a giant squid, it wasn’t a real giant squid but you wondered ‘how’d they do that?’"

Duncan said for many people, films have provided a way to get away.

“A lot of that was, I think, escapism. Because for an hour and a half or however long the movie was, the attendee could actually escape the realities of the real world for a short time,” Duncan said.

The recent opening of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Hollywood boasts 13 million objects including costumes, film reels, and screenplays dating back to 1927 — all items and memorabilia for future generations to see.

“Why is it important to for us to preserve film? It’s the only art that has the other arts, architecture, painting, drama all the other arts are in film - and I think it’s important that it be preserved because it’s a time capsule of when they were made,” Duncan said.

Throughout his time as a film collector and historian, Duncan has met countless actors and directors and has been invited to speak at film conventions across the U.S.

But despite dedicating decades to bringing the history of film to our community through his Jay’s Pix and as director of the Sunset Film Society series, Duncan is still modest.

ABC-7 asked: “What is going to be your future in all of this?"

“Ah that’s a really tough question… I guess I’ll just have to rob banks,” Duncan replied.

Duncan will continue on the advisory board for the Plaza Classic Film Festival in 2022.

Jerry Najera

Jerry Najera is an ABC-7 reporter/photographer.

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