Oscar-winning film director Martin Scorsese is spearheading a new body aimed at salvaging neglected films.
Martin Scorsese won an Oscar this year for his film The Departed
Scorsese - who has made Raging Bull, Taxi Driver and The Departed - launched the World Cinema Foundation (WCF) at the Cannes Film Festival.
He was joined by a dozen top directors, including Stephen Frears, who will highlight homegrown films from their own countries worth rescuing.
But Scorsese said the WCF would focus on films from developing countries.
Scorsese told reporters he feared seminal foreign films could deteriorate or disappear entirely.
"Coming from a working-class background in New York, my parents were not educated and weren't in the habit of reading books," the 66-year-old director said.
"So I saw a great deal of film on television in particular.
"This opened up a whole world to me, foreign films on television, and introduced so many different cultures to me.
"I found I was fed by those cultures, and I think the same thing has happened all around the world."
The Queen director Frears, who is chairing the Cannes award jury this year, added his voice to the call for the restoration of older films.
He said the British Film Institute (BFI) need more money to help maintain its archive.
"[It] is under-funded. It needs money. It's as simple as that. It's our lives, our culture. The government does not prioritise this highly enough."
Cult Chinese director Wong Kar-wai - behind My Blueberry Nights, which opened Cannes this year - will also sit on the WFC board.
He said he had made a pet project out of hundreds of Chinese films he unearthed in a San Francisco warehouse two years ago and planned to bring them back to Hong Kong to restore as many as possible.
"They're just like orphans because they don't know who owned these copies," he said.
He called them invaluable relics of the waves of Chinese workers who left home for the US.
"Just imagine: before the Second World War, all these Chinese men, the immigrants working in the United States - they are not able to bring their wives, their families, they are lonely men in Chinatown and this is their only entertainment.
"And I think all these films have performed something very important, to link all the Chinese around the world because they have something to share."