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  HOME | Arts & Entertainment

Lumiere! Documentary Casts Light on the Magic Origins of Moving Pictures

MADRID – The magic story of cinema began with 50 seconds of black and white images flickering onto a screen from a reel titled “Workers leaving the factory,” an experience that film-goers can now relive thanks to “Lumiere!” a 90-minute documentary made by Thierry Frémaux whose Spanish premiere took place on Friday.

Lumiere! was filmed on March 13, 1895, but is now a high-definition documentary featuring 114 lovingly restored examples of the 14,000 short films the Lumiere brothers shot in France, and around the world, between 1895 and 1905.

This masterpiece by the 57 year old Lumiere Institute director and Cannes Film Festival delegate Thierry Frémaux, which has already been seen by some 120.000 spectators worldwide, covers as never before the story of brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiere, the inventors of the cinematograph machine, a major improvement on Edison’s one-spectator “peepshow” kinetoscope as it enabled an audience to share the experience of seeing motion pictures.

The Lumieres’ excellence lay not only in their technical ability but also as artists.

Louis applied a prior photographic knowledge to gracefully and artfully resolve the many obstacles facing the new moving picture format, nowadays also known as the Seventh Art.

Frémaux describes the pioneering Workers leaving the factory as the first 50 seconds of an eternity that continues to this day.

During the recent San Sebastian Film Festival, which held a special screening of Lumiere! narrated live by Frémaux himself, the Lumiere Institute director spoke with EFE and explained that “the innocence, purity and simplicity of the Lumieres’ filmography continues to be relevant to this day, even for contemporary cinematographers.”

Lumiere! is due to be screened in 30 countries including Russia, Poland, Italy, Argentina, Mexico or Japan, where audiences will see the first moving-picture comic gags or faraway-land panoramas filmed by the Lumiere brothers as under-a-minute travelogues featuring Russia, England, Turkey, Egypt, Palestine, Mexico or Spain with a hilarious sequence showing some Spanish troops engaged in a dance called the jota.

These short films can only be described as timeless masterpieces as contemporary audiences react exactly how spectators did a century ago when watching a Lumiere film, they laughed and reacted with amazement and glee.

It is “extraordinary that in 2017 they are still understood in exactly the same way,” says Frémaux, adding that, “These are the world’s first moving pictures and that is why they belong to all the world and must be shared.”

This documentary could be the starting point of a much more ambitious project as it could become a truly one-off movie franchise as the Lumiere institute has already restored some 300 of the more than 1,400 reels the Lumiere brothers produced.

“I am happy but I am also very proud, I was certain it would work and it wasn´t a question of arrogance,” Fremaux said, adding that, “This is not a Frémaux film, it belongs to the Lumieres.”

A passionate film-lover, Frémaux considers himself privileged doing what he loves the most and the reason why he finds the time to direct the world’s largest film festival, Cannes.

He has also been involved in writing books such as “Sélection officielle: Journal” (2017) where he detailed his Cannes experience.

This film lover, born in Lyon, renowned for his energy and enthusiasm which he has applied in heart and soul to this project, considers it an “extraordinary privilege” to restore and show the world these amazing Lumiere brothers’ moving pictures.


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