The British Comparative Literature Association and the Centre for Film Studies, University of Essex are organising a conference on 24-25 March 2007 entitled ‘Cinematicity’ 1895: Before and After. The themes of the conference are the history of pre- and early film, the previsions of cinema as both technology and cultural form, and early cinema’s influence on twentieth-century art, literature and culture. The conference is to be held at the University of Essex, Colchester, and the keynote speakers are Ian Christie, Tom Gunning and Marina Warner. A registration form is now available, with programme to follow.

Birt Acres on CD

It is perhaps inevitable, given the different trajectories of the twin pioneers of British film, Birt Acres and Robert Paul, that while the latter gets the deluxe DVD treatment from the BFI (see previous post) with book to follow, his one-time partner and later bitter rival Acres has his biography published on CD from a small publisher for the interest of the select few. While Paul became a rich and successful man, noted in all film histories, Acres’ name remains little known, his work unfamiliar even to specialists in the field. Frontiersman to Film-maker: The Biography of Film Pioneer Birt Acres, FRPS, FRMetS 1854-1918, published by The Projection Box, is worth checking out by anyone interested in the earliest years of filmmaking, and in seeing how family history can be used to humanise people from this remote period of film history. The biography is written by Alan Birt Acres, his grandson, and tells the story of the man who was the first person to take and project a 35mm film in the UK. Not all of it stands up to rigorous historical enquiry, but it conjures up a credible picture of the man, is beautifully illustrated, and offers plenty of leads for those keen to research further the still mysterious roots of filmmaking in the 1890s.

Robert Paul on DVD

RW Paul

RW Paul DVD cover, from

The British Film Institute has published a DVD of practically all of the surviving films made by Robert William Paul, one of the leading pioneers of British cinema. R. W. Paul: The Collected Films 1895-1908 contains sixty-two films, including comedies, dramas, trick films, actualities from the Anglo-Boer War, Paul’s notorious film of the disastrous launch of HMS Albion in 1898 (notorious because Paul carried on filming after people had been knocked into the water, some fatally, though his boat picked up survivors), travel films from Spain, Portugal, Egypt and Sweden, and news footage of the 1896 Derby and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee through London on 22 June 1897. The DVD runs for 147 mins, with piano accompaniment by Stephen Horne, and a commentary and booklet by Ian Christie, whose book on Paul comes out later this year.