From the deep

From the Deep: The Great Experiment 1898-1918 is being billed as the biggest ever programme of early films in Germany (i.e. early films overall, not just those made in Germany). It’s been put together by curators Mariann Lewinsky and Eric de Kuyper as part of the 56th International Short Film Festival at Oberhausen, Germany, 29 April-4 May 2010. This is how the festival website describes the theme:

This programme invites audiences to discover and experience early cinema as a forgotten but very topical production and presentation practice and a real alternative to today’s cinema and museum. Out of the depths of the days before 1918, a wild short film continent is pulled up to the surface of the present day. Early cinema developed participatory and hybrid forms of presentation that seem eerily modern. With no access restrictions at all in its first years, cinema up to 1910 was a public space shared by all age groups and classes, and created the first worldwide web: for the first time in history, people in far-flung regions of the world were able to watch identical shows.

The individual programmes illustrate the versatility of these experiments, which run the gamut from applied colour processes that may involve pure experimentation with coloured light or the illuminated fountains at Versailles, to the discovery of the possibilities of space and movement, all the way to the eager dismantling of authority in the countless films featuring rebellious servants or bad girls and boys who go unpunished. Tribute is paid to both the innovation productions by the era’s world-market leader, Pathé-frères, as well as to works by its rivals Gaumont, Lux and Star-Film, or the Italian competition with its comic series like “Cretinetti”.

The festival will bring together more than one hundred films, as well as discussions and other related events. As festival director Lars Henrik Gass puts it:

These are productions from an age when all films were short films, when movie theatres were the first public space shared by all age groups and classes, the first worldwide web in a way: for the first time in history, people in far flung regions of the world were able to watch the same shows. It was an exhibition practice which for us is also a continuation of our research into an imaginary Kinomuseum, where museum is re-invented by cinema.

Accreditation for this particular contribution to the imaginary Kinomuseum is open until April 6th, and further details (though no list of films as yet) can be found on the festival website (in English and German).

All of which leaves us with one small question. If all of the films of this period were short, were they really short at all?

9 responses

  1. Indeed. Though, if you think about it, they knew they were pioneers, so they must have had a sense of being ‘early’ – likewise they would surely have had a sense of their films being ‘short’ inasmuch as there were some examples of longer films (e.g. boxing films) and the theatre productions that they wanted to emulate were longer. But is there specific evidence of an awareness that their films were ‘short’?

  2. How short is short? There’s a big difference between what you can do in 20 seconds and in 15 minutes. None of Bach’s fugues last more thanMost of the films will have my live accompaniment, but in keeping with practice of the period, some of them will be shown silent. I am a latecomer to Rick Altman’s phenomenal book, SILENT FILM SOUND, and heartily recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in popular culture, history, technology, to say nothing of film and music of the early 20th century. What a brilliant achievement!

  3. Does anyone have info on Ivy Martinek who acted for British and Colonial Kinematograph Company before joining Pathé Freres – Big Ben Films. She appeared in ‘Reub’s Little Girl AKA Coastguard’s Haul’ (ref: The Jersey Archive Online). A 1913 crime film, directed by (her husband?) H.O. Martinek and ‘In the Grip of Spies’ and ‘The Stolen Masterpiece’ in 1914.

  4. Brian McFarlane’s The Encyclcopedia of British Film has a bit on her. She and Henry Oceano Martinek were brother and sister. She starred in the Exploits of Three-Fingered Kate series (1909-1912), directed by H.O. for B&C. He says she changed her name to Ivy Montford in 1913 and retired in 1917, her brother a year later, and that allegedly they hailed from Spain.

    On I’ve not found a birth record for Ivy, but H.O. was born c.1877 and died in 1935, leaving a widow Georgina Caroline (so he died in the UK aged 58 but there is no UK birth record under his name). He seems to have been Oceano Henry Oscar Martinek. There’s also a newspaper clipping where Ivy refers to having been in a circus prior to motion pictures, but gives no other biographical information. I can’t find any census records for them.

  5. With regard to Ivy Martinek, she is NOT the sister of Oceano.

    I put not in capital letters because I’ve no idea where this rumour came from but it’s easily refuted by checking the re-naturalisation application of Oceano’s mother, Sophia, in which she states she had four children in total: Oceano Henry Oscar (born at sea on the way to Sweden) Leonard Edward Charles (born in Padua, Italy) Emilie Olympia Rudolphine (born in Prussia) and another child who died as a baby.

    Emilie Olympia is most definitely not Ivy as they both appear together in a family photo.

    It has been suggested that Ivy was the “wife” of my Grandfather, Leonard, but from what I know of his history, at that period of time he was involved with my Grandmother and another lady, KItty Gaunt, so it seems unlikely.

    In the same family photograph, Ivy has her arm around a young girl of about 12 who has been identified as Oceano’s daughter. There is a likeness between Ivy and the girl, who also appears in at least one of the Three Fingered Kate films (The one held at the BFI) This suggests that Ivy might have been Oceano’s wife, Elfride Caroline nee Steigerwald. Elfride was given as Oceano’s wife travelling on board ship in 1904 to join the Barnum and Bailey Circus, so she also had a circus background.

    Oceano and Ivy both had circus backgrounds. I have not found any reference to her as an actress under the name of Montford but the whole lot of them were very prone to using different names and therefore making life very confusing.

    I am probably the person who knows the most about the Martinek family and their descendants in the UK if anyone should care to get in touch.

  6. Thank you so much for this family history information. The entry in the Encyclopedia of British Film was written by the American film historian Anthony Slide – what sources he used, I’ve no idea, but I will contact the editor of the Encyclopedia to let him know about the error so that it may be corrected in any future edition. I recommend that you get in touch with Janice Healey at the BFI National Library. She collates biographical information on early British filmmakers and performers and would ensure that your information about the Martineks goes on the record.

  7. Pingback: Looking back on 2010 « The Bioscope

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