Early cinema, early news


A while ago we announced the call for papers for a two-day seminar to be held in Girona, Spain, entitled The Construction of News in Early Cinema. The event is being co-organised by the Museu del Cinema, the University of Girona, and the Spanish Ministry of Science & Innovation Project, and is one of a series of seminars that have been held on the origins and history of cinema (La construcción de la realidad en el cine de los orígenes). It will be held at the Auditori Narcís de Carreras in Girona, 31 March-1 April 2011. The organisers have produced this overview of the seminar’s rationale:

The film industry emerged at a key moment in the development of the written and graphic press and it would not be too long before it was playing a role in creating the imaginary of current affairs through images. Although these news images did not begin to be gathered together into a specific programme until the year 1908 thanks to Pathé Frères, in the very beginnings of cinema there were already images of current events, royal visits, official openings, sports events or exceptional situations that were to bind the image to its present context and bring it into the territory of what could be deemed as newsworthy. We are interested in images that captured reality, such as the reconstructions of events that are to become news. The seminar will focus on trying to define the relationship between cinema and news, to see how it began to build the news imaginary that presaged many of the questions of the future news images both in the subsequent newsreels and in those that came along with the birth of television. We are also interested in observing film as an area of intermediality, bringing together a variety of forms from other areas such as photography, painting and popular theatrical shows, in which the idea of news began to be presaged. The time period of the study is to be from 1895 up to 1914, since we believe that the newsreels underwent a different development with the outbreak of World War I. The proposal of the seminar is to establish a methodology of research and reflection in the context of news and, eventually, to find out how and if we can talk about a kind of birth of the documentary image.

The event is going be rather more of a conference than a seminar, and there is a strong line-up of speakers in the programme which has now been published, alongside registration details. Here’s the programme:

Thursday, March 31

9:00 – 9:30 Reception

9:30 – 9:45 Introduction and welcome

9:45 – 10:30 Conference: Rafael F. Tranche (Universidad Complutense de Madrid): Atracciones, actualidad y noticiarios: la información como espectáculo

10:30 – 10:45 Debate

10:45 – 11:00 Pause

11:00 – 12:20 Lectures: Archives I

  • The public wanted new. Programming the Biograph, 1896-1901. Paul Spehr
  • L’actualitat al catàleg Pathé Frères (1896-1914): Terminologia, lèxic i estudi quantitatiu. Daniel Pitarch
  • La imatge tòpica d’Espanya als films de Pathé i Gaumont. M. Magdalena Brotons i Capó
  • Creating an event out of nothing happening: the making of the “Death villages” of the zuiderzee region (The Netherlands) and the negotiation of its imagery (1880-1914). Sarah Dellmann

12:20 – 12:30 Pause

12:30 – 14:00 Lectures and debate: Archives II

  • The Vincenzo Neri Medical collection (1908-1928) a visual repertory between cinema, photography, typography. Simone Venturini
  • Antes del discurso, luego la imagen: el comentario de la película de no ficción en Italia en la época del cine mudo. Luca Mazzei

14.00 – 15:00 Lunch

15:00 – 15:45 Conference: Stephen Bottomore: Filming and ‘Faking’ a News Event – The Coronation of Edward VII (1902)

15:45 – 16:00 Debate

16:00 – 16:40 Lectures: Reconstructions

  • Actualidad reconstruida y reconstrucción de la actualidad. El caso de “Asesinato y entierro de Canalejas”. Begoña Soto y Encarni Rus
  • Actualitats reconstruïdes: del museu del cera als fake. El cas de l’erupció volcànica del Mont Pelée (Georges Méliès, 1902) com a punt de confluència. Marta Sureda

16:40 – 17:00 Pause

17:00 – 19:30 Lectures and debate: Newspapers and information

  • The true-crime films of Antonio Leal, 1906-1909: From newspaper reportage to film re-enactments in Brazil’s “Bela Época”. Rielle Navitski
  • How actual was an actualité in early cinema? Time as agency in presenting moving images of news of fairground and variety theatre. Ansje van Veusekom
  • How to tell a catastrophic event. The earthquake of Messina (Italy) in 1908. Luigi Virgolin
  • La mirada cinematogràfica dels primers fotoperiodistes. Lluïsa Suárez
  • The birth of Italy’s newsreel: study of the Italo Turkish War (1911-1912). Sila Berruti i Luca Mazzei

20.30 Presentation of the book-DVD “Segundo de Chomón. The fantasy film”. Next, cinema session, with live piano music, with films from the Filmoteca de Catalunya. Place of the session: Cinema Truffaut

Friday, April 1

9:30 – 10:15 Conference: Charles Musser: Cinema, Newspapers and the US Presidential Election of 1896

10.15-10:30 Debate

10:30 – 11:00 pause

11:00 – 13:30 Lectures and debate: War and politics

  • What’s in a name? The Russo-Japanese/Japanese-Russian War. Dafna Ruppin
  • El cinema d’animació dels primers temps i la reconstrucció de l’actualitat: el cas de l’enfonsament del Lusitània. Núria Nadal i Jaume Duran
  • El último espectáculo de la confederación: la recepción cinematográfica de la Guerra Civil Americana, 1896-1914. Kirby Pringle
  • Les actualitats Edison de la Guerra de Cuba: entre el Wild West show i el western. Ramon Girona

13:30 – 15:30 Lunch

15:30 – 16:15 Conference: Luke McKernan: Links in the chain: early newsreels and newspapers

16:15 – 16:30 Debate

16.30 – 16:45 Pause

16:45 – 18:30 Lectures and debate: Precinema and early cinema

  • El panorama de Waterloo de Charles Verlat i l’escena artística Barcelonesa a la dècada dels 90 del segle XIX. Neus Moyano
  • La llanterna i les seves variants com a antecedents dels diferents gèneres cinematogràfics. Jordi Artigas
  • La fascinació lúdica i participativa: entre Segundo de Chomón i el primer videojoc. Manuel Garin
  • Antonio Ramos i els orígens del cinema a la Xina. David Martínez-Robles i Teresa Iribarren
  • Los reportajes de festividades locales en la región de Murcia a comienzos delsiglo XX: el caso de la restauración de “La Cruz de Mayo” (Caravaca de laCruz, 1924). Ángel Morán
  • L’actualitat tecnocientífica en el cinema dels orígens: els films d’Edison i l’electromagnetisme. Manuel Moreno

18:30 – 18:35 Closing

19:30 Guided tour of the permanent exhibition at the Museu del Cinema (approx. 75’)

Well, it’s certainly going to be an honour to be speaking at such an event, and in such company. I’m delighted to see that there are scholars actively engaged in studying early newsfilm – this certainly wasn’t always the case in times past – and across such rich and pertinent topics.

The Museu del Cinema site has further details on the seminar, including registration details and other such information. The seminar will be multi-lingual, with simultaneous translation into Catalan, Spanish and English.

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