Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A new film archive for enthusiasts

The Europa Film Treasures archive hosts a growing number of very early examples of cinema, ranging from historical subjects to (what else?) early, rather primitive erotica. I don't endorse the latter, but some of the historical clips are truly unique. I've never seen their like anywhere else online. For example, here are links to three of the most interesting (to me, anyway), along with their EFT descriptions:

1. Czar Nicholas II of Russia visits Helsingor in Denmark, 1901.

Nicholas II, the last czar of Russia (1868-1918) pays a visit to his grandfather, who is none other than King Christian IX of Denmark. The monarchy had the tradition of gathering each year in September to celebrate Queen Louise’s birthday, a tradition that continued even after her death in 1898.

Parades and military processions were part of the festivities. Official photographer Peter Elfelt captured these early days of autumn 1901 on film.

2. Documentary program on Palestine, 1904.

These short films were shown in lectures, salons, geographical societies, colleges, and convents. If they indeed have been shot in 1904, as suggested by Abbot Mulsant’s statements, they present one of the oldest Christian filmed observations of Muslim country.

3. Wilbur Wright and his flying machine, 1909.

This flight demonstration of American aviation pioneer Wilbur Wright was of a special historic nature: it involved images from the first camera aboard a plane! The two-seater plane with Wilbur Wright at the helm did a lap before an audience of photographers, army men and noteworthy moustached men and just avoided the cameraman on the ground. Then the plane started up again, followed a launching pad and took off: the camera was fixed for the first time on the ground that gave way…and the emotion was there, so great you could almost touch it! The image was as unstable as the cabin of the plane flying at low altitude, flying over the countryside and gradually approaching a town.

This film archive will be a great resource for teachers and home-schoolers, bringing to life some of the moments of history that until now have been merely words for so many people. It's also fascinating for general knowledge and history aficionados like myself. Highly recommended viewing.


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