Film Review: The First Film

The First Film

The first moving film was shot by Louis Le Prince in Leeds on 14 October 1888. At least, that’s what writer and broadcaster David Wilkinson believes. In The First Film, he puts forward a strong argument that this is the case. . Traditionally, this accolade is attributed to either Thomas Edison or The Lumière brothers, however there were many people around the world doing pioneering work on photography and film.

Louis Le Prince moved to Leeds in 1866. He took up a position in a firm and eventually settled down and started a family. As an artists he experimented with photography, which led to him patenting a one lens camera which he shot scenes from Leeds bridge and in Roundhay. Only three small segments remain. In 1890 he disappeared after boarding a train between Dijon and Paris, never to be seen again. The mystery surrounding his death adds another layer to the story.

David Wilkinson spent 30 years working on this film and it’s clearly a labour of love. It’s a fascinating subject, but unfortunately all too often he gets waylaid. He seems more driven on proving that the first film was shot in Leeds than ensuring that Le Prince is posthumously recognised for his achievements. Indeed, the first 30 minutes feels like an advert for the Leeds Tourist Board and the talking heads seem to have been chosen simply due to being acquaintances. Having said that, The First Film is an interesting documentary on a fascinating subject, which would greatly benefit from some judicious editing.

The First Film will screen in independent cinemas across the UK. For details of upcoming screenings, check the website.

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