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  • Writer's pictureSouth West Silents

The World of Friese-Greene

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

During Cinema Rediscovered 2021 we were lucky enough to screen a selection of early films showcasing 'The World of Friese-Greene'. These short films were being screened in Watershed’s Café & Bar and We The Curious' Big Screen found in Millennium Square, Bristol.

This was all set around 'Bristol Film 2021' a season of events which we have been working alongside with our friends at Bristol Ideas marking the the centenary of the death of Bristol-born film pioneer William Friese-Greene (1855-1921). It is also the 125th anniversary of the first public cinema screening in Bristol, which took place at the Tivoli on 8 June 1896.

This special line-up of films was selected by South West Silents' very own James Harrison and covered many different aspects of civilian life during the period between 1898 – 1911, a period which saw major changes in the United Kingdom as well as the death of two key British monarchs within that time. At that time, Bristol born inventor William Friese-Greene was still very much active in his development of film.

Cinema Rediscovered has now finished for another year, but we are happy to say that the films that made up 'The World of Friese-Greene' (apart from one) can be found below.

This selection included a short film from 1920 courtesy of Bristol Archives; Kino the Girl of Colour, an early colour film by William himself (and his son Claude Friese-Greene (1898 – 1940)) showcasing their Biocolour process; a process which would continue to be developed even after William’s death by Claude and rebranded as the ‘The New All British Friese-Greene Natural Colour Process’ which Claude would showcase in his later travelogue film project, The Open Road (1924). Sadly, that short isn't available on here as yet, but we are hoping to get the film restored in the coming few months.

So, our journey starts with London in the year 1898. A London which William would have known well by this point in his life after opening two London based photographic shops a decade earlier. The film assemble then continues showing us many different aspects of life during the next decade including leisure time, sports (in this case, cycling and early motorsport), pleasure gardens and the seaside. By contrast we move from streets of many a busy British city including Bristol (thanks to Mitchell and Kenyon) and Halifax to the seaside sites of Bournemouth and the secret coves, beaches and villages of the Cornish riviera. We also take note of the latest fashions during a summer walk as well as the wild 'flying the foam' on Brighton’s very own pier, another key (then) town in the life of William Friese-Greene.

We conclude back on the streets of London to show the impact of the introduction of motorcar on the London streets compared the horse drawn sights seen in the earlier London film.

Our thanks as always to our friends at the British Film Institute, Watershed, Bristol Ideas, Bristol Archives and Cinema Rediscovered.

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