Sunday, June 28, 2015

Albert Samama Chikly, Prince of the Pioneers. Programme 1: Introducing Albert Samama Chikly

Albert Samama Chikly filming Terremoto di Messina (1908-1909). Click to enlarge.
Albert Samama Chikly, Prince of the Pioneers

Programma a cura di / Programme curated by Aboubakar Sanogo, Cecilia Cenciarelli, Mariann Lewinsky e Ouissal Mejri

Note di / Notes by Aboubakar Sanogo, Cecilia Cenciarelli, Mariann Lewinsky, Ouissal Mejri, Veronique Goloubinoff e Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud


Viewed at Sala Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato) with earphone translation in English and Italian and Gabriel Thibaudeau at the grand piano, 28 June 2015
    Introduced by Mariann Lewinsky, Cecilia Cenciarelli, and Aboubakar Sanogo.
    The documentary introduced  by Djaouida Tamzali Vaughan and Paul Adrian Vaughan (guardians of the Albert Samama Chikly legacy).
    The programme notes in italics are from the Il Cinema Ritrovato 2015 catalogue and website.

I film non-fiction di Albert Samama Chikly
The Non-Fiction Films of Albert Samama Chikly

Aboubakar Sanogo: "Albert Samama Chikly worked primarily in the non-fictional mode of film-making. Within it, he performed the roles of experimenter, chronicler, witness, observer and indeed participant. As experimenter, he sought to push the boundaries of the medium in multiple ways: by plunging 40 meters deep in the ocean in a wooden submarine to take underwater shots, by shooting the cities of Paris, Brussels and Tunis from hot-air balloons and by filming a lunar eclipse among other feats. Chikly’s talent was promptly spotted by the two most important pre-WWI film studios, Pathé and Gaumont, which commissioned a lot of his work for their newsreels. His proximity with the Tunisian ruling family (The Beys) gave him unique access to major events around the palace (receptions, spectacles, diplomatic meetings, weddings, funerals...), which he photographed and filmed. He also documented the cities and regions of Tunisia, ways of life, arts and crafts, agriculture, Tuna fishing, the making of traditional costumes. Chikly’s non-fiction work also includes filming the aftermath of the infamous Messina earthquake of 1908, witnessing the indescribable consequences of the natural disaster." (Aboubakar Sanogo)

Albert Samama Chikly – Film sopravvissuti e filmografia
Albert Samama Chikly – Surviving Films and Filmography

Mariann Lewinsky: "In 1996, Albert Samama Chikly’s daughter Haydée Chikly, his granddaughter Djaouida Tamzali Vaughan and her husband Paul Adrian Vaughan, deposited four nitrate prints at the French film archive CNC for preservation: the two non fiction films Tunis (1907) and Concours de motoculture de Tunis (1914) and fragments of his two feature films Zohra (1922) and Aïn El-Ghazel (1924)."

"And for many years, only this small part of his production was known to be preserved, apart from the rushes Albert Samama Chikly shot as opérateur of the Section Cinématographique de l’Armée between February 1917 and October 1918. For this group of works by Samama Chikly, the ECPAD lists indicate between fifty-two and sixty-eight titles with an estimate of ten hours running time."

"But since this is Il Cinema Ritrovato, nitrate positive prints of two more non-fiction films by Albert Samama Chikly were rediscovered during the preparation of this section; we will be able to present the new digital copies of La Prise du ‘Carthage’ (1912, Fonds Djaouida Tamzali Vaughan), and La Mi-carême de 1912 à Paris (1912, Lobster Films)."

"Moreover, Tunny Fishing in Tunis, distributed by Urban in 1906 and initially programmed in this section as a substitute for the missing-believed-lost film Pêche au thon en Tunisie (dated 1910) by Samama Chikly, turned out to be the very film it was supposed to replace!"

"There are insurmountable difficulties inestablishing a reliable filmography for a director of non-fiction films between 1907-1914, when such films were never credited and aesthetics were a matter of genre, not of authorship (a concept totally foreign to early film making). Working from early film journals, researcher Eric Loné established that Albert Samama Chikly made nine non-fiction films for Jules de Froberville’s film company Le Lion in 1908-1909, showing places in France, Tunisia, Belgium and Austria. None of them seems to have survived."

"The best source for an outline of a filmography at present is the wonderful book commissioned by Djaouida and Paul Vaughan (Guillemette Mansour, Samama Chikly, un tunisien à la rencontre du XXème siècle, Simpact 2000) with photographs as primary sources and a wealth of information."

"Clearly, the ongoing work of researchers like Aboubakar Sanogo, Ouissal Mejri and Morgan Corriou and the newest finds in the rich collection of documents held by the family will be crucial for a detailed filmography and for a better understanding of Samama Chikly’s collaboration with Eclipse, Urban, Le Lion, Pathé Frères and Gaumont. He worked as an independent filmmaker-producer who would offer his films to such companies for distribution. From the titles we understand that his non-fiction films fall into three well-established genres: travelogues, actualités and scènes d’industrie (like the lost Recolte du jasmin en Tunisie and Distillation de la fleur d’oranger en Tunisie, both Pathé Frères 1912)."

"The section includes a substitute for a lost film by Samama Chikly (Terremoto di Messina, 1908-1909) and a selection from Gaumont and Pathé newreels shot in Tunis from 1912 to 1922. At the moment there is no proof that these were directed by Samama Chikly. Still, they allow us to see the city and the élite Franco-Tunisian sphere he knew so well and moved in at the time." (Mariann Lewinsky)

TUNNY FISHING IN TUNIS. TN 1905. D: Albert Samama Chikly. La Pêche au thon en Tunisie. DP+P: Albert Samama Chikly. Distr.: Charles Urban, Eclipse. 35 mm. 78 m. 4’ a 16 f/s. B&w. From: Lobster Films. - AA: A fine early example in the noble tradition of the fishing documentary (distinguished points of comparison: R. W. Paul's Whaling Afloat and Ashore, 1908, and much later, Grierson's Drifters). A straight record in long takes and long shots, with dozens of fishermen, very dynamic, full of action and excitement. The tuna fish are rounded up by the fishermen in their long boats. The fish are caught, killed, cleaned and cut. The print: low definition, screened in a slowed down speed. *

[TUNIS. TN 1907]. D+DP: Albert Samama Chikly. P: Photo-Ciné-Documentaires A. Samama-Chikli Tunis. 35 mm. 45 m. 3’ a 16 f/s. Col. From: CNC – Archives françaises du film. - AA: During the screening experts in the audience observed that this film is not from Tunis but from Cairo, complete with Egyptian pyramids, and probably not from 1907. Interesting to watch anyway. Print: from a damaged source, very scratched, colour bleak, screened in a slowed down speed.

TERREMOTO DI MESSINA. FR 1908-1909. P: Pathé [Pathé-Journal]. 35 mm. 68 m. 4’ a 16 f/s. B&w. From: Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna. - AA: A reverent view from the terrible ruins after the earthquake of Messina. An atmosphere of grief, a sense of loss. The intentional camera looks of the mourners are memorable. They know that we want to see them, and they look back. Tractors and caterpillars clear the ruins while a crowd is watching. Presumably by Albert Samama Chikly who also photographed these views (see above). Print: passable (soft or out of focus or duped). *

CONCOURS DE MOTOCULTURE DE TUNIS. TN 1914. D+DP: Albert Samama Chikly. P: Film Samama-Chikli-Tunis. Distr.: Pathé Frères. 35 mm. 50 m. 3’ a 16 f/s. B&w. From: CNC – Archives françaises du film.

[Added film, not in the catalogue nor on the schedule:] TIRAGE AU SORT DES ARABES. FR 1915. From: ECPAD. - AA: Recruiting Maghreb soldiers. African recruits. Parades, marches, military bands. Print: visual quality ok.

[Added film, not in the catalogue nor on the schedule:] AÏSSAWA. Sufi dancers. Trance dance. A crowd is watching. Remarkable. Visual quality: low definition. *

LES MEMBRES DE LA MISSION MUSULMANE EN FRANCE. FR 1916. Kaddour ben Gabrit et suite, 9-12 Nov 1916. P: Section Cinématographique de l’Armée. 35 mm. 15’ a 18 f/s. B&w. Intertitres français. From: ECPAD – Établissement de communication et de production audiovisuelle de la Défense. - AA: Tunisians in Paris. Albert in uniform. A travelogue. Fine composition. Greeting the patients. Place de l'Étoile. Visual quality: soft or duped or out of focus. Low contrast.

TUNIS. L’AVIATEUR DUVAL DONT L’APPAREIL AVAIT ÉTÉ SAISI À SON ARRIVÉE. FR 1912. P: Gaumont [Journal]. DCP. 1’. B&w. From: Gaumont Pathé Archives. AA: A glimpse only. Visual quality: ok.

TUNIS. LE BEY SE REND À LA MOSQUÉE. FR 1912. P: Gaumont [Journal]. DCP. 1’. B&w. From: Gaumont Pathé Archives. - AA: A glimpse only. The crowd. Visual quality: low definition.

[NOT SCREENED: MILLERAND EN VOYAGE AU MAGHREB. FR 1922. P: Pathé Frères. DCP. 11’. B&w. Intertitres français. From: Gaumont Pathé Archives]

ALBERT SAMAMA CHIKLY. FR/TN 1996. D: Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud. C: Albert Samama Chikly, Haydée Samama Chikly. P: Alif Productions, Canal + Horizons, Cinétéléfilms, La Sept ARTE. Distr.: Alif Productions. Digibeta. 29’. Col. Version française. From: Alif Productions
    "This movie sheds light on the life and work of Albert Samama Chikly, a film pioneer today almost forgotten despite being one of the first directors, an excellent photographer and an adventurous reporter. His enthusiasm and passion for modernity make him a fascinating figure. The story is provided by the testimony of his daughter Haydée, who was the heroine of his fictional films, his screenwriter and probably the first Arab actress ever. The real subject of this film, however, is the work of this “marvelous maniac”: his pictures and reportage (he filmed his Tunisia with extreme sensitivity, worked as a reporter for the French army during WWI and came back from Chine with footage and photos) as well as excerpts from the feature films Zohra and Aïn El-Ghazel." (Mahmoud Ben Mahmoud)
    AA: An engrossing documentary on a founding father of African and Arab cinema. A survey on the entire career of Albert Samama Chikly with footage both on the film-maker himself and the films he made, including ones that are hard to come by now, covering both non-fiction and fiction. He covered Tunisia and Northern Africa with affection. His daughter Haydée is interviewed in extenso. A good introduction into the life and work of an important pioneer of the cinema. Visual quality: video. *

This show was a highlight of the entire festival.
Tunny Fishing in Tunis (1905). Click to enlarge.

[catalogued as: Tunis] [probably from Cairo] Click to enlarge.

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