Curated by Mariann Lewinsky and Cecilia Cenciarelli

The archives of the Tunisian pioneer of film and photography Albert Samama Chikli (1872-1933), now entrusted with Cineteca di Bologna by his family, are in the process of being ordered, identified and scanned. A detailed catalogue and an accessible database-website are the obvious goals for this project, but since it will take years to realise such big plans, we decided to publish as soon as possible a first survey of the extremely rich and heterogeneous archives, which contain about 15,000 photographs and 4,000 documents; the book will be ready for this year’s edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato.
The study of handwritten lists and notes, of photographs, letters and invoices, revealed the articulations of a career behind the camera spanning from 1905 to 1924, allowing us   to establish, for the first time, a reliable filmography of Albert Samama amounting to 100 titles plus 20 more works that can be attributed to him on circumstantial and stylistic evidence. His astonishing production of non-fiction films from the decade 1905-1915 was distributed internationally by leading companies such as Urban, Gaumont, Pathé and Cines. Samama can no longer be considered a marginal note in the history of cinema, an ephemeral and exotic presence: he was an important figure in the cinema of his time and Il Cinema Ritrovato is set to reveal, over the next few years, the extent of his legacy.
We begin with a selection of non-fiction films and newsreels preserved and restored from the original negatives by Gaumont Pathé Archives. Starting in early 1911, Gaumont bought and distributed works by Samama on a regular basis, and the results of the search for his surviving works in the Gaumont Pathé Archive collection surpassed all expectations. Our thanks go to Manuela Padoan, director of Gaumont Pathé Archives, for her generous decision to restore the films presented at this edition of the festival, and to Emmanuelle Champomier, whose reconstruction of the Gaumont catalogue was crucial for a number of identifications.
The 1914-1918 war profoundly changed cinema, production systems, market, audiences and all. In the early 1920s Samama worked as location manager and cameraman in several international productions who came to Tunisia to shot their orientalist films, but he was unable to find international distribution for his two fiction films, Zohra (1921) and Ain el Ghezal (1923-1924). The newly discovered [En marge du film “Les Contes des Milles et une nuits”] perfectly illustrates the situation. Two recent finds from the collection of the Cineteca di Bologna are included in the programme to provide some of the wider context, the occupation of Africa by European colonial powers.

Mariann Lewinsky