Curated by Mariann Lewinsky and Karl Wratschko

Welcome to the annual moving picture fair in Bologna, and welcome to the 1904 series, the latest attraction among all the amusements on show here! Only nine years ago, travelling showmen screened moving pictures at fairgrounds for the first time. Who wants to see old feature films if you can get young cinematography’s “boundless entertainment” (Franz Kafka) in varied short films, full of inventiveness, zest and beauty?
We have selected more than 50 films and organised them into five programmes, which emphasise different aspects. The two programmes A Fabulous Year and News! Latest News! are approximations of how films were screened at the time. Their titles – copied from actual variété revues – and their structure, encompassing a variety of genres, recall the proximity of the cinema to the music hall. Filmmakers such as Gaston Velle and Lewin Fitzhamon were former music-hall performers; successful variety acts (Cambrioleurs modernes, Danse apache, Métamorphose du papillon) appear on screen and famous stage stars are the only film performers we know by name (Dranem, Louise Willy or Henry Bender).
Lots of space is given to non-fiction films due to their outstanding quality. Industrial films show, in spectacular images, the Westinghouse Company of Pittsburgh, USA and the coal mines in Shirebrook, England. In 1904, this genre seemed to achieve an aesthetic breakthrough. The contrast between the tough working conditions in industry and mining at this time and the beguilingly beautiful shots create a disturbing impression.
Non-fiction films can now be quite long – two productions by Charles Urban are over 40 minutes long – and edited in a sophisticated way; others retain the brevity of a Lumière vue. Incidentally, the Lumière company gave up film production in 1904, while that same year Pathé Frères, on the brink of industrialisation, produced a Sortie des employés de l’usine Pathé. France, the UK and the USA are the leading production countries – elsewhere, filmmaking is still limited to amateurs and exhibitors. In his Italian filmography Aldo Bernardini lists for 1904 a score of local actualités produced by Filoteo Alberini (Cinematografo Moderno, Roma) and Rodolfo Remondini (Sala Edison, Florence).
Wherever possible, we have opted for 35mm prints, as a matter of course, to get closer to the original viewing conditions and to be able to change the projection speed in real time.
Our thanks go to all institutions and persons who have helped us in this complicated enterprise. A special mention is due to Hervé Pichard (La Cinémathèque française) for striking a new 35mm print of Bulles de savon.
Please note that there may be some minor variations to the published programme.

Mariann Lewinsky and Karl Wratschko