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Thierry Fremaux on “Lumiere”

The Lumiere brothers, Auguste Lumiere, born in 1862, and Louis, born in 1864, were among the earliest filmmakers, contributing to the birth of film in 1895. Born in Besancon, France, they moved to Lyon in 1870, where they both attended technical school. Their father, Claude-Antoine Lumiere, ran a photography business and his sons worked for him. When Claude-Antoine retired in 1892, Auguste and Louis began to create moving pictures. They patented a number of significant processes leading up to their film camera-most notably film perforations, as a means of advancing the film through the camera and projector.

The first footage ever recorded using the Lumiere camera, was on March 19, 1895. It was used for both film projection and development. Not only could the camera perform two tasks in one box, but the box was small, weighing only 12 pounds. The Lumiere’s also further developed the cinematographe, a three in one device that could record, develop, and project motion pictures. Not only inventors, the Lumiere’s were authors and directors as well.

They knew that they needed to have a subject, a treatment and a camera position, and enjoyed showing the world as it was, everyday events, and the people of that time. Like a Renoir painting, and the Impressionist movement, the Lumiere’s were 20 years before their time.

The Lumiere’s had 50 seconds and only 17 meters of film to tell their story. They hired 100 camera operators from the newspapers, and the ad read, “we are looking for young men who like an adventure. Cinematographers had to sing a song in their mind to remind them of the speed of the film, and had to sing a song when they screened the film, as they used several speeds, some were 24, some were 22, some were 25…”

Thierry Fremaux, the artistic director of the Cannes International Film Festival commented on the Lumiere’s while showing newly restored films by the inventors, and reminded us that the Lumiere’s, whose name means “Light” in French, were the first in film, not Thomas Edison. “Everywhere I go, people try to tell me that their country was the first to invent the motion picture”, Thierry explained. “For example in Germany, it is Adolf Dassler, in England, it is Birt Acres, and in the States, they always have to mention, Thomas Edison.”


A few of their films included the following:

1. La Sortie de l’Usine Lumiere a Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory)
2. La Voltige (Horse Trick Riders”
3. La Peche aux poisons rouges, (Fishing for goldfish)
4. Le Debarquement du Congres de Photographie a Lyon (The Disembarkment of the Congress of Photographers in Lyon
5. Les Forgerons, Blacksmiths
6. Le Jardinier (The Gardener)
7. Le Repas (Baby’s Breakfast)
8. Le Saut a la couverture (Jumping Onto the Blanket)
9. La Place des Cordelieres a Lyon (Cordeliers Square in Lyon)
10. La Mer (The Sea)


Louis Lumiere’s film, “The Arrival of a Train Station”, showed the train coming in diagonally across the screen, a very unconventional method of framing. Therefore, the Lumieres’ pioneered not only the technical attributes of the camera, but also it’s artistic attributes. Although the Lumiere brothers were not the first inventors to develop techniques to create motion pictures, they are often credited as one of the first inventors of Cinema as a mass medium, and are among the first who understand how to use it. A few of their discoveries were their use of special effects, the first home movie, the first comedy, the first documentary, color processing, and the use of 3D. They were also very well traveled, having filmed in China, England, Ireland, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Italy, Mexico, and Japan,

Thierry Fremaux recognized former Palm d’Or winners, Jerry Schatzberg, and Michael Moore. Also in attendance, were the Head of Columbia University Film Department, Annette Insdorff, Executive Director of uniFrance, Régine Hatchondo, and Film Producer, Jon Kilik.

The Lumiere’s background in photography, their keen sense of everyday storytelling, sense of adventure, and pioneering inventions, made their composition selection more advanced and très jolie.

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