Fake films in 1900?!


  • Lezing

A Pecha Kucha is a presentation of 20x20 seconds. Short and to the point! In this 6'40" presentation Mario Slugan will tell you everything about fake films in ...1900! And... there are more English-spoken Pecha Kucha presentations in this series. You are invited to discover them all!

Did you know there is a genre of films around 1900 which were called "fake films"? Essentially people would present their films as actual recordings of current events - wars , sports matches, famous passion plays, etc. - but they would in fact be made in a studio or another unrelated location. There were also films which amounted to present-day "fake news" - purported recordings of sensationalist events (lynching, murder, etc.) which actually never took place.

From the earliest days of cinema producers, distributors, and exhibitors oftentimes advertised reenactments of topical events – wars, sports events, etc. – as actual recordings of those events although they were in fact shot with actors at a different time and place. It is no wonder that contemporary audiences labelled such productions “fake films” and sometimes even stormed the box-office demanding their money back upon discovering the deception. In this talk I show that some “fakes” went even further – by depicting sensationalist events that never took place as actually occurring they constituted “fake news” of the time. One such film – Tracked by Bloodhounds (1904, Selig) – presents itself as a reenactment of a specific lynching which never occurred. By analyzing the contemporary reception in trade press and newspapers of these and similar films, this paper explores how early cinema audiences responded to such deceptions. It finds that although the audiences were occasionally fooled, most often they proved themselves as critical connoisseurs even in this new media ecology – a lesson we should take to heart in our present-day predicament.

This presentation is part of the Wooow Science Festival. Discover the full program at www.wooowfestival.be

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  • Kunst & Taal


  • Universiteit Gent


  • Mario Slugan ( UGent )


  • film