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Birth of the Cinema 

The first two decades of cinema, 1895-1918; its invention in New Jersey and Lyon and its development from a gimmick to a language through the innovation of many technicians and artists.


Mark Cousins


Mark Cousins




Episode credited cast:
Mark Cousins ... Himself - Narrator (voice)
Jean-Michel Frodon Jean-Michel Frodon ... Himself - Film Historian
Agnes de Mille ... Herself - Niece of Cecil B. DeMille (archive footage)
Cari Beauchamp ... Herself - Film Historian
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Juan Diego Botto ... Narrator (voice)


The Story of Film looks at the birth of cinema. It examines the period 1895-1918 where early film pioneers created the first moving pictures. It also look at the period 1903-1918 and the early years of silent film. It examines the development of film techniques including special effects, tracking shots, close ups, wide-screen editing, continuity cutting, parallel editing, reverse angle, and back-lighting. Written by Shatterdaymorn

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TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

3 September 2011 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hopscotch Films See more »
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Technical Specs



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Did You Know?


When Life of an American Fireman is mentioned, the narrator says that the actress was known some years later has Florence Lawrence, but the actress of this short film was actually Vivian Vaughan. See more »


Mark Cousins - Presenter: A lie to tell the truth. This is film making. The art of making us feel that we're there.
See more »


Features The Assassination of the Duke de Guise (1908) See more »

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User Reviews

Good Start to the Series
2 January 2013 | by Michael_ElliottSee all my reviews

The Story of Film: An Odyssey 'Birth of the Cinema' (2011)

*** (out of 4)

The first of fifteen films in Mark Cousins documentary starts off by taking a look at the various pioneers who put their stamp on the format. This includes those who invented the cameras, invented film, who realized what light could do to project an image as well as those men and women who started to film things and change their style. We see how one director (Carol Reed) filmed a certain shot only to them see how others (Godard, Scorsese) were influenced by this scene and worked it into their own version in their own films. Cousins style is certainly something interesting and quite different than what you'd normally get from a documentary. He serves as the narrator and puts his own spin on how he wants to tell the history of film. Those who have seen Jean-Luc Godard's series on the history of film will be happy to know that this here isn't quite as extreme. It's too early to comment on the entire series but I thought this episode was entertaining enough. The history of cinema has been told countless ways and I thought Cousins brought a few new ideas to the table. This includes showing scenes from older movies from the 1890s and then showing us that location today. Getting to see where Melies shot his first movie was interesting as well as a sequence where we see the current locations of the first movie theaters. Along the way we also learn about how editing changed the format and how various other techniques came into play. BIRTH OF THE CINEMA gets the series off to a good and unique start so we'll see how it goes from here.

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