Australia’s Earliest Films

Patineur grotesque
R: Marius Sestier. P: Lumière Brothers. AUS 1896
Filming Locations: Prince Alfred Park, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Print: National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

“When frères Lumière representative to Australia, Marius Sestier, arrived in Sydney in mid September 1896 one of his tasks was to not only show films but to make films. With his Australian concessionaire, Henry Walter Barnett, the pair made Australia’s first film Passengers Leaving SS Brighton at Manly in Sydney. The first screening of that film at the Salon Lumière on 27 October 1896 was a success and Sestier announced more local films to come. (…) Patineur Grotesque, aka The Humourous Rollerskater or The Burlesque Roller Skater, was made in Prince Alfred Park, Sydney but the exact date is still unknown. Despite this, the film’s first screening was not in Australia, but in Lyon, France on 28 February 1897. It is believed that the film had never been screened in Australia until 2010. (…)

In 2005, Coralie Martin, an intern of the NFSA’s Research Program identified two films made in Australia by Marius Sestier in 1896 which were not in the NFSA’s Collection. (…) One film was from the Melbourne Cup Carnival Series shot in Melbourne in 1896 and was added to the titles already held. The Melbourne Cup film was readily identified as the weighing-in for the Cup, in which the jockeys ride their horses to the weighing room on the Flemington racecourse and are weighed for correct weight before the race. The other film was of a burlesque (comic) roller skater also made in 1896. The second film of a roller skater, Patineur Grotesque, was unknown to NFSA curators as there had been no previous mention of this film in Australia. (..) Burlesque rollerskating had been included on the stage since the 1880s in Australia and around the world. A burlesque rollerskater was often hired to perform at outside venues such as skating rinks, circuses, aquariums or other places of amusement. Now also recognised as Australia’s first comedy film, it is interesting to note that French film historian, Georges Sadoul, in his 1973 rewrite of ‘L’invention du Cinéma’, refers to Patineur Grotesque as the forerunner to the work of Charlie Chaplin and Max Linder.”
National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

For more on Marius Sestier see Salon Lumière: Australia’s first cinema

The Melbourne Cup horse races in Australia
R: Marius Sestier / H. Walter Barnett. P: Lumière Brothers. AUS 1896
Print: National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

>>> more early Australian films here: Australia