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Film Review: Roundhay Garden Scene (UK, 1888) - The First Filmmaker Wasn't Lumière or Edison

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

FILE PHOTO: Roundhay, 1888 original 20 frames (L) and Louis Le Prince (R)  Image: Public Domain
FILE PHOTO: Roundhay, 1888 original 20 frames (L) and Louis Le Prince (R) Image: Public Domain


Throughout the entire 20th century and in the early 21st century (before the documentary film The First Film made by Dir. David Wilkinson in UK in 2015), film students and film fans of the world were ''systematically'' and wrongly taught by film teachers that the world's first film was The Arrival of a Train (Dir. Auguste Lumière and Louis Lumière, France, 1895). In fact, the first film was actually shot in Leeds, England on October 14, 1888 by the true father of film art, the first filmmaker Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince (a French inventor of the world's earliest motion picture camera; 1842-1890).

Thus the true first film (cinematography) was and still is Roundhay Garden Scene (UK, 1888) in history. Film art was born in UK neither France nor US. In other words, the first European film, the earliest UK film is also this one.

Historical Truths:

1. The world's first film is Roundhay Garden Scene (UK, 1888). 
2. The world's first filmmaker is Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince (a French artist / inventor, 1842-1890). 



......the case for Le Prince as the father of the moving image.
"There is a very strong argument for that, absolutely," says Toni Booth, associate curator at the National Media Museum in Bradford, where Le Prince's historic camera and footage are kept.
"If you look at the mechanism that camera is using, it's a very similar mechanism to all the subsequent moving image cameras that came after that," she says.
"It is a single roll of film moving from one spool to another through a shutter and taking sequential images, which then were designed to be projected to reproduce that movement.
"As a piece of moving image recording live action - yes I would say he was the first one to do that," she adds. (1)

Le Prince used his patented Single-Lens Camera MkII to shoot the world's first film Roundhay Garden Scene (1888). The shooting location was Le Prince's father-in-law's garden at Oakwood Grange, Roundhay on October 14, 1888. As a result, 20 frames were successfully shot with the single lens motion picture camera. According to The NMPFT (National Museum of Photography, Film and Television), the camera's frame-rate was 5 to 7 fps, and the medium was 60 mm sensitised paper film and gelatine stripping film. BR Patent no 423 accepted later on November 16, 1888 in UK. The film length is about 2 seconds at 24fps while original projection frame-rate was about 10fps.

The present version of the film was restored by The NMPFT, and generally duplicated several times which means that put the same video file several times in the timeline in order to expand the length.

As a matter of fact, the first film means the first film editing simultaneously. The film editing is ''in-camera'' editing which was done by the cinematographer himself at the embryonic phase of the ''department''. In which, a shot and cut were not separated terms. A shot was a cut. And also the entire film. Division of labour in filmmaking was not fully developed in terms of capitalism. The work was done by Le Prince himself.

It's all about film definition. The earliest films proved that the film definition of today is distorted commercially and subject to judgement of film scholars or someone in authorities. In fact, that has nothing to do with the nature of film art itself. If we see The Arrival of a Train (Dir. Auguste Lumière and Louis Lumière, France, 1895) as film work, a documentary film, there is no objective reason to disqualify Le Prince's film works that shot in the same technology and style (a wide shot with the aesthetic concept of perspective with or without consent or arrangement of objects) typical in the embryonic phase (the late 1800s). A shot is a cut. Also it's the entire film. 

Besides this, there is another attempt to disqualify Le Prince's film works by "sequential photographs" of Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) but Sallie Gardner at a Gallop (1878) was not done by single motion picture camera. Instead, the shooting was done by 24 still cameras in a row. This one is not a film but a series of photos. If this can be seen as a film, feudalistic era's magic lantern and its slide show can be seen as a film.

What is the difference, for example, between a series of still photographs taken in quick succession and a bona fide film?
In 1878, Eadweard Muybridge arranged 12 cameras in a row to photograph a racehorse in motion. He later copied the photos on a rotating disc and invented a device to make it look to a viewer as if the horse was moving.
"He's getting a feeling of movement, but he's not really capturing the movement like film cameras do," David Wilkinson says.
Le Prince's first camera had 16 lenses, which took what Wilkinson also dismisses as "sequential photographs". Wilkinson defines film as being shot from a single point of view - as with Le Prince's next invention, the single-lens camera. (2)


Why Le Prince was excluded from official narrative of film history? Because he mysteriously disappeared before he could have held his first public screening of the film works in New York in 1890. This is the major excuse to disqualify his factual achievements in history of film as an inventor, filmmaker.

However today's restored films of his works are the most powerful evidences to deny falsification of historical facts. For fact-checking, we just only need to see his works online. Indeed, online screening is a kind of official screening which can redefine and save the past from present. Simply, these are actual films. Some would claim that this is an act of historical revisionism but they must know that historical study is to rediscover unknown or misrecognized facts that buried by unexpected, unfortunate twists of history. And the duty is to defend the truths from blindness of historical movements and commercial interests.

Therefore respected British scholars, journalists and filmmakers made the tremendous job to let us realise the historical truth about the entire film history. It shouldn't be ignored. True history must be defended!

The Missing Reel (Producer Christopher Rawlence, 1989)


  1. Ian Youngs, BBC, 'Louis Le Prince, who shot the world's first film in Leeds', June 23, 2015.

  2. Ibid.


Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to the professional film writer Ryota Nakanishi as author and a link to is provided.

This film article is for the educational purpose only.

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