In 1908 amateur naturalist and pioneering film maker, Percy Smith, filmed a household fly juggling a series of objects many times its own size. The Acrobatic Fly stunned early cinema goers and its strange captivating magic – along with accusations of cruelty, fakery and sorcery – became front page news across the world.
Wildlife photographer and cameraman Charlie Hamilton-James aims to expose the brilliance of the natural world with his work, but where would he, and Natural History programming be without Smith?
In this one hour documentary made by Mentorn Media and directed by John Holdsworth, the story of one of the great unsung heroes of Natural History filmmaking is uncovered.
In his search to expose and document the incredible world of insects and plants, Smith helped to invent the Natural History film as we know it today. He was one of the great pioneers of wildlife filmmaking; one of the first to film time lapses of plants moving and flowers opening – images we take for granted today but were revolutionary a hundred years ago.
From programmes like The Private Life of Plants to Life in the Undergrowth and Planet Earth, Natural History programming has becoming synonymous with innovative and complex filming techniques; but over 100 years ago Smith started working with hand cranked cameras and magnifying glasses to allow cinema audiences of the day to experience the wonders of the natural world under their noses.
With the help of the British Film Institute and The National Media Museum, Charlie explores the life and work of this forefather of form. Searching out classic Smith archive including The Birth of a Flower and World in a Wine Glass Charlie meets Natural History icon Sir David Attenborough, who saw Smith’s films in the 1930s in the cinema and was knocked out and inspired by them.
Having started in the industry over 20 years ago working with film, Charlie has moved with the times and now uses state of the art equipment. However he puts his digital camera aside and picks up a 100 year-old hand cranked camera in an attempt to recreate the filmic experiments that led to the Smith classic The Acrobatic Fly. With few places left in the UK capable of developing this type of film, will the results be as staggering and beautiful as they were in 1908?
Alongside passionate wildlife practitioners and experts across the genre, including film archivist and restorer David Cleveland and leading entomologist/circus performer Dr Tim Cockerill, Charlie explores the impact of Smith’s trail blazing career on Natural History as we know it today.
Part of the Alien Nation Season
For more information please contact Sally Kent at Plank PR on 020 8995 3945 or firstname.lastname@example.org