The following document is an abstract of a paper accepted for presentation at the Visual Delights III — Magic and Illusion conference at the University of Sheffield, July 15-17th 2005.
Until relatively recently it has been thought that the first war films (i.e. filmed records of warfare) were taken in 1898-1900 during the Spanish-American and Boer Wars. But some time ago I came across a claim that someone else had filmed a war almost a year before the Spanish-American conflict had even started. The event in question was the brief Greco-Turkish war of 1897, and the alleged cameraman was veteran war-correspondent Frederic Villiers (1851-1922). When I first found the Villiers claim I had no proof that he really filmed the war, but solid evidence has now emerged, which I will present at the conference.
The Greco-Turkish conflict was not only the first war to be filmed, it was also the first to be faked (or 'reconstructed' shall we say) — by magician/filmmaker Georges Méliès. The four brief films that he made about this war were probably the first ever film reconstructions of current news events. The claims of 'firsts' continue, for these fakes by Méliès were some of the earliest films shot in a studio, and one of them was the first to use an articulated set. The Greco-Turkish war of 1897 was therefore an important event in the genesis of both the war film and of the early fiction film in general.
3 May 2005