Marius SESTIER

(Sauzet, 1861- Sauzet,1928)

sestier 

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Sally JACKSON

National Film & Sound Archive

Marius Sestier, French Pharmacist to International Film maker

Marius Sestier, Frenchman, pharmacist, husband and father, a man with a twinkle in his eye and a sense of adventure brought the cinema to India and Australia in 1896. When brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière sent 23 Cinématographe operators out into the world in 1896 to take the world to the cinema and the cinema to the world Marius was one of them. When 13 of these 23 were selected to become filmmakers, Marius Sestier was one of those too.

Sestier’s early years were spent in the Drôme village of Sauzet where he had been born in 1861. His parents, who owned La Café de La Poste, had come from a long line of merchants and shopkeepers.   Taking on the family business did not interest Sestier and he enrolled to study pharmacy.  However, his national service intervened and for four years he served in colonial French Africa rising through the ranks as an infirmier militaire. It wouldn’t be until 1890 that he graduated and opened a pharmacy in Lyon. At the age of 33 he married Marie-Rose Puech and in the following year, 1894, their first child, Madeleine, was born.  The Sestiers were living a comfortable life in a respectable Lyon neighbourhood, with a steady and prosperous business until an astonishing invention entered their lives and changed everything.  

In early 1896 the frères Lumière, Auguste and Louis, released to the citizens of Lyon an early version of the Lumière Cinématographe, a machine that projected life size moving images onto a screen.  The invention caught the attention of Marius and by June 1896 he had sold his pharmacy, sent Madeleine to stay with relatives and with Marie-Rose embarked on an adventure of a lifetime to India and Australia. Each had a distinct role to ensure the smooth running of their enterprise.  Marie-Rose, who spoke some English, undertook negotiations and managed the finances while Marius undertook the operation and promotion of the Lumière Cinématographe. The Sestiers also hired interpreters, trained assistants and engaged business managers.  Excited by the potential, some of these people later acquired their own Cinematographes and took the first tentative steps towards the establishment of national cinemas.

Away from home for almost a year the Sestiers spent 2 months in Bombay and 9 months in Australia. Presented in a variety of venues: ships, hotels, shops, theatres and in the open air, the Cinématographe Lumière was always a success. In Bombay the Cinématographe Lumière was promoted as a scientific invention and appealed to the educated population. In Australia where other projecting machines provided competition, the Cinématographe Lumière was promoted as the original and the best, a claim it lived up to the consistently high box office receipts indicating that Australians agreed.

The first films presented by the Sestiers followed the frères Lumière recommendation and included Sortie d'usine [Employees leaving the Factory], The Sea Bath, Train Arriving, 12 films in all for the first screenings which ran several times a day for 30 mins allowing for changeover of films. Several programmes of films could be alternated and eventually up to 30 films were incorporated and audiences were encouraged to ask for their favourites. In Bombay Leaving the Factory and the Train Arriving were often mentioned as favourite but it was the scenes of London Ladies and Gentlemen on Wheels or A Foggy Day in London or The Cinématographe in London which captured those audiences reminding them of home. In Australia while all films were appreciated there was one standout favourite across the nation “Babies Quarrel” and it always brought much laughter.

But Marius Sestier was not only to screen films he was to make them. In India he took a number of films although none survive having been opened by customs officers and ruined before they could be processed. In Australia around 19 films are recorded as having been made in Sydney, Melbourne and Kalgoorlie covering city streets, ferry rides, parades and military manoeuvres. Most famous are his films of the 1896 Melbourne Cup and recently rediscovered is Patineur Grotesque filmed in Prince Alfred Park in Sydney. While in Kalgoorlie he took a series of films at the Great Boulder Mine, including the workers going to work, but as the weather was poor the films were not successful. Patineur Grotesque and the 1896 Melbourne Cup films were screened in Lyon from February 1897.

Arriving home in June 1897 Marius Sestier began a new career as the wholesale manager of La Societe des Brevets Lumière, a pharmaceutical manufacturing company run by Auguste Lumière.

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Marius continued his career with La Societe until he died in 1928. In those intervening years he became more involved in public life in Lyon serving on many committees associated with health and education. He received many associated awards and distinctions including the Merite d’Agricole and in 1920 Auguste Lumière nominated his friend for the Chevalier de legion d’honneur and Sestier received this honour for a life committed to community service. His work with the Lumière Cinématographe noted as being “Scientific”.

Marius Sestier led a life dedicated to his profession in pharmaceuticals never returning to his life as a filmmaker. Nevertheless, his achievements in bringing the cinema to India and Australia, in inspiring others to initiate fledgling national cinemas, in making and screening Australia’s first films, has assured him a significant place in the film and cinema history of these countries.

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1896

  • Unknown number of films produced in Bombay, Pune, Colombo (1 July-2 September)
  • [Passengers Leaving s.s. Brighton, at Manly, Sunday Afternoon] (14 October, Manly, Australia).
  • Derby Day (The Betting Ring) (31 October, Melbourne, Australia)
    1. Lady Brassey placing the Blue Ribbon on “Newhaven” aka Decoration of Newhaven Derby Winner (31 October, Melbourne, Australia)
    2. Arrival of the Train at Hill Station (3 November, Melbourne, Australia)
    3. The Lawn near the Band Stand (3 November, Melbourne, Australia)
    4. Arrival of H E Brassey and Suite (3 November, Melbourne, Australia)
    5. The Saddling Paddock (3 November, Melbourne, Australia)
    6. Finish of Hurdle Race, Cup Day (3 November, Melbourne, Australia)
    7. Weighing out for the Cup (3 November, Melbourne, Australia)
    8. Finish of the Race (3 November, Melbourne, Australia)
    9. Near the Grand Stand (3 November, Melbourne, Australia)
    10. Afternoon tea under the Awning (3 November, Melbourne, Australia)
    11. “Newhaven” his Trainer (W Hickenbotham), Jockey Gardiner (3 November, Melbourne, Australia)
    12. The Post-Office near George Street (24 November - 19 December, Sydney, Australia)
  • La Foule (Lumière)
  • Arrivée du Gouverneur (Lumière)
  • NSW Horse Artillery at Drill, Victoria Barracks, Sydney, (By permission of Lieut-Col. H.P. Airey) (16 September – 24 November)
  • NSW Horse Artillery at Drill, Charge of Guns and Gunners, Victoria Barracks, Sydney, (By permission of Lieut-Col. H.P. Airey) (16 September – 24 November)
  • Patineur Grotesque (16 September- 23 December 1896)

1897

  • [Raising of the Ore, Great Boulder Mine] (10 March, Kalgoorlie, Australia)
  • [Visitors Descending from the Landing Stage, Great Boulder Mine] (10 March, Kalgoorlie, Australia)
  • [Extracting Gold, Great Boulder Mine] (11 March, Kalgoorlie, Australia)

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01/07/1896-15/08/1896 India Bombay (Mumbai) Watson’s Hotel Cinématographe Lumière
14/07/1896-15/08/1896 India Bombay (Mumbai) Novelty Theatre Cinématographe Lumière
17/08/1896-26/08/1896  India                         Poona (Pune)   Cinématographe Lumière
26/08/1896-02/09/1896 Ceylon
(Sri Lanka)
Colombo   Cinématographe Lumière
02/09/1896-16/09/1896 International Waters   MMS Polynesien Cinématographe Lumière

 

18960713bombaygazette 18960917dailytelegraph

The Bombay Gazette 13 July 1896

The Daily Telegraph 17 September 1896

Sestier screened in both venues almost the entire tour

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18960930franceaustrale

 

16/09/1896-27/10/1896 Australia Sydney

Salon Lumiere
237 Pitt Street

Cinématographe Lumière
31/10/1896-23/11/1896 Australia Melbourne Princess Theatre Cinematographe Lumiere
24/11/1896-08/12/1896 Australia Sydney Criterion Theatre Cinematographe Lumiere
09/12/1896-20/12/1896 Australia Sydney 478 George Street Cinematographe Lumiere
23/12/1896-29/01/1897 Australia Adelaide Theatre Royal Cinematographe Lumiere
31/01/1897-27/02/1897 Australia Perth Ye Olde Englishe Fayre Cinematographe Lumiere
20/03/1897-08/03/1897 Australia Coolgardie Theatre Royal Cinematographe Lumiere
09/03/1897-15/03/1897 Australia Kalgoorlie Miner’s Institute Cinematographe Lumiere
19/03/1897-30/03/1897 Australia Perth Ye Olde Englishe Fayre Cinematographe Lumiere

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