On February 7, 1914, the Little Tramp impersonated by Charlie Chaplin debuted on film. Cinema had been born nearly twenty years before, but little is known about what took place before the Lumière brothers arrived at their invention.


In the context of its film education program, Castellinaria traces the origins of cinema, organizing an exhibit providing a fascinating journey through pre-cinema to discover the optical plays and devices that preceded and accompanied the birth of the Lumière brothers’ motion pictures.

The machines displayed at Castelgrande di Bellinzona are made from wood and other materials. They are faithful copies of the original ones, reproducing not only how they looked but also their mechanisms and functions. The advantage in exhibiting copies rather than originals lies in the fact that they can be touched and used without fear of harm to them. And since the aim is to attract the public to the world of film, stimulating creativity, the spirit of teamwork and critical knowledge of film language, this is a considerable advantage.

Visiting the exhibit you can not only look at but also touch and play with the equipment, and using your imagination you can trace the route of motion pictures.


From the stereopticon to Chinese shadow theater; to the thaumatrope, from the Greek “wonder turner”, which concerns the history of animated film because its principle is based on simulating the movement of images by viewing them in rapid sequence; to the phenachistiscope, which exploits the phenomenon of image retention on the retina (even today this phenomenon is at the basis of film viewing; to the magic lantern, which projected images hand-painted on glass.

Along with the reproductions a number of valuable original magic lanterns from the Milan Cinema Museum will be displayed.


While visiting the exhibit you can attend a workshop to discover the secret of motion pictures, building a thaumatrope or inventing a story designed on a flipbook, which consists of a sequence of drawings scanned so quickly that they deceive the naked eye, giving the illusion of movement.

Within the exhibit is a reconstruction of the Café de Paris where in 1895 the first film by the Lumière brothers was screened. Here, in a turn-of-the-century atmosphere, visitors can see period films like the legendary Arrival of the Train at La Ciotat Station, the first farce, L’arroseur arrosé, the Keystone Kops, or the “silhouettes” animated by Lotte Reiniger.


Claudio Vigoni and Marta Ragno, who also curated the educational route, made the machines on display. Massimiliano Chinelli, of the Puppenfesten association, handled the promotional, education, organization and logistics aspects.

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