Gelabert, Fructuós

(1874-1955)
   Camera operator, inventor, producer, and director Fructuós Gelabert is one of the key film pioneers in Catalonia. Fascinated by Lumière's invention, in 1897 he constructed his first camera and shot what is acknowledged as the first Spanish fiction film, Riña en un café (Fight at a Café). Whereas most of his contemporaries trained in Paris, Gelabert stayed in Barcelona and produced a number of documentary shorts in his homeland.
   Like many other pioneers, technological innovation was central to Gelabert's activities. In fact, he succeeded particularly as a technician, especially as a cinematographer, and had little talent for the artistic aspects of film. In 1905, he attempted a method for synchronizing voices on film with live actors, which is among the earliest attempts at sound film. He produced, wrote, shot, and exhibited his films, working for a number of early film companies, including Pathé.
   In the first decade of the 20th century, he cultivated all the strands and genres that would later become popular. He adapted prestigious plays like Terra Baixa (Lowlands, 1907), introduced the zarzuela film, put together historical dramas starring great performers from the stage and, of course, did a share of documentaries. He was never an efficient manager, and his attempts at setting up a production company failed repeatedly. He retired from direction in 1918, although he took the opportunity to remake Riña en un café before his death in 1955.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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