Mike Zahs and the Britton films

Ryan Herek, News Writer

Mike Zahs is a retired history teacher from Iowa who made an incredible discovery. Zahs is responsible for the discovery of the Britton films which had not been viewed in over 100 years.

Many people have heard of the documentary “Saving Britton” which Zahs narrates. The Britton films are a series of films that the Britton family would show over 100 years ago only available in Iowa. These films have made people of all age groups come together and be able to have a shared experience of what the oldest known films were like.

“I am super excited to see what the first films looked like,” freshman Grace Hunke said.

Zahs showed these films on things that are called magic lanterns. They are basically big movie projectors that have the ability to play old films. Magic lanterns were originally developed by the catholic church to help with services, according to Zahs.

The first-time people saw any of these films was back in 1879. These films were a very big deal back in that time. The Brittons made $100 a day and would sell out every showing. According to Zahs, the Brittons made more than the governor by showing these movies.

Zahs visited Wayne State on Sept. 29 and was able to show students and professors a collection of some of the oldest known films in the world. There are 140 films in the collection. Even though Zahs was not able to show them all he highlighted some of the most important ones including the oldest movie from India, oldest movie from Egypt, and one of the longest ones in the collection of almost a whole town chasing after a baby’s stroller.

“I think it’s really good for students to have this because it’s rare that were able to look at cinema that’s at the turn of the century,” Mike White said. “To have someone that has firsthand experience is really great for the students and everyone involved.”

Zahs said the term “shared experience” multiple times throughout showing all of these films. That’s something that is not experienced often now that society is in the age of streaming services available at peoples fingertips. Going to the movies used to be a huge social activity and now that is really is not common anymore. Zahs is hoping to change this, and help create shared experiences through cinema with others.