Mobile Phone in Chaplin Film?

Belfast film-maker generates over 1,500,000 hits on YouTube with footage taken from Chaplin film The Circus

He has scooped international festival awards for his ultra-low budget kung fu zombie movie Battle of the Bone. On a meager budget he draws world-class film producers, directors, scriptwriters and actors to his annual Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival at the Stormont Hotel. Now George Clarke, Belfast-based film-maker and master publicist, has attracted the Hollywood spotlight with a film uploaded to YouTube entitled Chaplin's Time Traveller.

In the film Clarke introduces footage of the premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 silent movie The Circus. In the black and white clip a woman dressed in 1920s garb – fur draped around her neck, with a horse in the foreground - is seen walking through screen talking into what appears to be a mobile phone.

The eight-minute film has generated over 1,500,000 hits and 9,000 comments in the space of a few days, and has been broadcast on everything from CNN and Fox News to Australia's version of GMTV, Weekend Sunrise. Legendary US talk show host Jay Leno even parodied the film on his primetime network show, adding to the joke by superimposing another woman into the film holding an iPad and a man travelling on a Segway.

Clarke first showed the footage to an audience of 100 cinemagoers at last year’s YFIFF and asked if anyone had any explanations. They didn’t. He put two and two together, and came up with this: ‘Right now the only conclusion that I can come to – which I'm sure will sound absolutely ridiculous to some people – is that it’s a time traveller!’

With those words Clarke sparked a viral phenomenon. His YouTube film may not have reached Susan Boyle viewing figures just yet, but with the backing of the entire American news corp behind him, such an outcome seems likely.

Talking to Clarke this morning as he poured through the 750 emails he had received since emptying his inbox last night, he sounded as surprised by the reaction to his film as CultureNorthernIreland is. ‘I’ve watched that footage hundreds of times,’ said Clarke, ‘because, as you know, I’m a genuine film geek. And honestly, I’m as puzzled by it now as I was when I first saw it.

‘I’ve had emails from people from all over the world who are interested in Charlie Chaplin. I’ve had emails from people who are interested in time travel. I’ve had phone calls from Bulgarian news stations, big-hitters in Hollywood, everything you can think of. It’s crazy. But still, no-one has come up with any kind of explanation about what it is this woman is actually talking in to.'

Check out the video, decide for yourselves and let us know your thoughts by commenting below.