BEGINNINGS: THE INTER-WAR MOVEMENT OF NON-FICTION FILM
The opening chapter explores the earliest attempts to use films to inform, educate and inculcate colonial citizens,foregrounding the role of film in colonial administration and unpicking the origins of government filmmaking in Africa.The chapter traces the pre-history of the Colonial Film Unit in the inter-war period, a moment when non-fiction film – whether “documentary” film in Britain, educational film for schools, or instructional films specifically for colonial audiences – starts to be worked through and institutionalized by the British government. While histories of non-fiction film in Britain have invariably centered on the British Documentary Movement, the chapter introduces another path that often runs counter to, but intersects with, John Grierson’s celebrated Documentary movement. This instructional, educational, “useful” cinema, run by administrators and civil servants, forms an integral aspect of British cinema history, one that is too often obfuscated by a focus on prestige documentary and the feature film. Central to this history is the figure of William Sellers, a health officer in Nigeria who, in 1939, would set up the Colonial Film Unit.
KEY MATERIALS AND FILMS