Michael Arrowsmith
Monday 18 March 2019


“A Peep into the Future,” the front cover of the final issue of Colonial Cinema, December 1954.


The introduction offers a historical overview of the Colonial Film Unit (1939-1955) and considers its legacies and enduring influence today.

It argues that the CFU helped to preserve, “re-make” and, through the local units it helped establish, enact new economic models of Empire which often continue to this day. In considering contemporary debates, around Brexit, immigration and the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, the introduction reflects on Britain’s failure to acknowledge and confront the end of empire. The CFU is part of this process, as through film it sought to mediate and conceal this “loss”, and to retain a level of (particularly economic) influence across these territories. In short, the work of the Colonial Film Unit, some of the earliest organized forays into film by British and colonial governments, shapes both state media today and attitudes and responses to the most pressing contemporary issues









READ: George Pearson, “Hail and Farewell,” Colonial Cinema, December 1954, 93-96.


WATCH: Spotlight on the Colonies (Diana Pine, Crown Film Unit, 1950).



READ: Amit Chaudhuri, “The Real Meaning of Rhodes Must Fall,” The Guardian Online, 16 March 2016.


WATCH: Panorama of Calcutta  (Warwick Trading Co. GB, 1899).




Priya Jaikumar, Cinema at the End of Empire: A Politics of Transition in Britain and India (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006).

Lee Grieveson, Cinema and the Wealth of Nations: Media, Capital and the Liberal World System (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018).

Zoe Druick and Deane Williams eds., The Grierson Effect: Tracing Documentary’s International Movement (London: BFI, 2014).

Charles R. Acland and Haidee Wasson eds., Useful Cinema (Duke University Press, 2011)

Paul Gilroy, After Empire: Melancholia or Convivial Culture? (London: Routledge, 2004).