Tag Archives: Newsreel

The AP, British Movietone and YouTube: a million minutes of world history online

British Movietone News
British Movietone News

If there was ever a week to emphasise the power of archive film, this is it. On the weekend, the Sun on Sunday released what appeared to be home movie footage from the early 1930s of Edward VIII apparently teaching the young Princess Elizabeth, and the Queen Mother to make Nazi salutes. Not surprisingly, those few frames of film have caused a media storm – with debates raging over whether Edward was not the only Nazi sympathiser in the family, or the footage should have been released at all. It seems to me that the princess is more interested in showing off her Scottish dancing moves than practising the salute – she is on holiday at Balmoral after all. And her young sister Margaret really isn’t in the least bit involved. But what do I know? This is home movie footage, of course, not intended to be scrutinised by the public, even if it may after all hint at some disturbing information in the public interest.

The fact remains, however, that this film is owned and still guarded, privately. If there is context to this clip, we are denied it, because all that has been released is a silent, heavily watermarked 17-second snatch on the Sun website. In the era of FOI requests (the Freedom of Information Act is 10 years old this year), post-WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden, after MPs’ expenses and the Prince Charles letters, full disclosure and open access is where it’s at.

And it is in this climate of free access to information that the Associated Press and British Movietone have decided to release a monumental slice of their archive on to YouTube today, where it can be seen, shared and embedded by the public. There are two news YouTube channels as of today: one for the AP Archive and one for British Movietone. More than a million minutes of newsreel footage has been digitised and uploaded, creating what the archive call “a view-on-demand visual encyclopedia, offering a unique perspective on the most significant moments of modern history”. 

The YouTube channels will comprise a collection of more than 550,000 video stories dating from 1895 to the present day. For example, viewers can see video from the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, exclusive footage of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Marilyn Monroe captured on film in London in the 1950s and Twiggy modelling the fashions of the 1960s

For silent enthusiasts, the fact that this upload includes the Henderson collection of news footage will be particularly welcome. In effect, this is not a release of footage (many of these films were always available to watch on the AP Archive site), but a way of liberating it. 

Continue reading The AP, British Movietone and YouTube: a million minutes of world history online

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The Queen’s diamond jubilee – in 1897

The union flag bunting has been hung, the coronation chicken sandwiches have been cut and the roads have mostly been closed. Like it or not, it will be hard to escape the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations this weekend. So why all the fuss? Well, monarchs rarely reach the 60-year mark, so this is probably the only diamond jubilee we’ll see – in person that is. It has happened before, when august Queen Victoria marked her 60-year anniversary in 1897. Luckily for us, the newsreel cameras were rolling that day and the BFI has released this fascinating clip of her elaborate jubilee procession. The Queen herself makes an appearance at 1:40, but my personal highlight is 1:23, when a rather wayward horse threatens, briefly, to derail the whole shebang.

This is by no means the only clip to survive, however, and if you want to see more, you can visit the Bedford Park festival in Chiswick, west London on 21 June 2012, for an audiovsual feast of material related to Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee – presented by Luke McKernan and Neil Brand:

A 90-minute show combining archive film from the BFI, photographs, live commentary with actors, and piano accompaniment, recreating the London procession on 22 June 1897 to mark the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign. Presented by film historian Luke McKernan, with actors Neil Brand and Liz Fost reading eyewitness accounts of Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, and Queen Victoria herself.

Click here to book tickets.

Safety Last and Battleship Potemkin at the Peckham Free Film Festival, September 2011

Harold Lloyd in Safety Last (1923)
Harold Lloyd in Safety Last (1923)

• This post was edited on 10 August 2011

This is a lovely thing to report: openair screenings of two silent film classics, with a local twist. And best of all, they are free.

In September, the Peckham Free Film Festival will be showing Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last on a giant inflatable screen on Peckham Rye near the cafe. The film will be accompanied by Neil Brand on the piano and by a package of local archive footage including newsreels, too. You’ll be able to buy refreshments from the cafe, which focuses on “free range, fair trade, organic, locally sourced, healthy” food, but I can’t be held responsible for the consequences of laughing with your mouth full.

Safety Last screens at Peckham Rye on Friday 16 September at 8pm. Entrance is free. 

The festival will close in rousing style with another free silent film screening, on the roof of Peckham multi-storey car par. Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin will be screened near Franks Cafe and Campari Bar, also located on the roof, so you can grab a drink and something to eat while you watch. Live music will be provided by Super Best Friends club, who describe themselves this way:

Super Best Friends Club are a friendly beast from London. We wonder if it’s possible to transform this cutthroat universe to a loving frequency. And we wonder if its possible to do this through nudity and frantic dancing. I think its worth trying.

Battleship Potemkin screens on 18 September at 8pm. Entrance is free. For more information on the Peckham Free Film Festival, click here.