BFI: Britain on Film

We’re always excited at the prospect of being able to preserve your memories from Video 8 to DVD because we know just what those moments mean to you. In the modern world there can be something of a throwaway attitude towards videos and pictures, where the loss of a phone is followed by little more than a shrug and a subsequent trip to the shop. With this all too commonplace in the 21st century, it always warms our cockles to hear of nostalgia being given a well-deserved pat on the Penny Black.

This week, the British Film Institute released around 10,000 digitised films from their National Archive, including never before seen films of Britain throughout the twentieth century. The collection boasts an array of video which captures the zeitgeist of the time perfectly, including attitudes towards a range of topics, from fashion to race relations.

A 1970 film titled Models Showcase the Latest Fashion in Truro captures the attitudes towards the revealing dresses from John Lumley-Savile’s new boutique as he takes three young women around the Cornish high-street. The figure hugging dresses wouldn’t necessarily be uncommon today, but in the 1970’s film the women are met with a combination of leering eyes and disapproving tutts.

The release of the collection is summarised perfectly by The Daily Telegraph’s film critic, Robbie Collin who says of the era and the footage, “Events were only worth filming if they were extraordinary. But it’s the absolute ordinariness of much of the footage in Britain on Film that makes it so incredibly powerful.”

We couldn’t agree more. The glimpse into the life and attitude of the times can take even the youngest of film enthusiasts back, on a trip down someone else’s Memory Lane. The sheer vastness of the footage means it could be used in school classes of all subjects, giving such a fantastic pseudo-practical insight into what occurred, when it occurred and what the environment within which it occurred.

If nothing else, the grainy footage stands to give you a warm, fuzzy sense of national identity and puts a very real face on the movements that have gone before. In 1957’s To the Four Corners viewers are treated to rare colour footage of Britain of yore and an early display of product placement as the camera crew visit a multi-racial Cardiff.

Other footage frozen in time, as if a Damien Hirst exhibit, comes in the form of the Bathing Beauty Contest, which offers a beauty contest from post-war Britain in 1946. The footage was captured by businessman, William King, who was an amateur film maker. He captured campers participating in fun and frolics at the Butlin’s camp, where his films were subsequently shown.

Another example of wonderful footage uncovered and available to watch includes footage captured in Chesterfield in 1935. The footage is essentially CCTV and is the first film used as evidence in a court of law, used to record an illegal betting ring. Whilst the film manages to capture town life of pre-war England, it inadvertently captures a parade of three elephants, tail in trunk, strolling past. How’s that for right place, right time?

A camera never forgets, so the notion that such amazing snapshots of times-gone-by can be recaptured and reborn on such a large scale is outstanding. Much like the service we provide at Video2DVD Transfer, the BFI have made otherwise forgotten footage readily available. If, like the BFI, you have footage you would like to be given a new lease of life and be reborn in the form of watchable DVDs, contact us on 01296 461505 and one of our friendly team will be more than happy to help with any queries you may have.