The Black Sheep of the British Council Film Archive?

TIME/IMAGE may have, perhaps, found the black sheep amongst the many filmmakers of the BC Film Archive – former head of documentary at the BBC and one time collaborator of John Grierson, Paul Rotha. Originally born Paul Thompson, Rotha was an uncompromising filmmaker and intellectual.

After being told to change his name by one of his university professors, Rotha wasted very little time garnering the reputation of maverick with his new formed identity. Starting out in the film industry as an assistant art director he was dismissed for writing an article that heavily criticised the lack of creative set design in British Cinema at the time. He also got himself into trouble when collaborating with John Grierson, the outcome resulting in another dismissal for Rotha.

Despite his unwillingness to compromise with others, Paul Rotha successfully defined and established himself from other well-known documentary filmmakers of the time. In particular he demonstrated a difference between realist documentary, of which John Grierson was an exemplary, and a more socio-political filmmaking of his own.

For a more extensive biography and overview of Paul Rotha check out BFI’sScreenOnline.

Rotha directed the British Council’s film Island People which you can view here.


Scroll to Top