We’re off the see the wizard…

With everyone eager to get the project set up and running in order to make the most out of the British Council’s Film Archive, time is most certainly of the essence. So, after spending all day rushing around the office, hard at it, what can be a better escape than hiding away underground, locking yourself up in a dark room and watching endless films?

I am, of course, talking about my first visit to the BFI Archive. Jon and I heeded Tom’s warning of a treacherous and icy journey to Stephen Street by wrapping up warm, but no amount of bitter cold could contain my excitement at the prospect of seeing The Green Girdle (1941). Photographed by the late, great Jack Cardiff and shot in sumptuous Technicolor it is definitely one of the most intriguing films in the British Council catalogue and my experience of viewing the film on 16mm format was certainly an eye opening one, especially when it appeared that the viewing copy of the film had shrunk and deteriorated (see Jon’s video response – below).

The films that had been selected by the lovely people at the BFI for our viewing this week were an eclectic mix:

London River

A revealing insight into the vital role the River Thames played in orchestrating Great Britain as the hub of world trade.

British News (colonial version) 12th June 1940

We were lucky enough to view one of the British news reels produced by the Newsreel Association for the British Council, which would have been distributed for overseas viewing at the time. This particular reel celebrates the solidarity of the general public during the war effort and finishes with a fascinating report on the evacuation of British troops in Dunkirk.

The Heart of the Empire

Produced by Marion Grierson of the famous Grierson documentary film unit, the film focuses on the urban landscape of the country’s capital city with a particular emphasis on famous historical landmarks, including some of the buildings that surround the headquarters of the British Council.

Coastal Village

A short film documenting the everyday life of a small fishing community who work and prosper from Britain’s coastline.

The Green Girdle

The moment I had been waiting for and I was not disappointed. After seeing most of the BC’s Film archive in black and white I was reminded of the famous moment in The Wizard Oz when Dorothy opens the front door of her Kansas home to a world of Technicolor magic. As the reel of film containing The Green Girdle spooled through the Steenbeck and the light from the projector illuminated the film strip an explosion of colour filled the screen. Like the Wizard of Oz, The Green Girdle transports the viewer from one world to another – in this case from the general hub-bub of inner city life to the beautiful countryside surroundings of Greater London.


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