The General Post Office (GPO) Film Unit sat at the creative epicentre of Britain in the 1930s. It nurtured a vital crop of artistic talent, built a forum for a new kind of cinematic address and created Britain's first self-consciously national cinema. In 2011, UNESCO added its work to the UK Memory of the World Register, recognising its status as part of Britain's cultural heritage.
Elements of the GPO Film Unit's story are well known: John Grierson's development of documentary cinema; the influence of Mass Observation and Surrealism on its cinematic vision; the Watt-Auden-Britten collaboration Night Mail. The Projection of Britain: A History of the GPO Film Unit brings together primary materials and critical appraisals to revisit, re-contextualise and revitalise these seminal moments in British cinema. Here, the insights of an archivist, a musicologist, a design historian, a sports historian, a geographer and a postman - among others - have been edited into a rich critical archaeology of a compelling moment in cinematic history. Interspersed with these essays are primary materials - memoirs, magazine articles, posters and government documents - that detail everything from Alberto Cavalcanti's vision for the documentary movement to a claim for the clothes Humphrey Jennings lost while shooting on location.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the GPO Film Unit and its work, on the big screen, in DVD boxsets and on the web. The Projection of Britain ties together the Unit's diverse artistic, historical and cultural threads into an essential one-stop resource. Provocative, imaginative and ambitious, this expansive study is the definitive companion to an extraordinary episode in cinematic history.
SCOTT ANTHONYis a journalist andhistorian basedatChrist's College,Cambridge.He is the author of Public Relations and the Making of Modern Britain (2011) and Night Mail in the BFI Film Classic series (2007). JAMES G. MANSELL is an historian and lectures in Cultural Studies at the University of Nottingham, UK. He is the author of the forthcoming book Sound and Selfhood in Early Twentieth-Century Britain.
Acknowledgments.- Foreword .- Sir Christopher Frayling.- PART One: ARGUMENTS, IDEAS, ISSUES 1 John Grierson and the Lost World of the GPO Film Unit Jeffrey Richards.- 2 The GPO Film Unit and 'Britishness' in the 1930s Scott Anthony.- 3 GPO Films and Modern Design Yasuko Suga.- 4 Old Industry, New Science? The GPO Film Unit between Palaeotechnology and Neotechnology Timothy Boon.- 5 An Archivist's Perspective on the Work of the GPO Film Unit Steven Foxon.- PART TWO: FILM-MAKERS 6 Alberto Cavalcanti: Lessons in Fusion at the GPO Film Unit Charles Drazin.- 7 Harry Watt: on Land, at Sea and in the Air Amy Sargeant.- 8 Humphrey Jennings: The Customs of the Country Michael McCluskey.- 9 Portrait of an Invisible Man: The Working Life of Stewart McAllister, Film Editor Dai Vaughan.- 10 Job in a Million: Evelyn Spice at the GPO Barbara Evans.- 11 The Joy of Drooling: In Praise of Len Lye Kevin Jackson.- PART THREE: KEY DOCUMENTS FROM THE HISTORY OF THE GPO FILM UNIT.- PART FOUR: AESTHETICS.- 12 Rhythm, Modernity and the Politics of Sound; James G. Mansell.- 13 Voiceover/Commentary Martin Stollery.- 14 National Identity, the GPO Film Unit and their Music E. Anna Claydon.- 15 Technology the GPO Film Unit Leo Enticknap.- 16 Modern art and Design in 1930s Britain: Contexts and Legacies of the Documentary Film Paul Rennie.- PART FIVE: THE GPO FILM UNIT AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS CULTURE PART SIX: FILMS.- 17 'Go the way the material calls you': Basil Wright and The Song of Ceylon Jon Hoare.- 18 The Horsey Mail: Documentary as Landscape David Matless.- 19 The GPO at Play: What's On Today and Spare Time Richard Haynes.- 20 The Silent Village: The GPO Film Unit Goes to War Wendy Webster.- 21 Visualising the World: The British Documentary at Unesco Zoe Druick.- 22 Counterpoints and Counterparts: Film at the Post-war GPO Patrick Russell.- PART SEVEN: THE GPO FILM UNTI AND THE MODERN POST OFFICE Postscript Roy Mayall.- Filmography.- Notes on Contributors .- Index.