Interdepartmental Film Conferences – Meeting Minutes

BW 4/57


There were questions about whether the shorts should be shown alongside feature films made for the British Council (in addition to the documentaries – there was a fear that the BC could not produce enough feature films to meet the demand for screenings alongside the docs.

‘My Bryan Jones (Haifa) said that when he was in Palestine over a year ago, only about 20 people would turn up because of the dullness of the Council’s films.’
  • he made particular reference to ‘Airscrew’ and ‘How the Telephone Works’
  • he claimed that the best received films were those such as ‘Sheepdog’ ‘due to the combination of human interest and close observation of nature.’

The films were apparently most unpopular in the Middle East.

The Council considered making 5 minute ‘poster films’ in markets (such as Scandinavia) where documentary has no presence – using these short clips instead of advertisements.

There were requests for comedy films as well as documentaries.

Interesting to the Somerset House screening – ‘The best way of showing Council films in Institutes is for one or two films to be shown at a time in conjunction with talk or lectures.’

  • Ideas to show films alongside ‘educational’ feature films including; Henry V, In Which We Serve, Victoria the Great, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Pygmalion, Jane Eyre, Little Lord Fontleroy.

There were however concerns that if some screening have feature films too there will be disappointment with normal ‘pure’ documentary showings.

‘We of the West Riding’ was one of the most popular films – judging by the responses of BC staff

Advice was taken from BC employees overseas about what subject matter would be beneficial in its attempts to propagate British Society and its influences abroad.

Leonard Downes (Portugal) commented that ‘a common fault of many educational films, including Council ones, was that the method of representation was not kept constant for any particular group or age-level throughout a film; so that one could jump from elementary explanations to advanced.’
  • a call for continuity
  • commentaries were too fast

Life of the Rabbit was designed to teach children aged 11+

Teaching notes were available for most of the teaching films.

In 1945 funding cuts indicated that only 40 films would be made a year,

Lists of categories for the films were as follows:

Industry and Commerce
Historic Buildings
Public Utilities and Services
Physical Training
Science and Technology
Biology Junior Series
Biology Senior Series
Human Geography
English Language Teaching


‘A request has been received for a complete newsreel to show to repatriated Prisoners of War the outstanding events of the past four years, but for various reasons it was not possible to re-edit the council’s newsreel ‘British News’.