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BEFORE HINDSIGHT

UK, 1977 (MIFF 1978)

Director: Jonathan Lewis

This documentary from the British Film Institute examines the newsreels of the 1930s, and the ways in which they handled the political events of the decade. The film consists of library footage from newsreels, documentaries and workers films, including material which has not been seen since the thirties.

During production two complete archives were found which had previously been thought lost. The Film and Photo League and the Socialist Film Council and extracts have been used in the film. The library footage is supplemented by interviews with people who worked in the British cinema in the thirties. During that period, the cinema almost totally ignored the persecution of racial groups and other minorities, and misunderstood the implication of the newsreel footage received from Germany.

The film's producers describe what they take to be in effect, censorship at that time 'If any hard-line view was expressed on film such as by British Paramount News under its liberal editor Tommy Cummins, or by the outspoken March of Time series or by the prominent communist film maker, Ivor Montagu, the British Board of Film Censors or the National Government's covert pressure on newsreel policy ensured that the films were held up for months or never shown at all.

At the end of the film, which is introduced by James Cameron, Jonathan Dimbleby analyses the way in which television has developed the concepts of editorial policy which governed newsreel and documentary production before the war.

He suggests that today's news coverage on TV may be similarly distorting events, particularly in its coverage of Northern Ireland and Southern Africa.

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