Monday, April 11, 2016

Digitizing First World War Film

To mark the centennial of World War I the Imperial War Museum has digitized its film collection - one of the oldest and largest in the world. Over 200 hours of film, contributing to one quarter of total footage, can be seen on the European Film Gateway 1914, the webportal featuring the Great War on film.

During our research on the American cinematographers of World War I we were fortunate enough to discover some interesting footage in the film collection of the Imperial War Museum, notably scenes from Albert K. Dawson's The Battle and Fall of Przemysl (1915).

Malins and McDowell, official cinematographers of Battle of the Somme (1916)

Battle of the Somme (GB, 1916)

A highlight of this film collection in the Imperial War Museum is the original 1916 record of The Battle of the Somme, now granted UNESCO "Memory of the World" status. Shot by two official cinematographers, Geoffrey Malins and John B. McDowell, the film depicts the British Army in the preliminaries and early days of the Battle of the Somme. A huge success, the film was watched by 20 million British people in the first six weeks of exhibition and distributed in eighteen more countries. The film had a terrific impact on public opinion. This was in part due to its graphic depiction of trench warfare, including showing dead and wounded British and German soldiers, as well as the fact that it opened while the battle was still raging and casualties were being taken.

British soldiers going over the top. Scene from Battle of the Somme (1916)

Check out the video for more information on how this movie was made and the historical World War I film collection of the Imperial War Museum.


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