(aka 'Land of Promise')

Directed by Robert Flaherty, Humphrey Jennings etc.
Britain 19
31 - 1950

 

A landmark BFI collection, and the first major retrospective of the documentary film movement during its period of greatest influence. These films - many of which are being made available here for the first time since their original release - capture the spirit and strength, concerns and resolve of Britain and its people before, during and after the Second World War.

These diverse and compelling films are fascinating historical documents, bearing witness to the social and industrial changes of the rapidly changing world. Yet they are also striking in their different approach to the form. Using poetry, dramatic reconstruction, the techniques of modernism and explicit propaganda, the filmmakers found fresh, new ways to get their message across.

DVD Reviews

DVD Review: BFI - Region 2 - PAL

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Distribution BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL
Runtime Over 13 hours 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.29 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s
Audio English (Dolby Digital mono) 
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: BFI

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Close Up: Recollections of British documentary (40 mins) - new interviews with directors Pat Jackson, Peter Bradford, Peter Pickering and Paul Dickson, and with cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky
• John Grierson at the NFT (1959, 13 mins)
• 96-page illustrated booklet with introductory essays, biographies and notes on all of the films by leading researchers and scholars

DVD Release Date: April 28th, 200
8
Keep Case
Chapters: various

 

Comments:

Wow - I watched this over the course of about one week and I was in a kind of nirvana. My parents grew up in this time and place and could have easily been one of the many onscreen participants.  Images can speak such volumes - especially those less contrived and inherently as real as these. This BFI DVD set is absolutely filled with life - life of a different time and era - an entire world away from 'now'. Part of existence is accepting your place in society and I can't think of a better documentation concept at achieving self-awareness than viewing these short films from Britain's past. It did that for me anyhow.

Complete film listing:

Disc One
* Industrial Britain (Robert Flaherty, 1931)
* Shipyard (Paul Rotha, 1935)
* Workers and Jobs (Arthur Elton, 1935)
* Housing Problems (Arthur Elton, Edgar Anstey, 1935)
* Children at School (Basil Wright, 1937)
* Farewell Topsails (Humphrey Jennings, 1937)
* Today We Live (Ruby Grierson, Ralph Bond, 1937)
* Eastern Valley (Paul Rotha, Donald Alexander, 1937)
* People of Britain (Paul Rotha, 1936)
* If War Should Come (no director credited, 1939)

Disc Two
* Britain at Bay (Harry Watt, 1940)
* Transfer of Skill (Geoffrey Bell, 1940)
* They Also Serve (Ruby Grierson, 1940)
* Tomorrow is Theirs (James Carr, 1940)
* Words for Battle (Humphrey Jennings, 1941)
* Ordinary People (Jack Lee, J B Holmes, 1941)
* Five and Under (Donald Alexander, 1941)
* Night Shift (J D Chambers, 1942)
* The Countrywomen (John Page, 1942)
* Summer on the Farm (Ralph Keene, 1943)
* Listen to Britain (Humphrey Jennings, Stewart McAllister, 1942)
* Builders (Pat Jackson, 1942)
* Words and Actions (Max Anderson, 1943)
* A Diary for Timothy (Humphrey Jennings, 1946)

Disc Three
* Land of Promise (Paul Rotha, 1946)
* The Balance (Paul Rotha, 1947)
* What a Life! (Michael Law, 1948)
* The Dim Little Island (Humphrey Jennings, 1948)
* Britain Can Make It (No 1) (Francis Gysin, 1946)
* Fenlands (Ken Annakin, 1945)
* Children's Charter (Gerard Bryant, 1945)
* Chasing the Blues (J D Chambers, Jack Ellitt, 1947)
* Cotton Come Back (Donald Alexander, 1946)
* Five Towns (Terry Bishop, 1947)

Disc Four
* A Plan to Work On (Kay Mander, 1948)
* Mining Review 2nd Year No 11 (Peter Pickering, 1949)
* From the Ground Up (no director credited, 1950)
* Transport (Peter Bradford, 1950)
* The Undefeated (Paul Dickson, 1950)
* Family Portrait (Humphrey Jennings, 1950)
 

Image quality is imperfect but surprisingly good all things considered. There is no extensive damage that I witnessed and speckles are prevalent to varying degrees for each film. Audio too, is fairly dodgy at times but thankfully BFI have included optional subtitles.

There are some supplements - Close Up: Recollections of British documentary is a 40 minute piece and includes new interviews with directors Pat Jackson, Peter Bradford, Peter Pickering and Paul Dickson, and with cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky. John Grierson at the NFT is a 13 minute 1959 short as an introduction to that theatrical showing (where do they dig this stuff up?). Plus there is an extensive 96-page illustrated booklet with introductory essays, biographies and notes on all of the films by leading researchers and scholars.

This is obviously a very personal thing but I was enamored enough to consider this package quite wonderful and for those considering indulging - I'd like to give them my strongest encouragement. I will cherish this DVD set - giving it a prominent place in my library.    

Gary W. Tooze

 



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DVD Box Cover

   

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Distribution BFI Video - Region 2 - PAL




 

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Gary Tooze

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