Close Up

20 February 2019: “Useful” Women: Advertising and Information Films from the Archive


So This Is London, Marion Grierson, 1933, 13 min, 35mm
The Tocher, Lotte Reiniger, 1938, 5 min, 35mm
Sleeping Beauty, Alexander Alexeieff & Claire Parker, 1934, 4 min, 16mm
4 and 20 Fit Girls, Mary Field, 1940, 11 min, 35mm
They also Serve, Ruby Grierson, 1940, 9 min, 35mm
West Indies Calling, John Page, 1944, 15 min
Mary’s Birthday, Lotte Reiniger, 1951, 10 min

As part of Queen Mary Gradfest 2019, this special film screening will showcase a selection of rarely-seen short films from the archive, made by, and about, "useful" women. Within the genre of "useful" cinema – films made to sell, to promote or to teach – contributions by women filmmakers have often been overlooked. In Britain, during the 1930s, through wartime and into the 1950s, many women directors, producers and editors worked on films for governmental bodies or advertising companies including the GPO Film Unit and the Ministry of Information. From documentaries to animations, with topics ranging from public health initiatives to women on the homefront, it is a rare treat to watch these "useful" films on the big screen and 16/35mm format. While West Indies Calling features the pioneering Una Marson, Jamaican radio producer, poet and activist, in Lotte Reiniger’s Technicolour spectacle Mary’s Birthday made for the Ministry of Health, silhouette flower fairies offer important food safety and personal hygiene tips.

The evening is curated by Tashi Petter, a PhD student from Queen Mary University of London, who is researching the silhouette animator Lotte Reiniger and sponsored filmmaking in 1930s and 50s Britain.