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The Projection of Britain: A History of the GPO Film Unit
 
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The Projection of Britain: A History of the GPO Film Unit
 
 
Palgrave Macmillan
 
 
 
 
 
 
18 Oct 2011
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£70.00
|Hardback In Stock
  
9781844573752
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18 Oct 2011
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£24.99
|Paperback In Stock
  
9781844573745
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DescriptionReviewsContentsAuthors

The General Post Office (GPO) Film Unit sat at the creative epicentre of Britain in the 1930s. It nurtured a vital crop of artistic talent, built a forum for a new kind of cinematic address and created Britain's first self-consciously national cinema. In 2011, UNESCO added its work to the UK Memory of the World Register, recognising its status as part of Britain's cultural heritage.

Elements of the GPO Film Unit's story are well known: John Grierson's development of documentary cinema; the influence of Mass Observation and Surrealism on its cinematic vision; the Watt–Auden–Britten collaboration Night Mail. The Projection of Britain: A History of the GPO Film Unit brings together primary materials and critical appraisals to revisit, re-contextualise and revitalise these seminal moments in British cinema. Here, the insights of an archivist, a musicologist, a design historian, a sports historian, a geographer and a postman – among others – have been edited into a rich critical archaeology of a compelling moment in cinematic history. Interspersed with these essays are primary materials – memoirs, magazine articles, posters and government documents – that detail everything from Alberto Cavalcanti's vision for the documentary movement to a claim for the clothes Humphrey Jennings lost while shooting on location.

In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the GPO Film Unit and its work, on the big screen, in DVD boxsets and on the web. The Projection of Britain ties together the Unit's diverse artistic, historical and cultural threads into an essential one-stop resource. Provocative, imaginative and ambitious, this expansive study is the definitive companion to an extraordinary episode in cinematic history.


Description

The General Post Office (GPO) Film Unit sat at the creative epicentre of Britain in the 1930s. It nurtured a vital crop of artistic talent, built a forum for a new kind of cinematic address and created Britain's first self-consciously national cinema. In 2011, UNESCO added its work to the UK Memory of the World Register, recognising its status as part of Britain's cultural heritage.

Elements of the GPO Film Unit's story are well known: John Grierson's development of documentary cinema; the influence of Mass Observation and Surrealism on its cinematic vision; the Watt–Auden–Britten collaboration Night Mail. The Projection of Britain: A History of the GPO Film Unit brings together primary materials and critical appraisals to revisit, re-contextualise and revitalise these seminal moments in British cinema. Here, the insights of an archivist, a musicologist, a design historian, a sports historian, a geographer and a postman – among others – have been edited into a rich critical archaeology of a compelling moment in cinematic history. Interspersed with these essays are primary materials – memoirs, magazine articles, posters and government documents – that detail everything from Alberto Cavalcanti's vision for the documentary movement to a claim for the clothes Humphrey Jennings lost while shooting on location.

In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the GPO Film Unit and its work, on the big screen, in DVD boxsets and on the web. The Projection of Britain ties together the Unit's diverse artistic, historical and cultural threads into an essential one-stop resource. Provocative, imaginative and ambitious, this expansive study is the definitive companion to an extraordinary episode in cinematic history.


Reviews

Read an article about the book by the University of Cambridge:
http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/letters-through-a-lens/

'The output of the GPO Film Unit was immensely varied, at times truly experimental and often exceptionally enjoyable. And now there's a truly terrific book to draw together much of the debate about these films and to stimulate further thinking...[It is] beautifully designed and contains such a wonderful range of striking pictures from the 1930s...one of the book's strengths is its firm grounding in the history and culture of the 1930s, even as this is interpreted and understood from the perspective of the early twenty-first century. There are reprints of key documents about this history and a number of compelling visual essays, as well as a fascinating essay by Steve Foxon about the restoration of the films.' - John Wyver, Illuminations

'Certainly, it's hard to think of a better single-volume survey.' - Michael Brooke, Sight & Sound 
 
'This beautifully produced volume is dedicated to the memory of the director Pat Jackson (1916-2011) and is a fitting tribute to his achievements...The Projection of Britain is, like the GPO Film Unit itself, a bold, fascinating, eccentric and ambitious endeavour...this is a fine tribute to an exciting and influential cultural project, and an essential companion to the films now available in lavishly packaged anthologies from the BFI.' - David Collard, Times Literary Supplement
 
'The book is handsomely produced...In general, the 22 essays in The Projection of Britain: A History of the GPO Film Unit contribute to a vast literature on the documentary film movement in Britain, and perhaps represent a return to a celebration of its achievements after years of more sceptical evaluations.' -D. L. LeMahieu, Twentieth Century British History  
 
'Each section [of the book] invites the reader to wonder at a new aspect of the GPO Film Unit's history, and then these questions are either answered or deepened by the following sections. This structure also allows the reader to dip in and out; many of the chapters make excellent teaching resources. This book is therefore an excellent primer, at undergraduate and postgraduate level, for the GPO Film Unit's history. This structure is complemented by the variety of voices represented in the line-up of authors...The diversity of author and background creates a vibrant portrait of the far reaching cultural significance of the GPO Film Unit at the time. The ingredients that hold this all together, and makes this book spectacularly attractive for tutors, are the sections containing reproduced historical documents. Part three of the book is practically a course reader, with contributions from Hardy, Reiniger, Sussex, Wright and Watt.' - Dafydd Sills-Jones, British Universities Film & Video Council


Contents

Acknowledgments
Foreword
Sir Christopher Frayling

PART One: ARGUMENTS, IDEAS, ISSUES
1 John Grierson and the Lost World of the GPO Film Unit Jeffrey Richards
2 The GPO Film Unit and 'Britishness' in the 1930s Scott Anthony
3 GPO Films and Modern Design Yasuko Suga
4 Old Industry, New Science? The GPO Film Unit between Palaeotechnology and Neotechnology Timothy Boon
5 An Archivist's Perspective on the Work of the GPO Film Unit Steven Foxon

PART TWO: FILM-MAKERS
6 Alberto Cavalcanti: Lessons in Fusion at the GPO Film Unit Charles Drazin
7 Harry Watt: on Land, at Sea and in the Air Amy Sargeant
8 Humphrey Jennings: The Customs of the Country Michael McCluskey
9 Portrait of an Invisible Man: The Working Life of Stewart McAllister, Film Editor Dai Vaughan
10 Job in a Million: Evelyn Spice at the GPO Barbara Evans
11 The Joy of Drooling: In Praise of Len Lye Kevin Jackson

PART THREE: KEY DOCUMENTS FROM THE HISTORY OF THE GPO FILM UNIT

PART FOUR: AESTHETICS
12 Rhythm, Modernity and the Politics of Sound; James G. Mansell
13 Voiceover/Commentary Martin Stollery
14 National Identity, the GPO Film Unit and their Music E. Anna Claydon
15 Technology the GPO Film Unit Leo Enticknap
16 Modern art and Design in 1930s Britain: Contexts and Legacies of the Documentary Film Paul Rennie

PART FIVE: THE GPO FILM UNIT AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS CULTURE

PART SIX: FILMS
17 'Go the way the material calls you': Basil Wright and The Song of Ceylon Jon Hoare
18 The Horsey Mail: Documentary as Landscape David Matless
19 The GPO at Play: What's On Today and Spare Time Richard Haynes
20 The Silent Village: The GPO Film Unit Goes to War Wendy Webster
21 Visualising the World: The British Documentary at Unesco Zoe Druick
22 Counterpoints and Counterparts: Film at the Post-war GPO Patrick Russell

PART SEVEN: THE GPO FILM UNTI AND THE MODERN POST OFFICE
Postscript Roy Mayall
Filmography
Notes on Contributors
Index


Authors

SCOTT ANTHONYis a journalist andhistorian basedatChrist's College,Cambridge.He is the author of Public Relations and the Making of Modern Britain (2011) and Night Mail in the BFI Film Classic series (2007).

JAMES G. MANSELL is an historian and lectures in Cultural Studies at the University of Nottingham, UK. He is the author of the forthcoming book Sound and Selfhood in Early Twentieth-Century Britain.