British Documentary History Online

Need to brush up your documentary film history? If so, the BFI (British Film Institute) can help you. I have just spent a little hour in company with two brilliant British actors, Derek Jacobi and Malcolm McDowell, who have introduced me to the GPO Unit film tradition way back in the 30’es with John Grierson as the mastermind – and to the 50’es and the so called Free Cinema with Lindsay Anderson as the main player, who after his contribution to the documentary history picked McDowell to be his favourite actor in films like ”If” and ”O Lucky Man”. This interactive online elementary documentary course that you can reach and use for free is introduced like this:

”The General Post Office may seem an unlikely source for some of the most creative British filmmaking of the 1930s, but with a talent roster including W.H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, Alberto Cavalcanti, Humphrey Jennings, Len Lye, Norman McLaren and J.B. Priestley, that’s exactly what it was. Here, Sir Derek Jacobi presents an extensively illustrated interactive guide to the history of the GPO Film Unit, with clips ranging from well-known classics like Night Mail (1936) to rarer but equally sparkling gems.”

”Fifty years ago, a programme of short documentary films changed British cinema for ever. In the third BFI series developed in partnership with BT,  Malcolm McDowell introduces an interactive history of Free Cinema, the pivotal but under-recognised film movement of the late 1950s.”  Some of these films can be watched on the FourDocs website, see below.

Photo: Lindsay Anderson and Malcolm McDowell on the set of 1973’s O Lucky Man!

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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