Empress of Ireland Disaster (9 mins)
The newsreels frequently covered disaster stories, using aftermath footage to piece together an impression of tragic events. But seldom were they as skilfully constructed as this Gaumont Graphic report on the wreck of RMS 'Empress of Ireland'. The film uses footage of the ship's crew, the rescue vessels, the survivors and their families to build a beautiful yet chilling narrative of the tragedy.
Among the portrait shots of crew, rescuers and survivors there's a rare (for the time) interior shot of the radio operator in his booth, illustrated with an inventive animation of an SOS signal. More harrowing are the scenes of sailors unloading wooden coffins from a ship and the rows of child-sized coffins stacked up at the Quebec morgue. The Canadian liner was bound for Liverpool on its 96th voyage when it collided with the Norwegian collier SS 'Storstad' (also pictured here) in the St Lawrence River. The 'Empress' sank in under 15 minutes, drowning more than 1,000 of its 1,477 passengers and crew.
This is a silent film
More like this...
Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor star in the acclaimed adaption of the Orange Prize-winning novel.
Directed by Bert Haldane, 1914
Inventive WWI propaganda in which a rejected volunteer foils a German plot to blow up Parliament.
A muted newsreel tribute to Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand - victim of an assassin's bullet in an event that would soon take Europe to war.
A beautifully photographed trip back to the Shanghai of the 1930s, with views of the Bund's busy harbourside.
Battalions of the Royal Marines and the Coldstream Guards parade through Shanghai as the Chinese Civil War looms.
Take a cruise through imperial China on the world's longest man-made waterway, the Grand Canal.
At its festival premiere, director Mike Leigh, Timothy Spall and producer Georgina Lowe discuss their life of the great Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner.
An extraordinary window on to the cosmopolitan heart of Shanghai - Nanjing Road - over a hundred years ago.
Enjoy a preview of the exciting films we’ve got in store for you on the BFI Player.