1917 on Film
A fourth year of war and no end in sight. Government propaganda stepped up, and even animation took a dark turn... What our forebears saw in cinemas a century ago.
1917 was the darkest year of the war. With stagnation on the western front and the German U-boat campaign beginning to really bite, the country was now on a total war footing. In the film world, the government took over the Topical Film Company’s newsreel units and began to produce more propaganda films, largely on home front issues such as the formation of the Women's Land Army, as well as (well-censored) reporting from the front. Henry Edwards began to produce ‘film tags’: two-minute story films with home front messages on rationing, saving food and recycling materials. Meanwhile, momentous news from Russia barely registered in British films. With film stock scarce, only a few long dramas were produced. One of the most revealing films of the year is Dudley Buxton's animation Ever Been Had, which although ostensibly comic, imagines a grim future in which the British, having prematurely made peace with Germany before she was comprehensively beaten, are crushed by German super weapons. The destruction of London by death rays from the sky and great amphibious tanks crawling over its ruins is a chilling a vision as anything cinema has invented.
Government sponsored film19177 mins
Mysterious unidentified footage of troops in WW1 featuring a glimpse of Edward, Prince of Wales
Non-Fiction19171 mins Location: London
The leading organisation fighting for women's suffrage changes tack, as Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst launch the Women's Party.
Animation & Artists Moving Image19173 mins
A star-spangled sock on the nose for Kaiser Wilhelm, as this wordplay propaganda cartoon meets war crimes with pun-ishment
Non-Fiction1917 mins Location: Haringey
A London concert singer attends a military religious service to bless two new ambulance held in a London park.
Government sponsored film191714 mins
Film stars Violet Hopson and Ivy Close lend their celebrity to the war effort – and they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty
Non-Fiction19173 mins Location: Rushden
Flags and patriotism on show in Rushden as local businesses pull out all the stops in this carnival procession.
Non-Fiction19171 mins Location: Dalston
Windows are smashed, doors broken and blows exchanged, as a violent mob attacks a pacifist meeting held inside a Hackney church.