Vibrant snapshots of life in member states across the 20th century, both before and after the foundation of the Commonwealth.
To mark the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit in London in April 2018, the BFI presents a collection of films from the BFI National Archive that show life in a variety of member states before and after the foundation of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth of Nations is an intergovernmental organisation comprised of 53 member states, including the UK, and spanning all six inhabited continents. It was established to help maintain global unity through the promotion of democracy, good government, human rights, and economic development.
Soldiers from the far reaches of the British Empire arrive in London to take part in the official commemoration of the end of war in Europe.
Government sponsored film196912 mins Location: Brixton
Beach, church and carnival – Chief Inspector of Brixton Police sent to Trinidad to learn about West Indian customs.
Amateur film194114 minsSilent
The film shows Port Louis, the capital; workers on sugar plantations and road mending as well as colonial life in the then British dependency.
Tours in Southern Bengal - In the Sunderbans
Amateur film193512 minsSilent
Everyday life and places of interest around the areas of Midnapore and Chittagong, including steamers and Indian boats along the Damodar river.
British South Africa
South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts delivers a stirring speech in London, watched by an approving Winston Churchill, in this affirmative film about South Africa’s contribution to the war.
South Africa - The Land of Smiles and Sunshine
Colour amateur documentary from 1939 on life in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia, produced by Frances Hotham.
Dr. Bennett's Visit to South Africa, 4th August - 11th October 1944
Amateur film194440 mins
Hugh Bennett’s visit to South Africa in 1944, as filmed (in colour) by C.J.J. Van Rensburg of the Soil Conservation Division, Department of Agriculture.
Johnny Wardle Home Movies - England Cricket Tour of South Africa 1956-57
Amateur film195618 minsSilent
Before the sporting boycott of the apartheid state, South Africa was a touring destination for the English cricketer.
Colour, silent film recording people, costumes, rites and festivities seen at a Durbar, which celebrates the culmination of Muslim festivals of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.
African music at Stewards Comprehensive, Harlow
News19747 mins Location: Harlow
With great enthusiasm, the schoolchildren of Stewards Comp in Harlow are inspired to drum, dance, and sing traditional African music.
Aklowa African Village, Bishop's Stortford, Essex
News19775 mins Location: Takeley
With workshops and performances, Aklowa village in Essex promotes a greater awareness of the richness of African culture.
Aklowa African Village in Essex
Factual TV19866 mins Location: Takeley
Essex primary schoolchildren share an unforgettable afternoon, living the life of an African villager.
African Visitors to the Tower of London
Documentary19496 mins Location: London
An African entourage makes a spectacular appearance in postwar London.
London Line No. 373
Cinemagazine197115 minsSilent Location: Westminster
A Ghanaian fashion student and a Nigerian squash player are among the Africans making a life in 70s Britain in this edition of the magazine show.
From a London pub to the Alaska Highway, Canada’s influence extends far beyond its border, as shown in this celebration of America’s unique ties with its northern neighbour.
Jenny's Dog Team Journey
Travels with my camera: inspirational seventy-something Scottish film-maker Jenny Gilbertson travels through Northern Canada by dog sled, with four adults and a baby.
A military film from 1946 “Chronicling a journey of exploration by the Canadian Army through the interior of Northern Canada in midwinter.”
Canada at War
In 1940 the war still seemed distant to US citizens. But what it was like for the 11 million ‘other Americans’ who were already at war? The March of Time cameras go north of the border to Canada to find out.
Amateur film from 1955 showing the people, landscapes and architecture of numerous islands in the Caribbean by Everild Helweg-Larsen, F.R.G.S.
Silent, pre-World War Two documentary recording the people, landscapes and industries of the Federated Malay States, (1895-1946), which were to become modern-day Malaysia in 1963.
Australia at War
A film full of contrasts captures Australia at a pivotal point in its history: under threat from Japan at home, but pledging to defend the British Empire and the Crown abroad.
Alec Bedser Cricket Home Movies: MCC Tour of Australia 1954
Amateur film195452 minsSilent
The voyage, the camaraderie, the matches, the sights: the whole experience of a 1950s tour down under is here.
Prince Ranjitsinhji Practising Batting at the Nets
Probably the first ever cricket film: Indian cricketing royalty prepares for the first test between England and Australia at Sydney.
Entertaining Soldiers After the Raid
Keep calm and carry on - these East End schoolkids dance to lift the spirits of Kiwi troops
New Zealanders Win at Rugby
Sport19161 minsSilent Location: Richmond Park
Soldiers representing South Africa and New Zealand billeted in London get stuck in during a rugby fixture in Richmond Park.
The Bradford Godfather
197649 mins Location: Bradford
Meet Mohamed Fazal Hussain, elder statesman and all-round Mr Fixit of Bradford's Muslim community, and a film mogul in the making...
Nigeria, Bruce 1930
Amateur film193016 minsSilent
An amateur silent film illustrating the people and places of northern Nigeria, by Charles Bruce. From daily market life to adobe architecture, the film also features ceremonies and horse racing at a traditional Durbar.
Promise of Pakistan
Sword-dancing Patans, burqa-clad women, modern irrigation methods, a free press and a new airport: this film portrays the Pakistan of 1950 as a vibrant blend of ancient and modern.