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Ponencia / Principal Address: The Documentary Film in World War II

Universitat de Barcelona
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  • Political Science
  • Social Sciences


Volumelll Numberl-2 1993 ocumentals Documentaries THE DOCUMENTARY FILM IN WAR WAR 11 NICHOLAS PRONA Y Institute of Communications Studies University of Leeds, Great Britain The Second World War now lies half a century behind us in time. The victorious ending of the Cold War completed the 'unfinished business' aspects of the Second World War, as a war against the challenge of totalitarianism whether of the right or of the left, as well as has now put an historical epoch between us and World War 11. In every sense now, therefore, the Second World War is history. So is the Documentary film. As a genre, the Documentary has indeed survived, and became, in an adapted form, a staple of television viewing. But as a cinematic experience it has vanished. A generation will have grown up by now who might never have seen a Documentary film, though they will have seen many television documentaries. And, sadly, the people, who have made the Documentary films of world war two as well as the people who have seen them, have by now also almost all passed away. The time for studying the Documentary film as a contemporary phenomenon by the application of the methodologies of social science and contemporary history, interviews, surveys and the like has also gone. In any case it has been done, often and sometimes indeed very well, during its own historical lifetime1• 1992 is a good time therefore for a fresh look at the Documentary film in the Second World War -in the perspective of history. What, therefore, was the significance of the Second World War in the history of the Documentary film; and what was the significance of the Documentary film in the history of the Second World War? ~ S To ~ <t_.. ~ 7 Nicholas Pronay ... By the summer of 1939 the Documentary film movement -as a genre and as an approach to being a film-maker (as Richard Dyer MacCann had once so perceptively put it)- was faltering. In Britain, government support, whether direct or indirect, which was its

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