The British Film Institute launched its latest initiative Britain on Film on Tuesday with a powerfully personal presentation exploring a range of film footage shot since the dawn of cinema: home movies, newsreels, amateur productions and some fictional films. This includes the first known home movie ever shot (in 1902 Bognor Regis). When it's complete, more than 10,000 films will be available digitally through the BFI's online streaming service. Some 2,500 went online this week.
In the clips shown at the press launch, I was especially surprised to see scenes shot in four places I have called home in Britain over the past 23 years. There's a hilarious sequence shot in Bradford, in which an aspiring mogul attempts to shoot a Bollywood epic just outside Ilkley. In Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire, the playwright George Bernard Shaw has a rather surreal afternoon with Danny Kaye in 1951. There's a pet show at Alexandra Palace, proving that scenes of cute kittens didn't start with YouTube. And the morning's event concluded with a live performance from musical duo Public Service Broadcasting, using edited clips from the 1940 doc London Can Take It!, showing the city's resilience in the face of German bombs. This was especially poignant as the launch event was held on the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 terrorist attacks.
In the UK, visitors to the Britain on Film section of the BFI website (specifically: player.bfi.org.uk/britain-on-film) can click on a map to find footage from all over England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Being brand new, the site is a bit glitchy at the moment (I couldn't locate any of the clips mentioned above), but is sure to become smoother and easier to use over the coming months.