The New Statesman is the media partner next month for the BFI Southbank’s End of Empire season; a fascinating series of screenings and special events devoted to cinematic representations of the fall of the British Empire. The season emerged out of a collaboration with colonialfilm.org, a project by the BFI, UCL and Imperial War Museum to digitise the BFI’s and IWM’s collections of colonial film.
The films to be shown in the season range from rare masterpieces such as Windom’s Way (1957) to well-loved classics like Zulu (1963.) Participating in the accompanying talks series are, on 9 November, actor Earl Cameron, who starred in Simba (1955) alongside Dirk Bogarde and Virginia McKenna, and, on 11 November, director Cyril Frankel, who will take part in a Q&Al following a screening of Man of Africa (1953)
End of Empire captures how cinematic visions of empire have evolved. During the early days of film, an imperialist agenda heavily informed the exotic and adventurous colonial scenes which fascinated British audiences. Victory in the Second World War stimulated national optimism, which led to continued affection for glamorous portraits of colonialism. However, the rise of national independence movements from the mid-1950s on helped to inculcate a more liberal perspective. For example, Dirk Borgarde was pitched into the Mau Mau emergency in Simba and John Grierson considered the crisis of resettlement in Man of Africa. Britain’s dramatic imperial decline after the Suez Crisis of 1956 further affected film; the problems associated with withdrawal and a lingering sense of colonial responsibility took centre stage, at the expense of patriotic adventures.
End of Empire runs at BFT Southbank, London SE1 from 3 to 30 November. You can book tickets here.