This evocative compilation of British documentary shorts, dating from the 1930s to the 1960s, comes with content warnings about racism – though the sexism can be just as shocking
Here is a feature-length selection of documentary shorts from Britain’s pioneering women film-makers from the 1930s to the 1960s – a theatrical “touring version” from the Independent Cinema Office, taken from a larger assortment on the BFI’s two-disc DVD release.
The directors are very often tackling what were considered – by the male producers, that is – to be the “women’s issues” of the day: motherhood, family, hearth and home. Sometimes these are the explicit themes and sometimes they are a subtext. Two of the films are prefaced with content warnings about racism (though not sexism): a blackface minstrel show in Broadstairs is shown in one film and, in another on obstetric education for working-class women, someone is shown repeating the extraordinary superstition that drinking stout will “give you a black baby” – although, unlike the minstrels, this is clearly signposted in the film itself as bizarre and wrong.