Tuesday, 18 August 2009

FourDocs' fabulous documentary films and resources online

Still from O Dreamland (Lindsay Anderson, UK 1953, shown as part of first Free Cinema programme in 1956)

Film Studies For Free wanted to flag up for its readers the existence of FourDocs, the great (British) Channel 4 documentary website. That is to say, it wanted to flag up its continued but not everlasting existence, that is...

According to the FourDocs weblog, the site

was set up in 2005 to provide a platform for new filmmakers to showcase their own short documentaries, receive feedback from leading industry experts and discuss them with each other. The site functioned as an online film school, with video guides covering everything from structure and lighting to editing choices. The archive timeline contextualised 30 or so definitive documentaries, such as Listen to Britain, The Lift and The Boy Who’s Skin Fell Off, and perhaps most inspirational were the interviews with award winning directors like Molly Dineen and Paul Watson.

The FourDocs site is currently 'on hold', and probably being 'reconceived' even as FSFF writes; we eagerly await information about the new form it will take.

In the meantime, Film Studies For Free urges you to take advantage of all the great resources on offer at the site while you still can, in particular its fantastic archive which includes a library of full length documentaries representing some of the best filmmaking of the past century.

See below for FSFF's A-Z list of direct links to viewable films, including classics of 1920s and 1930s British documentary, several spectacular examples of Free Cinema, and wonderful, recent documentary filmmaking. National accessibility to the films might vary, however; to be sure, once you've pressed 'play' at the site's pages, remember also to click on the arrow pointing to the bottom right hand corner of the mini video player.

FSFF thinks, though, that there are plenty of other worthwhile resources on the films accessible via these links even if there turn out to be some international restrictions on viewing. Enjoy!

  • A Visit to..., George Cricks 1906 -- A Visit to Peek Frean & Co's Biscuit Works. A promotional film that turned mechanical tedium into industrial lyricism
  • Babitsky's War, Paul Yule 2000 -- An investigation into the disappearance of a journalist in Chechnya
  • The Battle of Orgreave, Mike Figgis/Jeremy Deller 2001 -- Reconstructing miners clashing with the police in Yorkshire and looking back at the decline of coal mining in the 80s
  • Before Hindsight, Jonathan Lewis/Elizabeth Taylor-Mead 1977 -- Examining editorial attitudes in the non-fiction British cinema and newsreels of the thirties towards the rise of Fascism
  • The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off, Patrick Collerton 2003 -- Hugely-influential story of a man with a rare disease that led to his skin peeling off, and his last days of life
  • The Dinner Party, Paul Watson 1997 -- Conservative voters in the home counties come together to discuss their politics.
  • Divorce Iranian Style, Kim Longinotto 2001 -- Documentary about women and divorce in Iran set in a family law court in Tehran.
  • The Drifters, John Grierson 1929 -- The lives of herring fisherman of the North Sea, as portrayed by John Grierson.
  • The Dying Room, Kate Blewett 1995 -- In 1995, Brian Woods and Kate Blewett uncovered the systematic neglect of abandoned babies in China.
  • The Firing Line, Nicholas Cohen 1996 -- Army cadets from a private school take their end of year training tests.
  • The Girl Chewing Gum, John Smith 1976 -- Pretending to direct an everyday 1970s East End street scene
  • The Grave, Belinda Giles 1997 -- A team of forensic archeologists try to piece together what happened in a massacre during the Yugoslav conflict.
  • Heart of Britain, Humphrey Jennings 1941 -- Made by Humphrey Jennings and the Ministry for Information, this film is a tribute to the workers of Britain during World War Two.
  • Housing Problems, A. Elton/E. Anstey 1935 -- Provocative depiction of living conditions in the slums in South London.
  • Industrial Britain, J.Grierson/R.Flaherty 1933 -- This film about British Industry in the 1930s portrays the industrial worker as a heroic figure, championing the craftsmanship of the individual behind the dehumanizing façade of the industrial landscape.
  • Julia's Baby, Marilyn Gaunt 1994 -- A deaf blind mother fights with social services to be able to bring up her baby.
  • The Leader..., Nick Broomfield 1991 -- The Leader, His Driver and the Driver's Wife. Documentary about the South African neo-Nazi leader Eugene Terreblanche, and Nick Broomfield's attempts to get an interview with him.
  • The Lift, Marc Isaacs 2001 -- Marc Isaacs' award winning film set in a lift in some council flats.
  • Listen to Britain, H.Jennings/S.McAllister 1942 -- Documentary showing a Britain united in the war effort through a montage of various scenes of daily life.
  • London, Patrick Keiller 1992 -- A surreal and imaginative portrait of a depressed London in 1992, as the city lurched from one crisis to another
  • Manhunter, Witold Starecki 1996 -- Rabbi Gordon's job is to track down wayward husbands and force them to divorce their wives.
  • The Man Who..., Joseph Bullman 2000 -- The Man Who Bought Mustique. The story of Lord Glenconner from Scotland, who bought an island in the Caribbean and then lost it.
  • Momma Don't Allow, T. Richardson/K. Reisz 1956 -- A celebration of the free spirit of youth and Teddy Boys, particularly in London's 1950s working class.
  • O Dreamland, Lindsay Anderson 1956 -- The start of the Free Cinema movement, the iconic Margate funfair as a metaphor for the shabbiness of modern life
  • Operation Hurricane, Ronald Stark 1953 -- Documentary recording the construction and testing of Britain's first atomic bomb.
  • P Company, Ian Taylor 1992 -- The never seen before and brutal four week selection test for the elite parachute regiment.
  • Seven Days in Hell, Sue Bourne 1993 -- Businessmen go on an outward bound course that makes P Company look like a picnic.
  • Soldat, Paul Jenkins 2001 -- Documentary about the once great but now decaying Russian Army and the soldiers forced to endure it.
  • Sunday Sport, Norman Hull 1997 -- Inside the newsroom of the newspaper that everyone pretends they don't buy.
  • Terminus, John Schlesinger 1961 -- Observational film looking at the comings and goings of London's Waterloo railway station.
  • This is a True Story, Paul Berczeller 2003 --Investigating the mysterious death of a Japanese girl in Fargo, USA
  • The Unforgiving, Clive Gordon 1993 -- Documentary about the conflict in former Yugoslavia.
  • The Valley, Dan Reed 1999 -- The plight of the Albanian population in Kosovo.
  • The Wet House, Penny Woolcock 2002 -- Observing Providence Row refuge for the alcoholic homeless, a place where the residents can drink as much as they like

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