Friday, 11 December 2009

Waterways films

Thanks to Granny Buttons I - and, no doubt, you - have discovered an amazing archive of films made on the canals.


These films from the British Pathé archive are fascinating glimpses of the early days of pleasure boating, and sometimes show working boats. In the film linked to above, towards the end of the clip, are a couple of shots of a pair of laden narrowboats, apparently of no great interest to the filmmaker or the archivist: "Various shots of narrow boats sailing past each other." The boats are a British Waterways motor and butty, but I can't make out the names. The steerer of the butty makes a sharp hand signal. Does anyone know what this means?

And look at this one!


Made 50 years ago this two minute documentary is beautifully shot. Even the music isn't too intrusive, and there's some natural sound, even though it's under the music. No interviews or actuality, though. It's these which bring a film to life, which really draw the viewer in.

I have a thing about music in documentaries, whether they're one minute news reports or 50 minute full length docos. Most of the time it gets in the way. Only where there are no words or natural sound might it be acceptable, say in a timelapse sequence or a series of still photographs within a longer film. You might have noticed that my timelapse films are mute. Music? No point.

Anyway, as Andrew Denny says, the British Pathé newsreel archive is worth exploring.

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