Land of Promise

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by the BFI and the films on them.

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What A Disgrace
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Land of Promise

#1 Post by What A Disgrace » Fri Mar 07, 2008 10:08 pm

Land of Promise: The British Documentary Movement 1930 - 1950

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A landmark BFI collection, and the first major retrospective of the documentary film movement during its period of greatest influence. These films - many of which are being made available here for the first time since their original release - capture the spirit and strength, concerns and resolve of Britain and its people before, during and after the Second World War.

These diverse and compelling films are fascinating historical documents, bearing witness to the social and industrial changes of the rapidly changing world. Yet they are also striking in their different approach to the form. Using poetry, dramatic reconstruction, the techniques of modernism and explicit propaganda, the filmmakers found fresh, new ways to get their message across.

Disc One:

- Industrial Britain (Robert Flaherty, 1931)
- Shipyard (Paul Rotha, 1935)
- Workers and Jobs (Arthur Elton, 1935)
- Housing Problems (Arthur Elton, 1935)
- Children at School (Basil Wright, 1937)
- Farewell Topsails (Humphrey Jennings, 1937)
- Today We Live (Ruby Grierson/Ralph Bond, 1937)
- Eastern Valley (Donald Alexander, 1937)
- People of Britain (Paul Rotha, 1936)
- If War Should Come (GPO Film Unit, 1939)

Disc Two:

- Britain at Bay (Harry Watt, 1940)
- Transfer of Skill (Geoffrey Bell, 1940)
- They Also Serve (Ruby Grierson, 1940)
- Tomorrow Is Theirs (James Carr, 1940)
- Words for Battle (Humphrey Jennings, 1941)
- Ordinary People (Jack Lee, 1941)
- Five and Under (Donald Alexander, 1941)
- Night Shift (J.D. Chambers, 1942)
- The Countrywomen (John Page, 1942)
- Summer on the Farm (Ralph Keene, 1943)
- Listen to Britain (Humphrey Jennings, 1942)
- Builders (Pat Jackson, 1942)
- Words and Actions (Max Anderson, 1943)
- A Diary for Timothy (Humphrey Jennings, 1946)

Disc Three:

- Land of Promise (Paul Rotha, 1946)
- The Balance (Paul Rotha, 1947)
- What a Life! (Richard Massingham, 1948)
- The Dim Little Island (Humphrey Jennings, 1948)
- Britain Can Make It (No.1) (Francis Gysin, 1946)
- Fenlands (Ken Annakin, 1945)
- Children's Charter (Gerard Bryant, 1945)
- Chasing the Blues (J.D. Chambers, 1946/47)
- Cotton Come Back (Donald Alexander, 1946)
- Five Towns (Terry Bishops, 1947)

Disc Four:

- A Plan to Work On (Kay Mander, 1948)
- Mining Review 2nd Year No 11 (Peter Pickering, 1949)
- From the Ground Up (Crown Film Unit, 1950)
- Transport (Peter Bradford, 1950)
- The Undefeated (Paul Dickson, 1950)
- Family Portrait (Humphrey Jennings, 1950)

Bonus features:

- Close Up: Recollections of British documentary (40 mins) - new interviews with directors Pat Jackson, Peter Bradford, Peter Pickering and Paul Dickson, and with cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky
- John Grierson at the NFT (1959, 13 mins)
- The set is completed by a 96-page illustrated booklet with introductory essays, biographies and notes on all of the films by leading researchers and scholars

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MichaelB
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#2 Post by MichaelB » Tue Mar 11, 2008 6:54 am

What A Disgrace wrote:Amazon UK has the documentary set up for pre-order.

Play.com has further specs.

"This set is accompanied by an extensive illustrated booklet - 96pages with introduction by Patrick Russell, Snr Curator (Non Fiction) at BFI National Archive. A series of introductory essays on documentary film-making in the '30s, wartime, post war periods. Biographies and analysis of the key contributors in the documentary movement in this period. The collection contains both classic documentaries and lesser known films, including Paul Rotha's SHIPYARD (1935), Arthur Elton's HOUSING PROBLEMS (1935) and Humphrey Jenning's sublime WORDS FOR BATTLE (1941), LISTEN TO BRITAIN (1942) and emotive A DIARY FOR TIMOTHY (1946). Also featured are films from directors such as Ruby Grierson (TODAY WE LIVE, 1937), Basil Wright (CHILDREN AT SCHOOL, 1937), Paul Dickson (THE UNDEFEATED, 1950) and Donal Alexander (FIVE AND UNDER, 1941)."
Here's a complete list - and since I now have checkdiscs and the release is imminent, you can be reasonably sure that it's now set in stone:

DISC ONE
Industrial Britain (Robert Flaherty, 1931)
Shipyard (Paul Rotha, 1935)
Workers and Jobs (Arthur Elton, 1935)
Housing Problems (Arthur Elton, 1935)
Children at School (Basil Wright, 1937)
Farewell Topsails (Humphrey Jennings, 1937)
Today We Live (Ruby Grierson/Ralph Bond, 1937)
Eastern Valley (Donald Alexander, 1937)
People of Britain (Paul Rotha, 1936)
If War Should Come (GPO Film Unit, 1939)

DISC TWO
Britain at Bay (Harry Watt, 1940)
Transfer of Skill (Geoffrey Bell, 1940)
They Also Serve (Ruby Grierson, 1940)
Tomorrow Is Theirs (James Carr, 1940)
Words for Battle (Humphrey Jennings, 1941)
Ordinary People (Jack Lee, 1941)
Five and Under (Donald Alexander, 1941)
Night Shift (J.D. Chambers, 1942)
The Countrywomen (John Page, 1942)
Summer on the Farm (Ralph Keene, 1943)
Listen to Britain (Humphrey Jennings, 1942)
Builders (Pat Jackson, 1942)
Words and Actions (Max Anderson, 1943)
A Diary for Timothy (Humphrey Jennings, 1946)

DISC THREE
Land of Promise (Paul Rotha, 1946)
The Balance (Paul Rotha, 1947)
What a Life! (Richard Massingham, 1948)
The Dim Little Island (Humphrey Jennings, 1948)
Britain Can Make It (No.1) (Francis Gysin, 1946)
Fenlands (Ken Annakin, 1945)
Children's Charter (Gerard Bryant, 1945)
Chasing the Blues (J.D. Chambers, 1946/47)
Cotton Come Back (Donald Alexander, 1946)
Five Towns (Terry Bishops, 1947)

DISC FOUR
A Plan to Work On (Kay Mander, 1948)
Mining Review 2nd Year No 11 (Peter Pickering, 1949)
From the Ground Up (Crown Film Unit, 1950)
Transport (Peter Bradford, 1950)
The Undefeated (Paul Dickson, 1950)
Family Portrait (Humphrey Jennings, 1950)
plus
John Grierson at the NFT (1959)
Close-Up: Recollections of British Documentary (2007)

plus a 96-page booklet with context-setting essays, biographies of key figures, and pieces on each individual film.

All transfers are digitally graded from the best available materials, a by-product of a major research and restoration project carried out for last year's centenaries of Humphrey Jennings, Edgar Anstey, Paul Rotha and Basil Wright - if you saw some of the (stunning) high-definition screenings at BFI Southbank or on tour last year, you'll know what to expect. Unless the BFI decides to reissue the set in hi-def, it's extraordinarily unlikely that these films will ever look much better.
Last edited by MichaelB on Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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What A Disgrace
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#3 Post by What A Disgrace » Tue Mar 11, 2008 8:00 am

I repeat: ugh. My wallet.

Though both Play.com and Moviemail are reporting a much lower retail price of 34.99; eight pounds lower than Amazon. Hopefully this is the correct price.

Michael, since so many Humphrey Jennings films are making it to this collection, is there any chance of BFI releasing a special edition of Fires Were Started? Call me a narrative loving philistine (and a stickler for songs about dogs and mowing), but its my favourite of his films so far.

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MichaelB
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#4 Post by MichaelB » Tue Mar 11, 2008 8:09 am

What A Disgrace wrote:Though both Play.com and Moviemail are reporting a much lower retail price of 34.99. Hopefully this is the correct price.
The RRP is indeed £34.99, which works out at just under five pence per minute (not including extras). I suspect Amazon's claimed £43.99 is a typo.

I don't know about future Jennings plans - sorry! But it seems pretty clear from this release and others (the recent surprise bestseller Night Mail, for instance) that there's likely to be a very significant increase in the amount of classic British non-fiction film going into circulation over the next few years. And I also suspect I won't be breaking any confidences by pointing out that the gobsmacking HD restorations of Spare Time and The Silent Village, which went on tour in the UK late last year, aren't included on this set...

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What A Disgrace
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#5 Post by What A Disgrace » Tue Mar 11, 2008 8:51 am

Good point...I didn't notice that "43" was "34" reversed until they were used in the same sentence. That'll teach me to do things early in the morning! If it weren't for Amazon UK's sudden omission of their Pre-order Price Guarantee policy, I would safely pre-order this now.

Fingers crossed for a little extra Humphrey Jennings disc somewhere down the line.

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J Wilson
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#6 Post by J Wilson » Tue Mar 11, 2008 9:28 am

I have several of these films already on the Imperial War Museum's British Home Front at War series, but this set looks like a real winner. Looking forward to seeing it.

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foliagecop
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#7 Post by foliagecop » Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:19 am

play.com has it for £27.99, with free delivery.

Choices UK are now selling 'Land Of Promise' for £26.19, cheapest yet.

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foggy eyes
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#8 Post by foggy eyes » Tue Apr 01, 2008 1:58 pm

MichaelB wrote:Actually, the BFI National Archive has three complete 35mm prints and various other materials - it looks as though Skreba made a big donation at some point.
Thanks for clearing that up, Michael - good to hear that the situation has improved somewhat.
ellipsis7 wrote:Any more news yet on the BFI disc of Antonioni's RED DESERT - when it is coming, any extras etc.?...
Later in the year apparently, with a commentary from David Forgacs and new subtitle translation - white ones too!

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MichaelB
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#9 Post by MichaelB » Tue Apr 15, 2008 6:37 am

The 1,000-word feature on Land of Promise that MovieMail commissioned from me for their catalogue has now been published online, complete with stills.

I've now seen the final package, and it's superb - the four discs are in a Digipak encased within a sturdier-than-average cardboard sleeve, and the 96-page book is bound rather than stapled.

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John Hodson
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#10 Post by John Hodson » Sun Apr 27, 2008 12:36 pm

The Beaver on Land of Promise here

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What A Disgrace
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#11 Post by What A Disgrace » Thu May 08, 2008 3:05 pm

I finally received my Land of Promise DVD set in the mail. The packaging is superb...not too thick, but very sturdy, much moreso than the Quay and Svankmajer sets. The booklet is also immense...BFI's booklets have always been a notch below Criterion or MoC's best efforts, but this one...being 96 pages, after all...is a wealthy piece of work.

I look forward to delving into all of it.

Also...I took a few minutes to check out Jennings' Diary for Timothy and Listen to Britain, and they look greatly improved over the Jennings collection released a few years back. *Wonderful*

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MichaelB
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#12 Post by MichaelB » Thu May 08, 2008 3:47 pm

What A Disgrace wrote:Also...I took a few minutes to check out Jennings' Diary for Timothy and Listen to Britain, and they look greatly improved over the Jennings collection released a few years back. *Wonderful*
Given that they've undergone extensive restoration from the best surviving materials, I'd be rather worried if they didn't!

Incidentally, the BFI Archive's Senior Non-Fiction Curator Patrick Russell (a major contributor to this project) was interviewed about it on Radio 4 last week - you're just about in time to catch the programme before it disappears after the statutory seven days some time tomorrow. It starts at 15:12.

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#13 Post by John Hodson » Fri May 09, 2008 7:17 am

Before intruders broke into my home and removed the means of watching 'Land of Promise' as part of their haul (though not DVDs themselves; odd that), I'd watched the first four documentaries and while it can get said that the first two - particularly Rotha's 'Shipyard' - are considerably more lyrical than the next pair, as alluded to in the accompanying book, it's worth watching even workmanlike stuff like 'Housing Problems' having boned up on subsequent events.

As the camera pans over a Utopian model of the soon to be built Leeds Quarry Road estate, seemingly the saviour of many living in dreadful slums with it's parks, open spaces, and social centres, it's a sobering thought that those hopes were never realised. Quarry Road was never actually completed, the sports and community centres never built; the estate itself became an open sore and was demolished just four decades after work began. For many it was out of the frying pan...

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MichaelB
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#14 Post by MichaelB » Tue May 27, 2008 5:19 am


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#15 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Sat May 31, 2008 2:42 am

Looks like we'll be getting even more Davies from the BFI -- they've picked up the rights to Of Time and the City.

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foggy eyes
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#16 Post by foggy eyes » Fri Aug 29, 2008 7:47 am

Interesting review of the Land of Promise set by Richard Armstrong at Senses of Cinema - I've just caved and ordered the thing at last.

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Tom Amolad
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Re: Land of Promise

#17 Post by Tom Amolad » Tue Nov 25, 2008 3:44 pm

I wonder if someone here who owns this set can do me a favor for a paper I'm writing and get me a couple of screen grabs.

Near the beginning of "Eastern Valley" on the first DVD, there's a cut between a hand clutching coins and a hand grabbing at mud. Any chance someone could post both of those images?

Then, on the second Disc, about halfway through "Summer on the Farm," there's a nifty little graphic of a map of Manchester and the surrounding countryside, with arrows pointing between the city and symbols of food and wool sources in the country, and little stick-figures of people going between them. Any way someone could post that image too?

The two together make for a rather effective, if crude, demonstration of a distinction between a more radical socialist rhetoric of the pre-war years and the consensus politics of economic planning wartime. I was able to study the films at MOMA but can't afford ordering the set right now just for a couple of screen grabs. Maybe next year I'll be able to - there's much on it that's awfully tempting.

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MichaelB
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Re: Land of Promise

#18 Post by MichaelB » Thu Nov 27, 2008 1:43 pm

Tom Amolad wrote:I was able to study the films at MOMA but can't afford ordering the set right now just for a couple of screen grabs. Maybe next year I'll be able to - there's much on it that's awfully tempting.
Not even with the current exchange rate (talk about a dramatic pendulum swing!) and the pre-Christmas discount?

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Tom Amolad
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Re: Land of Promise

#19 Post by Tom Amolad » Thu Nov 27, 2008 8:01 pm

MichaelB wrote:
Tom Amolad wrote:I was able to study the films at MOMA but can't afford ordering the set right now just for a couple of screen grabs. Maybe next year I'll be able to - there's much on it that's awfully tempting.
Not even with the current exchange rate (talk about a dramatic pendulum swing!) and the pre-Christmas discount?
I know, sad, isn't it? Maybe once I finish this paper I can get a better job...

Still, I'm very grateful to a fellow who was able to supply me with the screen grabs in question.

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MichaelB
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Re: Land of Promise

#20 Post by MichaelB » Fri Dec 19, 2008 10:13 am

An unexpected entry for the Independent's 2008 Film of the Year survey:
David Puttnam wrote:My favourite film of the year wasn't really a film at all, but a set of DVDs produced by the BFI entitled Land of Promise. Many of these 40 short films are wonderful in their own right but, more important than that, they should be compulsory viewing in every school and town hall in the country. Every minister from the PM downwards, and every politician who has any ambition to be a policy- or decision-maker should spend Christmas watching the entire set, and be required to reflect on where Britain has been, and where we ought to have the ambition to take it. Anyone with any responsibility for the present financial crisis – if they have even a scrap of common humanity, will find themselves squirming with embarrassment when confronted with the sense of self-sacrifice, humility and courage with which this country dug itself out from the war years, creating the society on which they have preyed in such an unforgivable manner.

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colinr0380
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Re: Land of Promise

#21 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Dec 19, 2008 5:12 pm

An admirable ambition but sadly an offer unlikely to be taken up! The accolade for the set is thoroughly deserved though.

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Caligula
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Re: Land of Promise

#22 Post by Caligula » Wed Sep 15, 2010 6:37 am

Is there any difference between the current set and the one that's being advertised for release on 15 November 2010?

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ellipsis7
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Re: Land of Promise

#23 Post by ellipsis7 » Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:26 am

It doesn't make sense, November 15 is the release date of the follow up set from the BFI, SHADOWS OF PROGRESS: DOCUMENTARY FILM IN POST WAR BRITAIN 1951-1977, while the original LAND OF PROMISE set is recent and still very much available via Amazon... Must be an Amazon error, I guess...

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antnield
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Re: Land of Promise

#24 Post by antnield » Wed Sep 15, 2010 7:30 am

...or simply a way of tying in with the Shadows of Progress set and possibly gaining a few extra sales. Shadows is, effectively, a sequel to Land of Promise so it makes sense.

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zedz
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Re: Land of Promise

#25 Post by zedz » Wed Sep 15, 2010 3:49 pm

I noticed that on Amazon too. The 'new release' seems to have a slightly lower list price, so I'm picking that it's a reprice / relaunch to tie in with the publicity around the sequel. Both releases are the same price at the moment, heavily discounted, so as soon as we have confirmation on any similarities / differences, it might be wise to place your order.

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