The Royal Geographical Society film archive at Kendal
This session profiles some of the hidden gems from the Royal Geographical Society’s film archive.
This session profiles some of the hidden gems from the Royal Geographical Society’s film archive, recently digitized in conjunction with the British Film Institute as part of their Unlocking Film Heritage programme. Available to watch for free on the BFI Player, they range from professionally shot expeditionary films to government information films and amateur footage. Some films, like John Noel’s Climbing Mount Everest(1922) are well known but most films in the collection have received little critical attention.
This session brings together recent research on film as a source for both the history of British imperial rule in India and the history of mountaineering and exploration in the Himalayas, containing unique footage of flying to India on imperial Airways and the British Everest Expedition of 1933. It culminates with a full screening of the documentary Wings Over Everest, produced in 1934 and telling the story of the 1933 overflight of Everest by the Houston Mount Everest Flight expedition.
Imperial Eyes: The films of Sir C. P. Skrine- Jonathan Westaway, University of Central Lancashire
A career diplomat in the External Affairs department of the Government of India, Skrine led an adventurous life on the borders of empire in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, with diplomatic postings in Chinese Central Asia, India and Iran. As British Consul-General in Kashgar, Xinjiang (1922-24) Skrine became a talented mountain photographer, his telephoto panoramas of the Tien Shan complimenting his survey work for the Survey of India. Trained in mapping and surveillance techniques, Skrine was an early devotee of 16mm film. His films provide an unprecedented window on the inner workings of the British imperial security state. Flying to India by ImperialAirwaysprovides unique footage of flying to India by flying-boat in 1934 in the company of the Viceroy of India, Lord Willingdon. His short film entitled Quetta-Damghanrecords a journey made in Eastern Iran in early 1942 to take up a posting a British consul in Mashad. Part of the Anglo-Soviet occupying forces, Skrine’s film contains footage of his rendezvous with the Red Army, as well as covert surveillance shot inside Soviet Turkmenistan.
Everest 1933: Climbing Film and Aerial Travelogue– Jan Faull, Royal Geographical Society
1933 was a unique year in the history of expeditions to Everest. Alongside the attempt to climb Everest, supported by the Mount Everest Committee, and led by Hugh Ruttledge, an aerial expedition, dubbed the Houston-Mount Everest Flight, after its principal sponsor, was organised to capture on film the features of the mountain by means of a flight over the summit. This presentation examines the little known archival film footage taken on both the land and aerial expeditions and explores the issues of sponsorship and media control and the subsequent commercial and educational uses of the films in the 1930s.
Wings Over Everest in 1933
Wings over Everest is a forty-two-minute British documentary film from 1934 directed by Geoffrey Barkas and Ivor Montagu. It won an Academy Award in 1936. It documents the 1933 Houston Mount Everest Flight Expedition’s successful attempt to fly over the summit of Everest. The film used a mixture of real footage of Everest from the record-breaking flight combined with theatrically produced scenes, using the actual members of the expedition rather than actors.
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