Description: The late-1950s were years of transition in Britain. The Suez crisis of 1956-7 signified imperial decline. Immigrants were being seen on every street corner. The consumer society was eroding old allegiances. At the Royal Court Theatre, new drama rehearsed regional accents and resentments far from Mayfair drawing rooms. American rock ’n’ roll, skiffle bands and teddy boys signalled the arrival of the ‘teenager’. Responding to a stultified mainstream cinema of Kenneth More vehicles and stiff upper lips, a new wave was in the air.
Free Cinema sought to capture the experiences of ordinary Britons away from studio æsthetics and the Griersonian public information ethos. “Implicit in this attitude is a belief in freedom, in the importance of people and in the significance of the everyday” ran the original manifesto.
Specifically, Free Cinema referred to six programmes of short documentaries playing at London’s National Film Theatre between March 1956 and March 1959. Made for no money, shot on everyday locations before the advent of synchronized sound and steeped in the cultures of everyday life, these little films remain some of the freshest in British cinema. “With a 16 millimetre camera, and minimal resources, and no payment for your technicians, you cannot achieve very much in commercial terms” ran the blurb for the June 1957 programme. “But you can use your eyes and ears. You can give indications. You can make poetry.”
This documentary tells the story of the movement tolf by the film makers.