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MC: Roel Vande Winkel: Researching Newsreels

When Apr 23, 2015
from 10:00 to 02:00
Where Phil I, GCSC, R. 001
Contact Name
Contact Phone +49 641 / 99-30 046
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The newsreel, literally a film reel of newsworthy items, can be traced back to the invention of cinema. Pathé Journal (1908) defined the main characteristics of the newsreel. A number of short (inter)national topics of general interest, ranging from ‘hard’ news to a variety of entertaining topicalities, only separated from each other by short titles, were crammed into one reel and distributed in a serial (usually weekly or bi-weekly) fashion. The Pathé newsreel only briefly enjoyed its pioneer position as competitors copied the concept and launched rival newsreels in the early 1910s. In the interwar years (1918-1939), the newsreel field was marked by a definite American takeover of international dominance. The late 1920s and 1930s were also marked by increasing political interest in newsreels. In the Second World War, all warring nations paid great attention to the (presumed) effect of newsreels and documentaries on public opinion.

Newsreels, their production and distribution being time-consuming, have always been much slower than other communication media and therefore never the first to report on any given event. Unlike radio and print press however, they were able to provide moving images, which for several decades granted their main right of existence. It was only logic that, once this unique selling position was taken away by television news, cinema newsreels would disappear. Although television news would indeed make newsreels obsolete, it took nearly forty decades (late 1970s, early 1980s) before the medium had entirely vanished.

Although an inestimable great amount of newsreel footage has gone lost, newsreels have nevertheless left behind an important heritage, preserved in archives all over the world and daily used in historical programs and other audiovisual media documenting aspects of 20th century history.

This master class discusses my research on Flemish-nationalist newsreels in Belgium (1929-1942) and on Ufa’s Auslandstonwoche or Auslandswochenschau in Belgium and other countries (1939-1945). These examples are used to illustrate scholarly problems regarding the study of newsreel production, distribution and reception.


Suggested Readings:

Vande Winkel, R. (2006). Newsreel Series: World Overview.

Biltereyst, D., Bowles, B., Vande Winkel, R. (2012). 'A newsreel of our own': the culture and commerce of local filmed news introduction. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television,32(3), 355-360.

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