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August 2005, Week 5


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Leo Enticknap <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 31 Aug 2005 21:27:39 +0100
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[log in to unmask] writes:

>I am also looking for non-white characters in (not necessarily SF) 
>films who are technologically savvy or otherwise closely associated 
>with new technologies. Any help with either or both of these queries 
>would be greatly appreciated.

'Simba' (UK 1955, dir. Brian Desmond Hurst) is worth a look with this 
in mind: the opening scene shows an African native riding a bicycle 
who dismounts and cold-bloodedly murders a white man who has had an 
accident by the side of the road.  One of the main characters is an 
English-educated African doctor: some of the more reactionary 
colonists argue that his knowledge of western medical technology 
makes him a security risk.  The whole film deals with the perceived 
tension between the technology of empire (aircraft, cars, radio, 
medicine etc.) and indigenous cultures.  'Men of Two Worlds' (UK 
1946, dir. Thorold Dickinson) is also relevant here.  As far as I 
know there hasn't been any scholarly writing which sets the film in 
the context of its production, reception, its propaganda objectives 
inherent in the film's portrayal of the Mau-Mau Rebellion and the 
broader post-war independence processes.  If there is any, I'd be 
interested in any references anyone may have to share.

There's also a side-splittingly funny scene in 'Windbag the Sailor' 
(UK 1938, dir. Marcel Varnel) in which Will Hay is washed ashore on a 
desert island with little more than his radio.  He persuades the 
natives that the radio is a 'man-in-box', and within minutes the 
Chief has placed the thing on a throne, with a flower garland round 
its loudspeaker.  The natives worship the radio set like a deity as 
the football scores are read out, while Hay 'interprets' the data 
according to what are apparently his own prejudices over football 
teams ('Plymouth Argyle, 1, Newcastle United, Nil!' ... 'Ooh, 
Man-in-box VERY angry!').  Hay's ruthlessly satirical send-up of 
'Sanders of the River', 'Old Bones of the River' (1938, dir. Marcel 
Varnel) is also very interesting as far as 1930s attitudes to 
colonialism are concerned (perhaps the British Empire didn't have the 
rock-solid support of the working classes to the extent that official 
versions such as 'Sanders' and 'The Drum' imply?), but there's no 
obvious technology link.


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