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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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