British Pathé

British Pathé claims to be ‘The world’s finest news and entertainment video film archive. Since the invention of the moving image in the 1890’s, British Pathé began recording every aspect of global culture and news, for the cinema. With their unique combination of information and entertainment, British Pathé’s documentaries, newsreels, serials and films changed the way the world saw itself forever.’ They say that they made ‘All 85,000 newsreels [are now] searchable and view-able on YouTube. [Which] equates to 3,500 hours of filmed history.’

Of those 85.000 newsreels a couple of dozen seem to be relevant for HIPUganda. They mostly show a positivist if not propagandist view of Uganda around and on independence. Is that ‘the way the world saw itself?’ Or is it the way the people behind British Pathé would like its (western) audience to believe the world saw itself.

Stills from British Pathé, Modern Uganda, 1961

Texts like ‘Africa is changing fast, but some parts of it are trying to keep the magic with the modernity, the lions with the luxury, the crocodiles with the kilowatts and if anywhere is achieving that aim, it’s Uganda’ from a clip that feels like an advertorial dating back to 1961 do not seem to be made for the world but for the British audience. They could to some extent identify with Speke and the tourists who were ‘in his footsteps’ discovering the second biggest sweet water lake in the world. It presents a Uganda that is developing but still ‘wild wonderful and unspoilt’.

One of the things the clip, and specially it’s counterpart of outtakes shows, is how music and voice overs can be used to reinforce the message a photographic image gives. The neutral image becomes propaganda.
Another thing that came to my mind looking at the footage was all the images that can no longer be made. Sometimes the reason for this is the passage of time, the continued development of modernity, luxury and kilowatts. Sometimes it is just no longer allowed to go places to take a photograph. Because of reasons related to global terrorism threats for instance. As seems to be the case at the bottom of the Owen Falls Dam. However iconic the image may be, Or may have been. To make it you’ll have to pass, or bribe security. I tried to do the former, left it there and will just continue to look at an image that was obviously considered to be photogenic from the moment the Dam made it available.

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