British Pathé was once a dominant feature of the British cinema experience. Before the advent of television, millions around the globe came to movie theatres for their weekly dose of filmed news. The birth of this phenomenon took place when renowned French filmmaker Charles Pathé came to London in 1910 to introduce an innovative medium to British audiences – the cinema newsreel.
Over the course of a century, British Pathé reported on everything from armed conflicts and seismic political crises to the curious hobbies and eccentric lives of ordinary British people. In so doing, the organisation set the benchmark for cinematic journalism, blending information and entertainment with unparalleled success and influencing whole generations of Britons.
British Pathé is considered to be the most comprehensive newsreel archive in the world and is a treasure trove of 85,000 films unrivalled in their historical and cultural significance. Spanning the years from 1896 to 1976, the collection includes footage from around the globe of major events, famous people, fashion trends, travel, science and culture. Over the last 40 years, this material has been used extensively by broadcasters, production companies, corporations, publishers, teachers and museums, among many others. Now most of the material is available publicly via the British Pathé website for viewing and educational purposes.
Almost 300 film clips can be found for Indochina, for example. Although most of the footage is related to the war in Indochina, there are also clips documenting the lives of ordinary people, the cultural traditions of various ethnic groups and outstanding Southeast Asian landscapes.
A keyword search for “Burma” reveals over 200 film clips. One particularly interesting short film documents the Water Festival as is was celebrated in Yangon in 1946. Another very rare film shows footage of East African soldiers who fought in Burma in the 1940s.
Just over one hundred clips are related to Thailand/Siam, mainly covering state visits, political events and some cultural topics. A very short film gives insight into the life of young Prince Ananda at his school in Lausanne. Fun to watch is a documentation of Prince Birabongse winning the Ulster T.T. race in Northern Ireland.
Hundreds more films deal with events in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Brunei, including the coronation of the Sultan of Johor in 1960.