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Socialism on Film: “See the other side of the world”

March 9, 2017

Rare film footage digitised from the British Film Institute National Archive

Marlborough, UK. View the world through a communist lens – rare film footage from the twentieth century forms a new unrivalled collection enabling comparative global research: Socialism on Film: The Cold War and International Propaganda.

Unique in nature and scope, this Adam Matthew collection provides access to previously unseen footage captured by film makers from the USSR, Vietnam, Cuba, China, East Germany, Eastern Europe and more. Made up of documentary films, features and newsreels, the footage gives a rare glimpse into all aspects of socialist life.

“A very important opportunity for teachers of propaganda and the twentieth century, it is a unique visual record”
Jo Fox, Professor of History, Durham University

Providing a counter-view to Western perceptions of communist states and their actions, the films illuminate how socialist countries saw themselves and the world around them during major political and social events of the twentieth century.

Students and scholars can now watch first-hand the Soviet fears on President Reagan’s ‘Star Wars’ defence initiative; witness interviews with imprisoned American pilots shot down and captured over Vietnam in Pilots in Pyjamas, see Vanessa Redgrave’s emotional response to nuclear testing in The Nuclear Plague, and access footage previously banned from general release in Britain.

In partnership with the BFI National Archive, the films have been digitised from original film reels acquired by British communist, Stanley Forman, from his personal contacts within the socialist world. This is the largest collection of its kind to survive in Western Europe. Previously shown in private screenings by political groups and other interested parties, the footage is now fully transcribed and searchable through a single interface.

“We’re pleased to bring new research opportunities through this important collection of rare film footage from the twentieth century, now digitised and made available to new audiences in partnership with Adam Matthew Digital.”
Gabriele Popp, Head of Collections and Information, BFI National Archive

Released over three modules, Socialism on Film, Module I: Wars and Revolutions is available now – watch the trailer here. For a free 30-day trial or more information, contact


Editor’s Notes

Adam Matthew, an imprint of SAGE Publishing, is an award-winning publisher of digital primary source collections for the humanities and social sciences. Sourced from leading libraries and archives around the world, their unique research and teaching collections cover a wide range of subject areas from medieval family life to twentieth century history, literature and culture.      @AdamMatthewGrp

Socialism on Film: The Cold War and International Propaganda will be published in three modules:

  • Module I: Wars & Revolutions (available now)
  • Module II: Newsreels & Magazines
  • Module III: Culture & Society 

Films are fully transcribed and available to stream through a specially-developed video player.

Further Collection Highlights

Access is restricted to authenticated institutions. Please contact us for temporary access.

  1. Lenin is a figure who is central to the story of communism and the Russian Revolution and his life is examined in documentaries such as Lenin is Always with Us.

  1. The Russian experience of the Second World War is central to understanding of Soviet history and their view of the conflict is revealed in titles such as Feat of Moscow or fictions like On the Way to Berlin.

  1. The crimes of the Second World War are told from the Czech point of view in the feature Ghetto Terezin.

  1. Stories from the Spanish Civil War: Spanish Earth is narrated by Ernest Hemingway and discusses the Republican struggle and Save Spanish Children discusses the plight of refugees from the war.

  1. Island Ablaze brings to life the communist version of the Cuban Revolution.

  1. Daughters of China is a drama that looks at China’s fight against Japan.

About the BFI

The BFI is the lead body for film in the UK with the ambition to create a flourishing film environment in which innovation, opportunity and creativity can thrive by:

  • Connecting audiences to the widest choice of British and World cinema
  • Preserving and restoring the most significant film collection in the world for today and future generations
  • Championing emerging and world class film makers in the UK - investing in creative, distinctive and entertaining work
  • Promoting British film and talent to the world 
  • Growing the next generation of film makers and audiences

The BFI is a Government arm’s-length body and distributor of Lottery funds for film. The BFI serves a public role which covers the cultural, creative and economic aspects of film in the UK. It delivers this role:

  • As the UK-wide organisation for film, a charity core funded by Government
  • By providing Lottery and Government funds for film across the UK
  • By working with partners to advance the position of film in the UK.

Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter.

The BFI Board of Governors is chaired by Josh Berger CBE.

About the BFI National Archive

The BFI National Archive was founded in 1935 and has grown to become the one of the largest and most important collections of film and television in the world with over 180,000 films and 750,000 television programmes. For over 80 years the BFI has been an international leader in film preservation and guardian of Britain’s unparalleled film and TV heritage. The BFI is an innovator in presenting films to audiences in new and dynamic ways, from cinemas to film festivals, outdoor events to online video-on-demand. At the heart of all its activities is the BFI’s central aim to ensure that everyone in the UK has access to the widest possible range of film and their own film heritage.

That heritage includes all-time great British directors Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean and Powell and Pressburger; and the rich vein of documentary filmmaking, in which Britain led the world, including the lyrical work of Humphrey Jennings. The archive also boasts a significant Special Collections of filmmakers’ papers as well as extensive stills, posters and production and costume designs along with original scripts, press books and related ephemera.

Expert teams undertake the time-consuming and complex task of restoring films at the BFI John Paul Getty Jr Conservation Centre in Hertfordshire. The BFI’s most precious film materials are kept in optimum conditions in the world-leading Master Film Store in Warwickshire.

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