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Weekend Longform Video: Night Mail (1936)

Detail of Pat Keely's poster for Basil Wright's Night Mail (1936).

Detail of Pat Keely’s poster for Basil Wright’s Night Mail (1936).

Night Mail shows both the daily operations of two of the most efficient infrastructures ever developed, mail and rail, and something that today sounds so fantastical that it could have walked out of a steam-age fantasy or magical realism novel: a rolling post office speeding down the rails all through the night, humming with postal clerks, never once stopping as it delivers and picks up mail from each station along the route.   Continue reading


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Weekend Longform Video: Song of Ceylon (1934)

Still from Basil Wright's Song of Ceylon.

Still from Basil Wright’s Song of Ceylon.

While we’re on a bit of an expressive montage editing kick, here’s one of the documentaries Karel Reisz alluded to, Basil Wright’s Song of Ceylon, made in 1934 for Ceylon Tea Propaganda Bureau.  Which is, firstly, an amazing name for an organization, and, secondly, should signal that we’re going to be seeing images of the kinder, gentler side of British colonialism here.  (Wright doesn’t seem unaware of the problem; in an interview reported by Senses of Cinema, Wright says, “[In the Caribbean] I wished I could have managed to say more about the diabolical capitalist or British Colonial policy which was always so nice and fat. I got a bit of it into Song of Ceylon the next year, but, you see, if you’re working for the Empire Marketing Board in the British Colonies, you can’t do it.”)  However, it’s also widely acclaimed as a cinematic masterpiece and one of the great documentaries, and Sri Lankan filmmaker Lester James Peries calls it the greatest documentary about Sri Lanka ever made in Sri Lanka. Continue reading