Heather Norris Nicholson
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Socially engaged filmmaking
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Chapter 8 focuses on amateur films that addressed current social issues. Drawing on varied examples discussion explores the periodic trenchant criticisms of amateurs’ neglect of socially relevant topic concerns found within the specialist press and highlights aspects of filmmaking that overtly respond to contemporary issues. While much amateur footage discloses details of time and place, attention focuses here first on films about public health, welfare and housing before and after the start of the National Health Service, as well as the effects of post war urban redevelopment. Shot in hospitals, training centres and in the midst of urban slum clearance, such material varies stylistically from early actuality, topicals and documentaries to the visual reportage of Standard and Super 8mm users, and also the experimentation of post-war cinema, and reflects the changing involvement and interests of younger filmmakers. Issues of morality, violence, pornography, substance abuse and discrimination feature among later amateur productions as do issues of conflict and international insecurity, poverty, and growing up. Choice of topic and its handling denote shifting attitudes too, as seen in films concerning disability and homelessness. While socially engaged film-making represents a relatively small proportion of overall amateur activity, it is too important to ignore.

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Amateur film

Meaning and practice, 1927–77


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