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Essentially British?: Island People (1940)

Material to accompany the BFI Mediatheque 'Essentially British' DVD.

Main image of Essentially British?: Island People (1940)
35mm, black and white, 10 mins
DirectorsPaul Rotha and Philip Leacock
Production CompanyRealist Film Unit
SponsorBritish Council
Focus Questions
In the Classroom

A government propaganda film aimed at a British audience in which the 'British character' takes centre stage.

Island People begins with a tour of 1940s 'working Britain' - a bird's-eye view of its landscapes and industries. We move from a rural Britain of wheat fields and dairy farms, to an industrial Britain of bustling towns and cities, coalfields and shipyards. But it is the British people, or rather their character, that the film is most interested in. We are introduced to a cross section of British men and women who serve to represent the shared values of the population at large; values that transcend both geography and class. Released early in World War II, Island People is perhaps unusual in that it makes no reference to the conflict. Yet, its central message of unity and emphasis on the strength of the British character was shared by other wartime propaganda.

Follow the link to In The Classroom at the top of this page for teaching suggestions linked to History and Citizenship. In Focus Questions you'll find suggestions for questions to focus students' attention while watching the film. These will also help to develop their understanding of film language.

Video Clips
Complete film (9:54)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related BFI Mediatheque Titles

Thumbnail image of Essentially British?: Christmas Under Fire (1941)Essentially British?: Christmas Under Fire (1941)
Thumbnail image of Essentially British?: Cricket (1951)Essentially British?: Cricket (1951)
Thumbnail image of Essentially British?: Think of England (1999)Essentially British?: Think of England (1999)

Related Films and TV Programmes

Related Lessons and Resources

Thumbnail image of KS3/4 Citizenship: Island People (1940)KS3/4 Citizenship: Island People (1940)

What might a film about the 'British character' look like today?

Thumbnail image of Leacock, Philip (1917-1990)Leacock, Philip (1917-1990)

Director, Producer

Thumbnail image of Rotha, Paul (1907-1984)Rotha, Paul (1907-1984)

Director, Editor, Producer