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Essentially British?: Christmas Under Fire (1941)

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

Main image of Essentially British?: Christmas Under Fire (1941)
35mm, black and white, 10 mins
Director Harry Watt
Production Company Crown Film Unit
Focus Questions
In the Classroom

England is celebrating Christmas in 1940 despite likely bombings.

Despite the Blitz it's 'business as usual' as England prepares for Christmas in this propaganda film intended for a US audience. It's a Christmas of holly and barbed wire, guns and tinsel, yet the British are determined to make it as cheerful as possible. "England is fighting for her life", asserts the American narrator, but the film seeks to evoke admiration, not pity. The filmmakers achieve this with emotions bigger than most 10 minute films could contain as we watch plucky Londoners creating a subterranean Christmas on Underground platforms as the choristers of King's College sing their hearts out. While no doubt intended to encourage US support in the war, Christmas Under Fire ultimately offers a portrait of a nation "unbeaten, unconquered and unafraid."

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 (9:38)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related BFI Mediatheque Titles

Thumbnail image of Essentially British?: From the Four Corners (1940)Essentially British?: From the Four Corners (1940)
Thumbnail image of Essentially British?: Island People (1940)Essentially British?: Island People (1940)

Related Films and TV Programmes

Thumbnail image of Christmas Under Fire (1941)Christmas Under Fire (1941)

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Thumbnail image of From the Four Corners (1941)From the Four Corners (1941)

Read more about this film

Related Lessons and Resources

Thumbnail image of KS3/4 History: Christmas Under Fire (1941)KS3/4 History: Christmas Under Fire (1941)

Probe this piece of wartime propaganda!

Thumbnail image of Watt, Harry (1906-1987)Watt, Harry (1906-1987)

Director, Writer, Producer