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Show and Tell: Snow (1963)
Introduction English History Performing Arts Art & Design  
image from Snow (1963)
AuthorPoppy Simpson
Topicreliability in source analysis
Curriculum linksKS4 History

Snow affords History teachers the opportunity to highlight the complexity in assessing reliability in source analysis as well as underlining that there are degrees of 'unreliability' when looking at sources.

Pupils on the History GCSE course will have most likely been exposed to propaganda - be it in literature, photographs or even film. Snow does not seem to fit into the propaganda category very easily but the film was funded by an industrial film unit, British Transport Films (BTF), which existed to promote railways as the best means of travel across the UK. In fact, many of the films produced by BTF chose to focus on towns, villages and resorts across the UK, implying that railways were the best way of getting to the destinations represented on screen. Snow takes a more idiosyncratic, poetic approach

After watching the film through, ask students to discuss what they think the central message of the film is. They should use evidence from the film (visual images, sound, editing decisions etc) to support their ideas. Students are unlikely to associate Snow with other propaganda they have studied. After explaining the film was produced by BTF, record students responses which could be prompted by simple questions: Why do you think BTF would sponsor a film like Snow? Who do you think Snow was aimed at (audience)? Why does the filmmaker not use a voiceover or include any of the characters in dialogue? What does Snow suggest about the artistic aspirations of the British Transport Films unit? What does the style and length of the film imply about film audiences in the 1960s?

A useful final activity would be to compare Snow with A Desperate Case, another BTF film made for the public but with a very different purpose. Ask students to write a paragraph comparing and contrasting the films, explaining how the motive behind each film impacts on its style and scope.

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