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International Exchange, The (1905)

British Film Institute

Main image of International Exchange, The  (1905)
35mm, 297 feet, black & white, silent
DirectorLewin Fitzhamon
Production CompanyHepworth Manufacturing Company

Cast: Lewin Fitzhamon (Dutchman)

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A political pantomime demonstrating the disadvantages of Free Trade as opposed to Protectionism.

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Described in the Hepworth catalogue as a 'political cartoon' this is one of a number of films on the topic of tariff reform and free trade. The film can be compared with another Hepworth film, The Aliens' Invasion (1905); both films were described as, "...the first in a series of Political Pictures, intended to present in graphic form the political questions of the hour which are of the highest national importance". The 'invasion' referred to the influx of Jewish immigrants to the east end of London and the passing of The Aliens Act in 1905. Curiously, Joseph Chamberlain, the campaigner for tariff reform, had made a speech in Limehouse about tariff reform and the dangers of foreign immigration.

In many ways, Hepwoth's film is similar to G.A. Smith's film John Bull's Hearth (1903) using as it does the John Bull figure to represent Britain's commercial impotence against the other industrial nations. The allusion to the empire, in the form of India and Canada, also reflects Smith's film. However, the film seems more robust in its support for tariffs, with the doors being slammed in the face of the foreign traders. The portrayal of free trade as a witch or old crone and of fair trade as a young woman protecting the working man and his daughter further reinforces the need for reform. Indeed, John Bull confirms the need for reform by placing his own ballot in the box for fair trade.

The film was made in January 1905. The presence of a ballot box may suggest a looming election, but there was no general election until January 1906. Certainly the Conservative government of the time was under immense pressure. It was increasingly unpopular and had lost a number of by-elections, and the issue of tariff reform was adding to the pressure. It was only a matter of time before an election was called: perhaps Hepworth anticipated the election too soon. In any case whenever the election was held, Hepworth had a film ready for hiring.

Simon Baker

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Video Clips
Complete film (4:56)
John Bull's Hearth (1903)
Two Lancashire Cotton Workers Discuss Safeguarding (1935)
Politics and Film 1903-1935