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Britain Can Make It (1946)


Main image of Britain Can Make It (1946)
35mm, black and white, 10 mins
DirectorFrancis Gysin
Production CompanyFilms of Fact
SponsorMOI for Ministry of Supply and Board of Trade
ProducersDuncan Ross
 Paul Rotha

The manufacture of concrete floating docks, a time and motion study in a factory, and a look at the Royal Academy's War Artists' exhibition

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The official newsreel Britain Can Make It was shown under the Ministry of Information's non-theatrical film distribution scheme. It was the successor to Paul Rotha's wartime newsreel, Worker and Warfront, a part of every MOI programme. It was similarly weighted towards scientific and technical subjects. Rotha's unit combined their own stories with items from other companies, and Duncan Ross assistant-produced.

The title Britain Can Make It may have been a pun on Harry Watt's and Humphrey Jennings' Britain Can Take It (1940). Each of the three stories in this first issue from January 1946 carries the spirit of 'making it' in a slightly different way: admiralty floating docks were a wartime innovation, related to the 'Mulberry' floating harbour developed for the Normandy landings. This is Britain 'making it' in the sense that the nation - led by inventive experts - is shown as coping with the problems of peace.

The motion study story is typical of the immediate post-war period. This technique, after minor use in the 1930s, had been taken up with a vengeance during the war as a means to maximise production. Championed by Stafford Cripps at the Board of Trade, and defiantly overcoming commonsense difficulties, it can be seen as exemplary of the promises in the 1945 manifesto to strengthen links between research and industry.

The third story, on the War Artists' exhibition, in a continuation of the good citizenship themes of earlier documentaries, represents the British people to themselves as reflective about the experience of war.

Tim Boon

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Land of Promise: The British Documentary Movement 1930-1950'.

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Video Clips
1. Concrete floating docks (2:31)
2. Motion Study (4:26)
3. War artists' exhibition (2:52)
Complete film (10:23)