Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Homes for the People (1945)

Courtesy of Mirror Group

Main image of Homes for the People (1945)
35mm, 22 minutes, black & white
DirectorKay Mander
Production CompanyBasic Films
ProducerEdgar Anstey
PhotographyPatrick Gay
MusicFrancis Chagrin

The living conditions of five working-class women and their families - on a London estate, in a London suburb, a Welsh mining village, a provincial town and a rural village - highlight the need for better housing in post-war Britain.

Show full synopsis

Homes for the People was the first commission for Kay Mander and her husband's new production company, Basic Films. Made for the 1945 Labour Party election campaign, the film was sponsored by the leftwing newspaper the Daily Herald. Aware of the importance of the women's vote after their contribution to the war effort, the Labour Party wanted to present its postwar reconstruction policies from a women's perspective.

The film shows how ordinary women lived during the 1940s; the interviewees are not glamourised, nor are their responses scripted. Mander sat beneath the camera and prompted them with questions, allowing the women to talk as they go about their domestic work rather than speaking directly to camera. This adds a feeling of intimacy to the film, as when one woman berates the designer of her kitchen, adding that he must have been a man to make such a mess of things.

Like Ruby Grierson, whose talent for putting women at ease was honed on the groundbreaking Housing Problems (d. Edgar Anstey/Arthur Elton, 1935), Mander built an empathy with her subjects that resulted in an extraordinarily honest portrayal of 'ordinary' woman. However, Mander's film is the more progressive and radical treatment of the problems of housing. Instead of focusing on city slums, Mander covers a broader spectrum, declaring that the living conditions of the majority of the population, both rural and urban, are sub-standard and that women should not accept this.

Mander clearly advocates a forthright socialist solution to the postwar housing situation, in the form of government-subsidised housing, social consultation and nationalisation of the land. But Homes for the People is more than just a remarkable social document; it also illustrates an advance in the documentary technique, giving its subjects a more openly direct voice than had previously been seen in British non-fiction film.

Sarah Easen

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Mrs Pendlebury, London (2:18)
2. Mrs Wilson, Derby (1:31)
3. Mrs Marriott, Northamptonshire (2:16)
4. Fight for a better future (4:34)
Complete film (21:47)
Building Homes (1950)
Mander, Kay (1915-)
Women Non-Fiction Filmmakers 1930-1960