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Children of the Ruins (1948)


Main image of Children of the Ruins (1948)
35mm, black and white, 11 mins
DirectorJill Craigie
Production CompanyCrown Film Unit
SponsorsCentral Office of Information, Foreign Office

Promotional film for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

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With the ashes of WWII still smouldering, the governments of the United Kingdom and France convened a conference in London in November 1945 with the aim of setting up a specialised United Nations agency dedicated to education and culture. Delegates from 44 countries attended the first UNESCO conference with the shared aim of promoting peace "founded on the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind".

Made for theatrical distribution, Children of the Ruins mostly comprises harrowing footage showing the deplorable conditions of starving and abandoned children in war-devastated areas. Such a directly emotional approach likens the film in style to charity appeal films, though in this case the succession of disturbing images conveys the urgency of the social problems facing post-WWII governments.

Possibly aware that post-war audiences might be somewhat immune to images of suffering and also sceptical of political initiatives to resolve problems on a global scale, director Jill Craigie employs a dual-commentary technique whereby a secondary female voice-over questions the main male commentator by interjecting comments like "Not another committee! And what's it all going to cost?". By assuming the audience's point-of-view in this manner, she affords the main narrator the opportunity to quickly quell any scepticism and convince us that UNESCO is a sustainable solution - that something truly can be done if governments of the world unite "to not just build classrooms in devastated areas but build peace in the minds of men".

In the spirit of the UNESCO Constitution, throughout her career Jill Craigie proved a good educationalist, always conscious of social needs.

Katy McGahan

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Video Clips
1. Education (3:36)
2. 'Give us more food!' (1:48)
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Craigie, Jill (1911-1999)
Central Office of Information (1946-2012)
Crown Film Unit