Electric Edwardians

At the beginning of the 20th century, filmmakers Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon were contracted to make what were essentially home movies of working-class men, women, and children in various British cities that would be shown in town halls, fairs, and cinematographs. (Cleverly plugged with ”see-yourself-on-film” ads, the shows had a built-in audience.) Mundane events make up Electric Edwardians such as schoolyard exercises, a temperance parade, crowds of workers leaving a factory, or a trolley ride down a main street were shot with a straightforward artlessness that invites us to take in every inch of the frame as if peeking through a time machine. Of course, the fashions are fascinating (everyone wore a dizzying array of hats and caps), but it’s the energy of the subjects transfixed by the camera or, in the case of the boys, mugging and laughing, that gives these clips an enduring poignance. EXTRAS Commentary, more clips, and a terrific doc about the British Film Institute’s restoration of the 800 Mitchell/Kenyon negatives (of which this DVD is just a sample) found in a basement in the early 90s.

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