British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

New Resource: British Pathé on Demand

James Hoyle from British Pathé introduces the iconic company’s exciting new on demand platform, catering for academics and students of the humanities.

This year marks the exciting return of British Pathé, the company behind the famous newsreels that were a dominant feature of the cinema experience for decades. Our new project is British Pathé TV (britishpathe.tv), an online, on demand channel designed to entertain and educate in equal measure. It is a platform that will prove particularly valuable to the education sector, both with students and with the institutions that serve them.

For those with a serious interest in the humanities – either recreational or academic – there has been an infuriating lack of quality television channels to choose from. Schedules of so-called factual channels are clogged with examinations of UFOs and the adventures truck drivers have crossing frozen lakes. British Pathé TV is different. As Alastair White, the General Manager of British Pathé, explains: ‘there are many viewers, myself included, who are simply not catered for by the mainstream channels. British Pathé, with its well-known brand and respected heritage, is well placed to meet those needs. We wanted to launch a long-form programming channel that provides a real alternative for people who have specialist interests or require educational resources.’

British Pathé TV aims to appeal to media students, historians, royal watchers and cinema aficionados. It showcases an extensive range of full-length documentaries and insightful interviews, and acts as a repository of varied informative content students, teachers and lecturers can draw from. It is a subscription-based service created to complement the existing British Pathé newsreel archive which will remain free to view on its separate website and YouTube channel.

Revolution in Colour (2016). Image courtesy of British Pathé.

Revolution in Colour (2016). Image courtesy of British Pathé.

An Insight into Film and TV

Perhaps of greatest appeal, certainly to media students, will be the channel’s library of cinema history documentaries made up of hundreds of programmes for those studying filmmaking or the arts. It includes interviews with Hollywood’s best film directors, profiles of iconic and contemporary film stars, and on-set behind-the-scenes looks at some of the biggest blockbusters and acclaimed indies of recent years. This is enriched by a specially curated selection of largely forgotten classic films and well-known greats – including Howard Hawks’ His Girl Friday (1940), Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street (1945) and Stanley Donen’s Charade (1963), with further titles to be added in the coming weeks and months.

Media students will hear from those foremost in their field. The Oscar-winning Danny Boyle can take them through the ingredients necessary to produce successful and crowd-pleasing classics such as Slumdog Millionaire (2008), Kenneth Branagh explains the process behind adapting Shakespeare for the screen, ‘master of horror’ John Carpenter talks cult classics, Paul Greengrass discusses the thinking behind his gripping thrillers and Lars Von Trier talks weird. You can also hear from those in front of the camera, with the likes of Max von Sydow, Charlize Theron, Timothy Spall and Ben Kingsley discussing their craft in sit-downs with British film critic Jason Solomons.

And for a look at filmmakers and film stars in action, there is the hugely interesting Hollywood on Set series that provides a detailed, behind-the-scenes look at production on the sets of master directors. Watch Christopher Nolan bring his Dark Knight Trilogy to life, Steven Spielberg resurrect the ghost of Abraham Lincoln or Martin Scorsese lens any number of his instant classics. Additional documentaries detail the history of the Cannes Film Festival, the work of Franco Zeffirelli and the film criticism of François Truffaut, to name a few.

A Glimpse into History

History students will find a substantial library of excellent, fact-based content that can offer useful introductions to a subject.

Film has an unparalleled ability to bring audiences closer to distant stories and faraway places. For over 70 years British Pathé did just that, its newsreels and cinemagazines chronicling not only the seismic political crises of the era, but documenting the eccentric hobbies of ordinary people.

A Year to Remember is a series built from this vast archive of historical footage. Spanning 69 hour-long episodes it recalls the definitive events of the twentieth-century, year by year, as they were reported at the time. It provides not only contextualisation of a topic, but also acts as a primary source to be evaluated and studied in its own right. Furthermore, The Queen’s Diamond Decades tells the definitive history of Her Majesty the Queen, from the beginning of her reign to the Diamond Jubilee, in six detailed parts. Wallis Loved & Lost and Edward and George: Two Brothers, One Throne are documentaries covering the fascinating events of the Abdication Crisis and the personalities involved. Both are British Pathé originals made in the last few years.

And as part of our dedication to cater for niche, underappreciated audiences, the ‘railway history’ section collates a collection of railway and train documentaries, most never seen on TV, for the millions of train enthusiasts around the world and scholars of the history of industry and transport.

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Film of the Season

Every season will see British Pathé TV feature a special, high-profile film that defies categorisation. Our very first ‘film of the season’ demonstrates the level of commitment we have to producing our own high-quality content, exclusive to the platform. Revolution in Colour (2016) is an epic feature-length documentary charting the entire course of Irish independence from Home Rule to Civil War. It has been created by a critically-acclaimed team and written by the respected Trinity College Dublin historian Eunan O’Halpin. The BAFTA-nominated crew behind WW2 in HD Colour has painstakingly colourised original footage so that the events of that dramatic period can be seen for the first time, as they were by those who lived through them.

‘We’re launching with over 500 hours of programming,’ Alastair explains, ‘but there are many more hours to come. We will be constantly updating the channel to ensure that it always reflects the interests and requirements of our users.’

With its wealth of enlightening documentaries and educational filmmaking interviews, British Pathé TV will act as a useful resource for classroom teaching or university lecture theatres as well as entertainment for the individual subscriber. Visit britishpathe.tv to begin exploring.

James Hoyle

British Pathé TV’s Most Popular

The Story of British Pathé – The Birth of the News (2011)

BBC documentary telling the fascinating history of the pioneering newsreel company.

 Welcome the Queen (1954)

The newly-crowned Elizabeth II visits her Commonwealth realms aboard her yacht Britannia.

 Icons of Our Time: Muhammad Ali (2014)

Documentary about one of the greatest sports personalities who ever lived.

Charade (1963)

Classic romantic comedy starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

 1930 – A Year to Remember (1991)

Compilation of vintage British Pathé newsreels that chart the events of 1930 as they were reported at the time.

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