BFI launches Commonwealth Tales

Free online film collection includes oldest surviving cricket film from 1897

by Amber Wilkinson

To mark the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) taking place in London 16-20th April, the BFI has launched Commonwealth Tales, a free online collection of films drawn from material held at the BFI National Archive.

The selection offers a snapshot of the lives and stories of people in member states, including the UK, across the 20th Century, both before and after the foundation of the Commonwealth in 1949.

Films have been donated to the BFI National Archive from a variety of sources comprising travelogues, newsreels, government sponsored films, documentaries, TV News coverage and a wealth of home movies and amateur films, many of which have never publicly been seen before. Highlights include the earliest film in the collection, Prince Ranjitsinhji Practising Batting at the Nets (1897) - the oldest surviving cricketing film features the Indian Prince preparing for the first test between England and Australia in Sydney.

Carnival Fantastique (1960), Trinidadian actor/singer turned filmmaker Edric Connor’s documentary, captures Trinidad’s famous street carnival in all its glory, while Ghana - New Nation (1957) offers a snapshot of postcolonial Ghana in its year of independence, including an interview with Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first Prime Minister. Tins For India (1941) - directed by Bimal Roy - documents the life of kerosene cans.

The Commonwealth Tales can be viewed online via the BFI Player and on the BFI's YouTube channel. There is also a curated selection available to view at the BFI Mediatheque at BFI Southbank.

Full online collection.

Collection highlights on YouTube.

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