WEEK 6: West Indies Calling

West Indies Calling 13mins 55secs

West Indies Calling (1944), directed by Paul Rotha, can safely be categorized as a propaganda film due to its underlying agenda. The film, set in Great Britain, exhibits the lives of Caribbean natives working in the country, and basically surrounded the idea that life is good for West Indians in Great Britain and as a result people should move there to work. West Indians of all races are seen interacting and working with British workers in harmony, in a rather staged manner. It was quite visible that the scenes were staged, forced and had specific motives. That motive in particular, was to get West Indians to fight in the war againt Germany, which at the time was ruled by Hitler. This film is one of the early examples of films made about Caribbean people, by non-Caribbean people, and historically speaking film wise, often times in such situations, Caribbean people are either misrepresented or are being used for ulterior motives. In order to push this almost obvious agenda, Potha utilized several documentary techniques, including the use of popular talking heads, and catchy calypso/kaiso music. In terms of talking heads, popular cricketer Learie Constantine was one of the first people to speak on behalf of the movement the documentary focused on. Also vouching for the initiative was Ulric Cross, the most decorated Royal Airforce Navigator from the Caribbean, and also Jamaican activist and feminist Una Marson. Having these three successful Caribbean people encourage their own people to move to Britain has to be a brilliant and effective plan. Passive audiences will bypass the true intensions of the reason for their uprooting, and think about how glamourous their life will be in a first world country, and think about how it may even resemble the lives of these very talking heads. It’s just as when celebrities are used to advertise a brand or speak on behalf of a politician, their fans are so bought by the idea of the celebrity supporting something and they follow suit. Funny enough, Learie Constantine experienced racism in the same Britian he’s promoting and still had no problem encouraging people to move there. Another technique utilized by Potha was the use of catchy Calypso/Kaiso music. This music made the documentary more interesting and pleasing to watch, even entertaining. It’s the music Caribbean people are familiar with and the music they enjoyed most at that time and as a result it played a major role in hypnotising them in a sense and subconsciously engaging them in the whole idea of moving to Great Britain.  Directing also played a major role in persuading audiences in this documentary. The way in which each activity is framed and the reactions Potha was able to get from each actor, exuded jubilance and joy. Everyone captured seemed genuinely happy to be in Britian and about the type of jobs they were doing. All in all, it was interesting to see such blatant propaganda hidden under so many different documentary techniques, and it’s worrying to think about how many other documentaries that exist that probably use the same tactics in an even more covert manner.



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