Basil Wright’s Documentaries on Greece

Basil Wright
Basil Wright

Basil Wright’s career is conventionally identified with the 1930s productions of the British Documentary Movement. New historiographical enquiries, however, have started to question not only this assumption but also to point towards the need for a broader revision of both the periodization of the Documentary Movement and its geographical scope. For example, Zoë Druick’s recent discussion of World without End (Basil Wright and Paul Rotha, 1953) has revealed the little-known relationship between UNESCO and key figures of the Documentary Movement after World War II, revising in effect its legacy. This paper looks at another neglected moment of the Documentary Movement’s postwar internationalism: two documentary films about Greece that Basil Wright shot on location and with new collaborators: Greece: the Immortal Land (1958); and Greek Sculpture: 3000 BC to 300 BC (1959). The paper draws on Transnational History and histoire croisée (entangled history) methodologies to analyze the historical conjuncture of the cosmopolitanism advocated in these two films at a moment when Greek culture (ancient and modern) was becoming a symbol of transnational humanism, as had been manifested with the UNESCO’s adoption of a minimalist rendering of the Parthenon as its visual logo.

Advertisements