July 3: "Screening War for Children in Post-Suez Britain" Virtual Event with Kevin Flanagan

July 3: "Screening War for Children in Post-Suez Britain" Virtual Event with Kevin Flanagan

Join Professor Kevin Flanagan July 3, 2020 for "Screening War for Children in Post-Suez Britain," a live virtual event with the Birkbeck Institute of the Moving Image.

This talk explores the ways in which war gets abstracted and allegorized for children in post-1945 Britain, with an emphasis on two time periods: the immediate decades following the Suez Crisis (roughly, 1956-1980) and the 2010s. The first part of the talk will explore trends towards representing war as imaginative play and public awareness, noting how such tendencies need not be in service of jingoism and martial masculinity, but can instead offer a critical way for children to understand the horrors of war and the traumas of the recent past. Material from Flanagan's recent book War Representation in British Cinema and Television: From Suez to Thatcher, and Beyond (2019, Palgrave Macmillan) will help further the case that some film and television works from the 1950s through the 1970s provide shockingly sophisticated opportunities for young people to process the devastation of war in the 20th century. These films are indicative of a strand of war representation more generally from the period in which the genre moves to abstract, arty, non-realist, and dense forms of expression. 

The second part of the talk will survey more recent attempts at coding war narratives and genre conceits into films for children, with particular emphasis on how contemporary fantasy films tend to recast nationalist myths for new moments. Whereas films such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. II (2011) and The Kid Who Would be King (2019) have admirable elements, this talk will conclude by arguing that their institutional and commercial elements dampen the radicalism of the earlier moments. While their status as big-budget feature films makes them very different from small, publicly funded works, their common conceits in terms of premise and coded relationship to historical wars throws the assumptions of the two periods into sharp contrast.

Films to be discussed include: 

  • A Short Vision (1956, Peter and Joan Foldes) - An experimental short film about nuclear destruction originally sponsored by the BFI Experimental Film Fund. https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=BkhNED3-mnI


  • The Finishing Line (1977, John Krish) - Made for British Transport Films, this is an educational "scare" film about the dangers of playing on railway lines which uses horror and war film tropes, and even Holocaust imagery, to graphically illustrate the consequences of careless play. (Following link works in the UK only):  http://www.screenonline.org. uk/media/stream.jsp?id=1180465


  • Apaches (1977, John Mackenzie) - A Central Office of Information film made to scare children away from playing around dangerous farm equipment. This notorious short feature uses genre elements from horror, war, and Western films (as well as art-cinematic touches!) to illustrate the consequences of being consumed by fantasies of play. (The following link works in the UK only): http://www.screenonline.org. uk/media/stream.jsp?id=1408034


  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. II (2011, David Yates). The final film in the Harry Potter franchise, with a multi-tiered final battle modeled after World War II narratives and technologies. Widely available via HBO Max and other streaming services.


  • The Kid Who Would be King (2019, Joe Cornish). A young boy and his friends become a conduit for the legacy and spirit of King Arthur, and stand up to evil spirits after being knighted and militarized. Widely available on paid streaming services.


The talk concludes with a conversation hosted and moderated by Neepa Majumdar (Associate Professor of English and Film and Media  Studies, University of Pittsburgh). 

This event is free and is open to all. Register here: http://www.bbk.ac.uk/events/remote_event_view?id=13849

Please note that all times are Greenwich Mean Time, meaning that anyone who books on the East Coast will be 4 hours earlier than the listed time.