sinecine ISSN: 1309-5838

Explore, Display, and Civilize: Colonialism in Documentary Film


The period of total commitment to colonialism coincides with the birth of cinema, and each contributed to the other. This study scrutinizes the use of film for “colonial edu- cation,” from early cinema until the Second World War. This form of education, while aiming to popularize the idea of colonialism in the homeland by stimulating interest in the colonies, aimed at the same time to present the homeland to the native population in the colonies, displaying its power, life style, and capacity to civilize. The study includes exam- ples of newsreels that convey information about colonial wars, travelogues shot during expeditions organized by automotive companies, and documentaries intended to reveal the wonders of the colonies. Such films were used to communicate the concept of homo imperialis in the homeland and to win the hearts of natives in the colonies.

Keywords: Colonialisms, empire, didactic cinema, colonial education, “civilizing”, travel to the colonies.