Non-fiction

Britain is famous for great factual films, and the BFI National Archive has always actively collected them. Today we preserve one of the biggest non-fiction film collections in the world, running to 120,000 titles.

The collection includes thousands of films commissioned by government departments (we preserve these in collaboration with the National Archives) and newsreel, political, sponsored educational and industrial films, advertising, scientific and amateur filmmaking. Each one provides a different perspective on the relationship between the moving image and British society: works of art and a window on the world.

New audiences for non-fiction

One of our most important roles is to share and celebrate the collection, through major projects. As part of our work on the now-famous Peter Worden Collection of Mitchell and Kenyon Films, we worked closely with the BBC on a popular series.

The acclaimed DVD release Land of Promise was the centre of a project celebrating Britain’s documentary film movement. A later project, Shadows of Progress, continued the story, championing documentary films of post-war Britain.

Our project This Working Life brought over a century of films about our industrial heritage of coal mining and shipbuilding to a wide audience.

Available to buy

  • This Working Life: Steel

    This Working Life: Steel

    Rare documentaries, animations and short films focusing on the nation’s steel industry.

  • Land of Promise

    Land of Promise

    This extensive collection is a major retrospective of the British documentary film movement during its period of greatest influence. 

  • Shadows of Progress

    Shadows of Progress

    Landmark collection telling the previously untold story of British documentary filmmaking through the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

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