Make More Noise! Suffragettes in Silent Film

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Dir. Various

UK 1899-1917 | black & white | c.80 mins | Comedy | Documentary

Complementing the release of Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette, this selection of silent films from the BFI National Archive shows how suffragettes were portrayed on the cinema screen while their battles were still being waged on the streets outside. 

The suffragettes’ tactic  was to stand up at every public event and cry 'votes for women!' As leader Emmeline Pankhurst said in her legendary speech of November 1913: ‘You have to make more noise than anybody else, you have to make yourself more obtrusive than anybody else, you have to fill all the papers more than anybody else. In fact you have to be there all the time and see that they do not snow you under.’ And that meant film too: cinema was born just as the campaign was gathering momentum - and the suffragettes made it their business to get in front of the cameras! 

This fascinating compilation of 21 short films - with a specially commissioned score by Lillian Henley - combines newsreels and documentaries with early comedies.  Some offer grotesque parodies of female militants (often played by men in drag), but others feature unruly girl children who wreak havoc and still have the last laugh… These gloriously anarchic comedies reveal as much about young women’s aspirations as do the newsreels of demonstrations, arson attacks and other dramatic provocations.

Available on: DCP

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