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BIC Excellence Award

The Appreciation of Film
The Postwar Film Society Movement and Film Culture in Britain

By Richard Lowell MacDonald

The Appreciation of Film

Finalist Theatre Library Awards August - 2017

Hardback, 248 pages £75.00
Published: 2016
ISBN: 9780859898881
Format: 234mm x 156mm
Buy this Book

EPUB, 248 pages £75.00
Published: 2019
ISBN: 9780859899895
Buy this Book

Subjects: Film History
Series: Exeter Studies in Film History

This book offers the first full account of the film society movement in Britain and its contribution to post-World War Two film culture. It brings to life a lost history of alternative film exhibition and challenges the general assumption that the study of film began with university courses on ‘Film Studies’.

Showing how film societies operated and the lasting impression they made on film culture, The Appreciation of Film details the history of film education in Britain.  The book illuminates the changing relationship between volunteer-run societies and professionalised agencies promoting film art such as festivals, specialist commercial distributors and public bodies such as the British Film Institute.

Drawing on original archival research and oral history interviews the book acknowledges the vigour and dedication of volunteer film society activists and presents contemporary readers with a record of their achievement.

Written in an accessible style, this is a study of 16mm projectors, associational life and the making of film culture in Britain. It reclaims the marginalised civic cinephilia of volunteer film society activists whilst providing an alternative narrative of the emergence of film study in Britain.





List of Illustrations



1 Enthusiasm and Civic Duty: The Emergence of the Film Society Movement

2 The Postwar Transformation of the Film Society Movement

3 Popularising Film Appreciation: Roger Manvell’s Film

4 The British Film Institute, the Film Archive and Film Society Programming

5 Making the World Our Home: Affirmative Internationalism and Film Societies

6 Film Society Criticism, Middlebrow Taste and New Cinemas

7 Film Societies, Universities and the Emergence of Film Studies

Conclusion: What Was Film Appreciation?






‘This is an interesting project, based on thorough research, dealing with a topic that deserves to be better known and better documented.’ (Professor Andrew Higson, Dept. of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York)


‘This book serves as a valuable companion to an emerging literature on the history of film studies, both internationally and specifically within Britain.’ (Professor Richard Maltby, Dept. of Screen and Media, Flinders University)



Richard Lowell MacDonald is a lecturer in the Media and Communications department at Goldsmiths, University of London. His specific research interests include the history of cinema and visual culture, institutions of film criticism and pedagogy, the aesthetics of documentary and ethnographic film, and historic and contemporary modes of moving image exhibition beyond the cinema theatre.



Publication Details:

 Hardback , 248 pages
 234mm x 156mm

 EPUB , 248 pages

BIC Code:
  BUS070110, HIS015000, HIS018000, HIS054000, PER004000
 University of Exeter Press


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Exeter Studies in Film History