Films unearthed after 50 years

By Jessica Elgot, May 19, 2011
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A still from John Krish’s The Elephant Will Never Forget, made at the end of the 1950s as a farewell to trams

A still from John Krish’s The Elephant Will Never Forget, made at the end of the 1950s as a farewell to trams

An 87-year-old documentary maker has spoken of his astonishment at having his films re-discovered, more than 50 years after they were made.

Four of John Krish's films on life in post-war Britain were screened by the British Film Institute last year, entitled A Day In The Life: Four Portraits of Postwar Britain, and won rapturous praise. The acclaim won him the Evening Standard award in February for Best Documentary, beating graffiti artist Banksy. Now the four films have been released on DVD and a BBC documentary will be shown in September as part of a season called The Reel History of Britain.

Mr Krish, who lives in Hammersmith and made his last film in 1982, said the sudden attention had been overwhelming. "It has been unexpected, to say the least. The films have been shown around the country and they have always sold out."

Mr Krish's father was a refugee from eastern Europe, as were both sets of grandparents, and he was brought up in an observant home - "My identity is strongly Jewish." He made his name in public service documentaries, including films for the National Union of Teachers, the NSPCC and British Transport. But he also made feature films and directed many episodes of The Avengers.

John Krish

John Krish

The four films, made between 1953 and 1964, focus on everyday life in Britain. The Elephant Will Never Forget looks at the last days of London's trams, Our School looks at a secondary modern, I Think They Call Him John focuses on the day-to-day life of an elderly widower, and They Took Us to The Sea shows a day trip for disadvantaged children.

As a filmmaker, he said he was anything but unobtrusive. When he made Our School: "it was rehearsed, every classroom was a studio. It created havoc. One scene is a cookery lesson, making a Cornish pasty, which took three days to shoot. It caused enormous problems for parents, their child had to turn up looking exactly the same every day. I recreated naturalism."

The Phoenix Cinema East Finchley will screen the four documentarieson June 5, along with a Q&A with John Krish, hosted by Clive Coleman, writer and BBC broadcaster

    Last updated: 1:54pm, May 24 2011