MAKE MORE NOISE! SUFFRAGETTES IN SILENT FILM

PrintE-mail Written by Ian White

Named after Emmeline Pankhurst’s famous call-to-arms, when she told her followers that they would have to make themselves louder and more obtrusive than anybody else if they were ever going to succeed in their mission for equality, liberation and ‘votes for women’, Make More Noise! is a fascinating collection of short films and newsreels detailing how cinema and the world viewed the struggle of the suffragettes as they campaigned on Britain’s streets.

As political reformers go, the Suffragettes were extremely PR savvy. They understood the burgeoning power of cinema and they didn’t need spin doctors to teach them how to use the moving camera to their advantage. Amongst the gems on offer are a silent comedy about a husband whose suffragette wife leaves him with the babysitting but his dreams of getting revenge on her don’t go exactly to plan, an upsetting selection of footage from the 1913 Derby when suffragette Emily Davison threw herself in front of the King’s horse (the DVD also features a brief newsreel of her funeral), a War Office film about women working in a First World War munitions factory, and (our personal favourite) a brief but charming comedy about two young ladies who decide to take a horse-drawn fire engine for a joy ride. It is incomplete and it plays like a music hall skit, but it’s fabulous. The two actresses from this film – Alma Taylor and Chrissie White – feature in a handful of other short comedies on this DVD and were apparently major stars between 1911 and 1912. We hope that, somewhere in its archives, the BFI has more of their work to show us.

But it is wrong to concentrate solely on the light-hearted side of this important collection. Make More Noise! is a tremendous all-encompassing overview of the suffragette’s fight for justice, including scenes of demonstrations and riots, the question of ‘will there be women MPs?’, a strike by factory girls and a suffragette pageant marching through the streets of London. Many of these moments last only a minute or two, some of them far less than that, but this excellent DVD has been so flawlessly edited together that the frequent dis-continuity is never jarring. Mention should also be made of Lillian Henley’s musical score, which serves as a perfect accompaniment.

If Sarah Gavron’s excellent drama Suffragette placed this crucial period of British history back into the public consciousness, Make More Noise! highlights it and seals it there so it can never be forgotten.

Absolutely wonderful.

MAKE MORE NOISE! SUFFRAGETTES IN SILENT FILM / CERT: EXEMPT / DIRECTOR: BYRONY DIXON, MARGARET DERIAZ / SCREENPLAY: N/A / STARRING: N/A / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 23RD

 


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