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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Films du PCF : des documents inestimables accessibles à tous

by Lucie Percevault

Precious Documents Available to All

French Communist Party Films

Translated Friday 17 August 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble

The audio-visual collections of the French Communist Party and of the democratic and labor movements have been put together on the cinearchives.org website. This precious data base, which is open to everyone, has now been updated to provide better and clearer access.

The website’s mission is simple: to preserve and promote these archives. With over 1200 audiovisual sources, Ciné-Archives is a goldmine for historians and people who are interested in a wide range of topics. Do you want to learn about the Second World War? The archives contain exceptional films about the mobilization of Resistance fighters and the Liberation of France. The same goes for the May 1968 events – audio-visual documents are an obvious choice for eye-witness accounts of the worker and student ferment in that month of May, and allow younger generations to understand for themselves the effervescence of that unique situation.

Since 1928, the French Communist Party has been producing and collecting many films and audio-visual documentaries. They were made for different reasons – to reinforce social movements, to communicate the Party’s theories and explain the measures it wanted to realize, but above all out of cultural motivations, and more generally as a contribution to History. Indeed, these documents are essential historical sources. The archives allow the visitor to undertake a veritable voyage in time.

The oldest film documents the Fête de Garches, the festival that replaced the Fête de l’Humanité between 1925 and 1932. The prefect of Paris, having refused to allow the French Communist Party to use the parks under his control, the Union of Paris Trade Unions (C.G.T.U.) organized the event. Nevertheless, l’Humanité had a stand which you can see at the very beginning of the excerpt that is on-line. The film then documents all of the activities on offer at the festival and proves the success of the event by showing the large number of participants.

The Internet site offers a great many films produced between 1928 and the present day. Some are grouped together by theme. Each of the thematic collections, such as “the Popular Front,” “The Spanish Civil War,” and “May 1968,” offers, in addition to the films, an explanation of the historical context, precise chronological dates, and a document composed of photographs and short biographies of the personalities seen in the excerpts. The Internet user has all the information necessary to understand the chosen video document, both in the political and in the wider context. The thematic grouping “Fête de l’Humanité” will be available from September 2012.

These eyewitness documents on values not only allow the viewer to learn about the great political events, but also to understand the “counter-cultural” role played by the French Communist Party in large-scale mobilizations such as strikes or anti-war struggles, notably against the Vietnam War.

Everyone will find what he or she is looking for on this new website and will be able to spend hours going through this fraction of our contemporary history from an angle that was long inaccessible to the general public.

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