High Days and Holidays

Uploaded on Monday 1 January 2007


There's no acting, no plot, no special effects. Just crowds of everyday people doing everyday things: entering and leaving a factory, walking by a seaside promenade, marching in a parade, playing soccer, or rushing through downtown intersections. The filmmakers concentrated on the working class from nearly except part of the UK except the SouthEast (where London is located). Each film is only about 3-5 minutes long but were strung together to from a two-hour show.

Because the films were created from the original negatives, they possess clarity, depth of field, and details that we don't normally see in films of this period. High-definition technology compensates for the highly-variable, hand-cranked film speed. So rather than the speeded-up jerkiness you see in silent movies, you get the graceful, natural movements of real people. And instead of the stiff-lipped, formally posed portraits visible in period photos, you see smiling faces from people jostling each other to be filmed. (Or in some cases, cursing the camera for the invasion of privacy.)

The result? Vibrant, electric, and involving home movies of people that could be your neighbors and of buildings that could be just down the street. Except these people and streets disappeared nearly a century ago.

About three dozen films are divided into five main topics. For a complete list of films, see the end of this review.
When Peter Worden opened two sealed barrels in a shop basement in Blackburn, England, he made an astounding discovery: 800 reels of nitrate film stock, shot by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon from 1900 to 1913 to supply the traveling film exhibitors who toured town halls, fairs, and theaters displaying the new miracle of film.

During the Edwardian era, showmen from the UK hired filmmakers Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon to film locals going about their everyday lives. These films would then be shown that same night in music halls or traveling fairs. (Movie theaters would not be invented until World War I.) The ads would proclaim See yourself on screen or Local films for local people. Often, Mitchell & Kenyon would barely have four hours to film, process, and project. This truly allowed the locals to see themselves on screen.


Language: Silent

Length: 25 min

Country: United States

Creative Commons License

High Days and Holidays by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon is licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain 3.0 License.