Exploitation of Films in Holland and Dutch Colonies

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Front page of consular correspondence on the distribution of British film propaganda in the Netherlands and its colonies.


The European part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands played an important role in the propaganda aims of belligerent nations. However, overseas Dutch territories, both in the West and in the East Indies, were also crucial for all warring parties. The Dutch East Indies served as a conduit through which Germany could smuggle inflammatory propaganda to the British colonies. Equally, it was used by British agents to counter-attack German attempts to incite revolution in the British Empire. The Dutch West Indies were of less importance in the war. Yet, the British did make some effort to export official propaganda films to Dutch Guiana (Suriname) and the Netherlands Antilles, using their official and informal contacts in Paramaribo and Willemstad. The Battle of the Somme reached Paramaribo in December 1916 where it enjoyed only moderate success. Other films sent to Dutch Guiana, according to British reports, were: Capture of Messines, Prisoners of War Camp, Dorchester and His Majesty’s Visit to His Grand Fleet, Women’s Land Army, Repairing War’s Ravages, Chinese Labour Contingent, Canadian Forestry Corps, Egyptian Labour Corps, Portuguese Expeditionary Force, Story of the Drifters, London Air Raid, and German Officer Prisoners (FO 395_102_222554, Rothwell to Montgomery, 19 November 1917). However, none of these titles listed can be found back in Dutch colonial newspapers. So it is difficult to judge whether the films did in fact reach colonial audiences and how they were received. The relative lack of interest for The Battle of the Somme, as reported by the British consul in Paramaribo Rev. Kissack, might have stopped cinema managers from screening other propaganda films.