Colonial Travelogue: Jamaica

Montego Bay to Williamsfield, Jamaica
K: Hal Sintzenich, Charlie Weddup.  P:  Natural Color Kinematograph Company.  UK 1913

“The Natural Color Kinematograph Company was formed in March 1909 by Charles Urban, but the completed pictures were released in monochrome through Kineto, another Urban company, which since its formation in 1907 had specialised in the production of travel, scientific and other broadly ‘educational’ films (…).

With the camera, for the most part, placed at the back of a train, the film positions the viewer as a tourist, glimpsing the scenery (and people) of the island as they travel. In keeping with many colonial travelogues, the film promotes a rhetoric of progress and exploration through the train journey. In showing the train entering and leaving stations, it highlights the developed rail links across the island (Jamaica was the first rail link opened outside of Europe and North America and in 1845 was the second colony, after Canada, to have a railway system) (Satchell and Sampson, 2003). Through the journey, the camera offers glimpses of the European and ‘native’ populations, reveals local housing and, as the review noted, images of ‘hurricane country’. Only a few months earlier, in November 1912, a hurricane had killed over 100 people on the island, destroying banana crops, and some rail and road links. (…).

These scenes of Jamaican life, while intended primarily for British audiences, played throughout the Empire, for example in Australia and New Zealand. In noting a screening of Industries of Jamaica in November 1913, the ‘Poverty Bay Herald’ in Gisborne, New Zealand stated that the film ‘served to give dwellers in the Dominion a better knowledge than they have hitherto possessed of this portion of the Empire’. These early West Indian travelogues thus served to promote a broader imperial identity, by bringing the Empire, and its scenes of development and progress, not only to British audiences but also to other dominions and colonies.”
Tom Rice
Colonial Film

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