Mass media widely disseminated iconographic representations of the war. In this profusion of images, the behaviour of state authorities changed, while they had previously looked down on these two types of media. The alleged power of images led belligerents to take control of war pictures which circulated in newspapers or in newsreels. Both the reputation of the Army, and, behind it, that of the Nation, were at stake. At the beginning of the war the image of Poor Little Belgium was an effective symbol that was largely fuelled by Allied propaganda and one-off Belgian initiatives. Nevertheless, when the Belgian Army was mentioned in Allied propaganda, the soldiers looked pitiful and exhausted. Because it was growing increasingly worried of this feeble image, the Belgian government decided in 1916 to change course and to coordinate its propaganda efforts to propagate a favourable portrayal of Belgium as a tenacious belligerent nation and equally worthy ally. The Belgian Army Film Unit, established in 1916, was part of this development. Her task was to shoot images of the Belgian Army in action and of its soldiers under the leadership of their commander-in-chief, King Albert and his wife Queen Elisabeth. A state cinematographic practice developed for the first time in Belgium, in the form of a rigorously controlled military film production. This article aims sketching a first approach to this Belgian Army Film Unit and to its filmic sources. The goal is to understand why the Belgian War Department gradually established an Army film unit and how it used its filmic production to write its own history at the Yser front.

, , ,
Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis

Rochet, Bénédicte. (2016). A State Cinematographic Practice in Wartime: The Belgian Army Film Unit 1916-1922. Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, 19(1), 23–33. doi:10.18146/2213-7653.2016.248