British Social Problem Films

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Introduction: The social problem film was a significant aspect of British film of the 1950s and aimed not only at entertaining cinema audiences, but also to raise issues of importance to that society, in that period of history. As such, these films can be considered as more than 'a good story', but as innovative, controversial and thought provoking.


The film is undoubtedly old fashioned and out of date with regard to modern cinematic styles and technological advances, but its themes and messages on racism and prejudice remain as relevant today as they did then.
Definition of Social Problem Films: Durgnat, (1997) contended that "The social problem film is hardly a genre" (p.59) but went on to say, in relation to 'Sapphire' and 'Victim', that they may be described as "by narrative structuredetective mysteries." However, such films sought to explore the real issues faced by that society. Ealing Studios in the 1950s encouraged the production of films that were not only melodrama or thriller, but that delivered a universal moral message. Issues such as juvenile delinquency, violence, sexuality and racism were incorporated into dramatic narratives that would engage audiences but ask them to look at their society and their own values, perceptions and prejudices. Jonathan Wright (2002) described processes involved in this, when examining British Social Realism, (quoting Lay, 2002)
"First the film-maker must have intended to capture the experience of the actual event depicted. ...
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