The newsreel was a short documentary film format that was played in advance of feature films in movie theatres across North America and Europe. It was both a popular source for urgent information about historical events, which connected this media to the same function as newspapers, and also a form of dramatic entertainment. Some films were whimsical stories about Westerns, “animal heroes” or cartoons and others presented serious topics on war, political events and disasters. Newsreels became an established medium in the 1910s until it became obsolete due to the expansion of television in the late 1950s. A complicated aspect of newsreels was their highly edited nature that sometimes bordered on fabrication because seemingly authentic footage was occasionally staged.
Although the last newsreel was made in the late 1960s, this early news format continues to have a direct connection to the news saturated world of today. The film corporations that produced newsreels sent production crews across the world giving movie-going audiences a glimpse of global issues, both monumental and mundane, at a time when few people travelled widely. Daily news has been transformed from these concise ten minute film shorts into repetitive 24/7 broadcasting cycles that are oversaturated with information, disinformation and fake news. Through a deconstruction of black and white 16mm newsreels into fragmented images, this book interrogates the belief in documentary visual media as historical truth. The Newsreel, suspends reality in a similar vein to Ed Ruscha’s The End (1991) which mimics, questions and exposes the illusionary quality of celluloid.