Welke Slag aan de Somme? Oorlog en neutraliteit in Nederlandse bioscopen, 1914-1918

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While the Dutch government tried to maintain neutrality during World War I, the belligerent nations closely watched the Netherlands and its public opinion. At the same time, the French, English, and German authorities used propaganda to influence Dutch public opinion. The famous documentary film The Battle of the Somme (1916) is a good example. Its critical reception in the Netherlands has been studied before, but its challenge to the cause of neutrality has escaped close attention. Not only did Dutch ministers, mayors, film distributors, and cinema owners get involved, but so did the intelligence services and propaganda departments of the warring countries. This article shows that at least three films about the battle of the Somme were shown in Dutch cinemas – French, English, and German – and that all of them were part of a struggle to secure the public’s favour.

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... The distribution channels of French firms, which had already developed in the Netherlands before the war, facilitated the distribution of productions from the French Army Film Unit. 46 One could | 29 ...
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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.
During the first half of the twentieth century, colonial rule in the Indonesian archipelago was an important marker of international prestige for the Netherlands, which was merely a small power on the European continent, carefully guarding its neutral status against the Great Powers. After World War I, there was growing concern amongst several groups in Dutch society about criticism of the colonial regime in the foreign press. This article considers three organizations that aimed to set up an international information service about the Dutch East Indies in the 1920s. Although private individuals ran these organizations, they had close links with the authorities in The Hague and Batavia, indicating the emergence of a controlled media environment. Moreover, despite the fact that people involved preferred to use neutral terms to describe their activities, they aimed to provide the international public with propaganda supporting the Dutch colonial regime.
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