This article focuses on the only two Pathé Frères short films shot in India before the First World War and still preserved in the French Film Archives today: Delhi grande ville de l'Inde supérieure/Delhi Great City of Upper India (1909) and Dans l'État du Cachemire/In the State of Kashmir (1914). In this latter phase of colonial expansion, India was not considered an important matter of concern within the larger French imperial project and this allowed more liberties and dissonances to emerge in the films shot in India in comparison with the official colonial discourse of the period. This article suggests that looking at the margins of French imperialism and film production sheds new light on the complexity of the imperialist doctrine and protodocumentary cinema. It argues that the two Pathé Frères films are ambivalent because they were shot in the context of transition toward a standardized film production and of early appropriation of the film medium by colonized populations. It further demonstrates that these two proto-documentaries neither expressed the common apology of the Belle Époque nor a message of triumphant imperialism, but rather doubts about the posterity of French national grandeur and fears concerning the rising tensions with Germany.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Visual Arts and Performing Arts