Friday February 27 at 7:30pm on SBS
Beginning Friday February 27 at 7.30pm, SBS will screen The Thirties in Colour. This four-part series looks at never before seen footage from an era of great change and innovation, the 1930s. In episode one the exploits of one of the first to appreciate the exciting potential of colour film, the wealthy British adventuress Rosie Newman are explored. Before a trip to North Africa in 1928, she decided to take up what she called the “amusing hobby” of amateur cinematography.
Born on the 25th July 1896, Rosie Newman was the daughter of the Bavarian banker Sir Sigismund Neumann, who had made a fortune from the diamond mines of South Africa. The Newman family’s prodigious wealth ensured they were admitted to the highest circles of Britain’s political and aristocratic elite. Rosie’s contacts in the diplomatic service would prove particularly valuable, as she was determined to travel the world and capture as many fascinating moments as she could. Author of The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, Lawrence James says of Rosie, “She was aware that what she was seeing was interesting, was curious, and wanted to record it. It was terrifying but it was a grand spectacle”.
Though she was spirited and intrepid, she was often oblivious to the more unpleasant realities of a decade overshadowed by economic depression and privation on a global scale. At times her vision can seem almost insincere and distant from the true reality of the situation.
But her rich and vibrant films do show us in vivid colour the social elite at play in some of the most diverse and intriguing countries on earth, well before the age of mass tourism. Many individuals present in Rosie’s films were not aware that too soon their lives would be transformed by events leading up to the ultimate cataclysm of a World War.