Nature and Scope

Look behind the Iron Curtain and see the other side of the Cold War divide with this historic collection of films from the communist world.

Socialism on Film is an impressive collection of documentaries, newsreels and features that reveals the world as seen by Soviet, Chinese, Vietnamese, East European, British and Latin American filmmakers. It ranges from the early twentieth century to the 1980s and examines the themes of War & Revolution, News & Current Affairs plus Culture & Society. The whole spectrum of socialist life is here on film.


Sourced from the British Film Institute (BFI) archives, this project makes available the superb ETV-Plato Films collection put together by the British communist Stanley Forman in the years after the Second World War. This is a collection of films produced almost exclusively in the communist world and then versioned into English for distribution in the West. All the films in this collection have been digitised from the original 16mm and 35mm film reels.  


Socialism on Film documents the communist world from the Russian Revolution until the 1980s. The digitised film covers all aspects of socialist life from society, war, culture, the Cold War, memory and contemporaneous views on current affairs. Footage includes documentaries, newsreels and feature films. Geographically the films deal with the Soviet Union alongside significant groupings of material on Vietnam, China, Korea, the German Democratic Republic and Eastern Europe, Britain, Spain, Latin America and Cuba. 

Watch Alan Burton and Graham Roberts discuss Stanley Forman and the origins of ETV-Plato Films or read this essay recounting the history of this collection.

Material Selection

As housed in the BFI National Archive the ETV-Plato Films collection consists of around 5,500 unique titles, fragments and extracts in 17,000 reels of 16mm and 35mm film. Before the advent of this project the collection was largely unaccessioned and uncatalogued. Socialism on Film aims to publish and fully catalogue over 2,000 of these titles via three broad themes: ‘Wars & Revolutions’, ‘Newsreel & Cinemagazine series’ and ‘Culture & Society’.

We have been able to publish all the documentaries and feature films in the ETV collection that deal with ‘Wars & Revolutions’ (Module I). Likewise, we will be able to publish all the ‘Newsreels & Cinemagazines’ (Module II) housed in the archive; this will also include films on diplomatic visits, summits and party conferences. The sheer volume of documentary films on ‘Culture & Society’ (Module III) in the communist world means publishing it all won't be possible though we will work with the BFI and our Editorial Board to select the most pertinent films to present a geographically and topically representative selection of what the ETV collection has to say on this theme.

In the archive many of the titles have multiple copies, versions and reels that can sometimes differ slightly in content and condition (the age and state of some reels makes digitisation impossible); for each film published the BFI National Archive film archivists have painstakingly and expertly found the most complete version of each title in the best condition to prepare for digitisation.


The material will be published in three modules:

Module I Wars & Revolutions

Lenin & the Russian Revolution

The Second World War & the Rise of Fascism

The Vietnam War & Southeast Asia

Global tensions & the Cold War

Nuclear War & Peace Movements

The Holocaust & War Crimes

Revolution, War, Conflict in China & Korea

Revolution in Cuba & Latin America

The Spanish Civil War


Module II Newsreels & Cinemagazines

China Today

Diplomatic & Political Newsreels

GDR Magazine

Global Newsreels (including Czechoslovakia in Pictures, Bulgarian Chronicle, Vietnam Today and others)

Soviet Newsreels & Cinemagazines (including Around the Soviet Union, Agricultural News, Soviet Sport and many others)


Module III Culture & Society (publishes 2019)

Agriculture & Farming

Arts & Culture

Children & Family


Everyday Life

Feature Films

Health & Medicine


Places & Geography

Science & Technology

The State & Politics