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 archives of the British Film Institute (BFI), this resource makes available the superb ETV-Plato Films collection amassed by British communist Stanley Forman in the years following the Second World War. The collection consists of films produced almost exclusively in the communist world and later versioned into English for distribution in the West. All the films included in this resource have been digitised from the original 16mm and 35mm film reels.

To learn more, 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.



Socialism on Film documents the communist world from the Russian Revolution through to the late 1980s. The digitised films cover all aspects of the socialist experience from everyday life and society to culture, the Cold War, memory and 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.



Housed in the BFI National Archive, the ETV-Plato Films collection consists of around 5,500 unique titles, fragments and extracts across 17,000 reels of 16mm and 35mm film. Before the advent of this project the collection was largely unaccessioned and uncatalogued. Socialism on Film publishes and fully catalogues over 2,000 of these titles under three broad themes: Wars & Revolutions, Newsreels & Cinemagazines, and Culture & Society.

All documentary and feature films in the ETV collection that deal with Wars & Revolutions (Module I) have been published. Likewise, the bulk of short-form series housed in the archive have been published in Newsreels & Cinemagazines (Module II); news and current affairs titles dealing with diplomatic visits, summits and party conferences were published alongside this material. The ETV collection is particularly rich in films covering Culture & Society (Module III) across the communist world, however given the sheer volume of titles on the subject, it is not possible to publish them in their entirety; instead we have worked alongside the BFI and our Editorial Board to select over 600 pertinent films which offer a geographically and topically representative selection of the ETV holdings.

In the archive many of the titles have multiple copies, versions and reels that can sometimes differ slightly in content and condition. Age and the degraded quality of some reels has made digitisation impossible in a small number of cases. For each title published here, the BFI National Archive film archivists have painstakingly and expertly identified the most complete version in the best possible condition to prepare for digitisation.


Over 2,000 titles have been digitised and published across three modules:


USSR Today 1962 No. 3


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


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)



Everything For Your Holiday, 1963


Arts & Culture

Health & Medicine

Politics & Society

Places & Geography

Sport & Leisure

Technology, Space & Science


Work & Industry

Youth & Education