Oy Britannia

A collection uncovering insights, injustices and hidden histories across a century of Jewish representation on British screens.

Oy Britannia brings together documentary records of Jewish life in the UK and artists’ work confronting the 20th century Jewish experience, while recognising the vibrant contribution of Jewish writers, directors and actors to film and TV culture in this country. The earliest surviving depictions of Jewish characters in British cinema offer a disturbing insight into anti-Semitic representation, yet prejudice was later tackled head-on in features like Loyalties (1933) and newsreels documenting the anti-fascist movement of the 1930s.

Drop in on a joyous 1920s wedding, and witness the camaraderie of elderly Jewish Londoners in Together Alone (2009). Revisit TV classics like Bar Mitzvah Boy (1974) and discover contemporary shorts. Oy Britannia also includes British-made historical epics (The Wandering Jew, 1923) and experimental work produced by the BFI: a German-Jewish musician seeks exile in Cold War-era London in At the Fountainhead (of German Strength) (1980).

Ten to try

The Robbers and the Jew (1908)

Among the earliest surviving depictions of a Jewish character in British cinema.

Marriage of Miss Rose Carmel and Mr Solly Gerschcowit (1925)

One lucky couple’s big day is captured on 35mm.

Jew Süss (1934)

British film adaptation of Lion Feuchtwanger’s historical novel.

The Barber of Stamford Hill (1962)

Big-screen version of Ronald Harwood’s drama about a lonely North London barber.

The Vanishing Street (1962)

Change comes to the Jewish community of Hessel Street, Whitechapel.

The Evacuees (1975)

Jack Rosenthal’s classic WWII drama about Jewish brothers evacuated from Manchester to Blackpool.

Invisible City (1991)

A Jewish couple find themselves transported to a dystopia where memory and history are outlawed in this sci-fi parable.

So Haunt Me (1992)

Miriam Karlin is the real star of this BBC sitcom, as ghostly grandmother Yetta Feldman.

Philip and His Seven Wives (2005)

Marc Isaacs’ portrait of an unconventional family — led by a former messianic rabbi who believes he is a Hebrew king.

Sidney Turtlebaum (2008)

Sir Derek Jacobi plays an eccentric gay Jewish man with an unsavoury interest in funerals in this award-winning short.

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