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Rare silent film depicts UK pandemic response 100 years ago

British Film Institute

Dr. Wise on Influenza (1919) by UK’s Ministry of Health.

THE BRITISH Council presents Dr. Wise on Influenza, a 1919 public information film commissioned by Britain’s Local Government Board (later the Ministry of Health) as the country fell under the grip of the Great Influenza of 1918-19. The hard-hitting film was made at the height of the pandemic and was designed to shock people out of their complacency towards this illness and take preventative measures.

The film is part of the 15th International Silent Film Festival Manila, which takes place online from Nov. 24 to Dec. 3. This year the festival will feature six classic silent films from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the Unit-ed Kingdom, and nine short films especially produced by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) to represent the Philippines. The films will be accompanied by original musical scores from Filipino musicians.

The festival is co-organized by the British Council in the Philippines, the Film Development Council of the Philippines, the French Embassy Manila, Goethe-Institut Philippines, Instituto Cervantes de Manila, The Japan Foundation, Manila, and the Philippine Italian Association. Through the British Film Institute (BFI), Dr. Wise on Influenza premieres online in the Philippines on Nov. 26, 3 p.m., via the FDCP channel,

In this unique occasion, the silent film will be accompanied by the original musical score of Joee Mejias, an audio-visual artist and musician based in Manila, Philippines. Her music combines field recordings, instruments, elec-tronics, and voices that evoke memories and altered consciousness.

According to Bryony Dixon, curator at the BFI National Archive, this film by Joseph Best is the only British film made about the Great Pandemic.

“We are thrilled to be part of the International Silent Film Festival. It is more important than ever to foster international cooperation and artistic collaboration as we slowly recover from the pandemic. The film, Dr. Wise on In-fluenza, gives us valuable advice to be mindful of our community’s well-being during a health crisis. It is also an important reminder for us to learn from the past,” Lotus Postrado, Country Director, British Council in the Philippines.

Apart from film screenings, there will also be a panel discussion on “Restoration and archive of silent films” moderated by director and film archivist, Ricky Orellana. Co-hosted by the British Council, it takes place on Nov. 26, 5 p.m., and features Sensoria Film and Music Festival Director Jo Wingate, Deutsche Kinemathek’s Film Restorer Julia Wallmulle, ABS-CBN’s Head of Film Restoration and Dolphy Theater Leo Katigbak, and International Affairs Officer of Institut national de l’audioviusel Juliette Cahin. Viewing is free upon registration via the FDCP channel: For more information and schedule details, visit

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