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Movietone cameraman Ken Hanshaw – Algeria 1962

In Algeria, there was a complicated civil war going on.  I say complicated because the adversaries were the French Government forces, the Arab insurgents, the AFN (the armed wing of the FLN), the Jewish population and, in amongst all that, there were rebel French forces who did not wish to see Algeria given its independence.

The filming of the whole conflict had been organised through the UPMT office in Paris.  One after the other, the cameramen went off to do their stint.  Eventually, they became known to all sides and their safety was at risk.  Henri Brzoska, the Bureau Chief, asked if London could send in a crew.  Cameraman Ken Hanshaw and soundman Malcolm Furness flew into Algiers equipped with 16mm sound equipment.

They started to send back routine stories, usually the aftermath of some outrageous act of violence.  The French Government forces were aware of them and made sure they did not film anything that would embarrass them.

ALN R.A. propaganda poster in Algiers,

Image via Wikipedia

One day, Hanshaw was approached by a man who represented the rebels.  He told Hanshaw that if he went on a certain road at a certain time, he could film the rebels in action.

Hanshaw and Furness set off in their hired car and found the location. They got close enough to the rebels to talk with them.

However, they soon realised that they were between the rebels and the French army.  Taking as much shelter as they could, Hanshaw filmed the event.  He was able to shoot much more of the rebels than the French.  He stopped shooting and then started to drive back to Algiers with his prize material.  He was soon stopped by the French army who asked him where he had been.  He said that he had filmed the fighting and wished to return to Algiers.  He and Malcolm Furness were arrested.  The police, on the spot, asked for the film he had shot.


Algiers - Image via Wikipedia

Hanshaw was using a Auricon CineVoice Pro 600 sound camera with a Mitchell 400 foot magazine.  Hanshaw removed the magazine and broke the loop to reveal two ends, he then pulled one end until all the film came out of the magazine.  The police took it and threw it on the side of the road.

What Hanshaw had given them was the unused rawstock, the exposed material was still in the magazine.  He also had a complete roll of exposed footage that was overlooked at the checkpoint.  Hanshaw was reported and told to got to the central police station in Algiers.  On arrival he was told that he would be deported as soon as a flight was available.

Hanshaw, wishing to get out as soon as possible, said to the officer in charge, “When are we likely to get a flight?”.

Possibly, tomorrow, maybe the day after”.

Hanshaw said ”I am told that you have always got two empty seats on the flights to Paris“.

“Yes”, said the officer, “but they are reserved for undesirable people”.

Hanshaw replied “We’re undesirable, you wish to throw us out”.

Within two hours, Hanshaw and Furness were flying out of Algiers with their precious film safely in the camera box.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2011.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

For other articles about Movietone click here.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Colin G #

    Another wonderful story of newsmen in the thick of the action, good job nothing like that happens today.

    February 22, 2011
  2. There are a number of stories of the ingenuity of camera crews. They regarded it as a personal affront if anyone tried to stop them getting their pictures. When they succeeded in spite of the hindrance of others, they regarded it as a triumph. And so it was.

    February 28, 2011

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