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Mid-East (1945)


Frank Hurley takes us on a journey to the Middle East and North Africa at the close of the Second World War. He describes aspects of traditional life, the pilgrimage from Cairo to Mecca and the cotton industry in the Sudan. The final third of the film is narrated by Rex Keating. It is concerned with the effects of the war and the rebuilding and development of the area around Cyrenaica after its liberation from the Italians by the Allies.

Curator’s notes

Like his other compendium of the Middle East, Cradle of Creation (1940), Mid-East is a cobbling together of other shorter films made during Frank Hurley’s six years spent in the region during the Second World War. Much of the region was under mandated rule by the British and the age of Empire had not yet come to an end. The African continent would have still represented the ‘heart of darkness’ for many Australians or Europeans viewing this film . The colonial view of the region is best seen in clip three in which sweaty topless Sudanese men dance on unpressed cotton to a soundtrack of percussive African music while Hurley’s narration talks of their ‘hot rhythm’ and ‘light feet’. Hurley both exoticises the region (as he did in Cradle of Creation (1940)) and depicts its people as primitive or less developed. While he was captured by the beauty of the Middle East and North Africa – his adventurous spirit was always in search of new sites of travel – Hurley was also a man of his time, embedded in the dominant colonial attitudes towards regions where the Empire had left its footprint.