Following the first box set of BFI documentary films from the years 1930-1950 (see June post), I've just finished the sequel, Shadows of Progress: Documentary Film in Post-war Britain 1951-1977 which comprises another 32 films ranging from 5 to 44 mins, sprawled over 4 DVDs and a book.
On the more earnest side, there are films about epilepsy (People Apart ), polio (Four People: A Ballad Film ), Down's Sydrome - 'though it's not mentioned by name (There was a Door ), terrorism (Time of Terror ) and a terribly sad one about what it is to be old and alone in a 60s tower block (I Think They Call Him John ). Of course, they're insightful in their own right, but what makes them particularly interesting is how people viewed the issues 50 years ago. There are also two commissioned by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children whose briefs required the directors not to show cruelty to children.
Perhaps the most tellingly apposite in terms of mood and message are two films commissioned by oil companies. The brazenly confident Shellarama  features gleaming pipelines snaking into and out of futuristic looking refineries and sports cars driving along the Riviera in a combined Technicolour cry of 'Progress!'. Its 14 minutes took two years to shoot. On the flipside, BP's The Shadow of Progress  is hard-hittingly earnest about pollution and so downbeat that it almost got quashed by the Board.