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The Face of Scotland

1938 film about national identity

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This film sets out to answer 'why and what is a Scot' and depicts the character Scotland and its people. The film was one of a group of seven documentaries made for the 1938 Empire Exhibition under the supervision of John Grierson.

Questions & Activities


  • How does this film make you feel about Scotland?
  • How has Scotland's UK and international profile changed?
  • Where are the women?
  • What do you notice about the way music is used in particular sections of the film?
  • Who was John Knox?
  • What do you think about the portrayal of the Scottish Church in the film?
  • Who made this and why?
  • What is Hadrian's Wall? Why was it built?


How would you update this account of Scotland? Download other material from Scotland on Screen and add your own footage.

Compare and contrast the 'Face of Scotland' today and in the past?

Examine a University prospectus of today and compare and contrast with the images of University life in 1938.

Try changing the music for particular sections and note how this changes how the film is seen.

Produce a shorter 'summary' version of the film (3-5 minutes). Edit it down and including only the key points and images.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-000-000-017-C
Resource Rights Holder National Library of Scotland
Project Ref 0034
Date 1938
Genre Documentary, Sponsored
School Subject Social Studies, Social History, Media Studies, Music, Expressive Arts
Subject Matter Citizenship
Who Basil Wright (director), Films of Scotland (sponsor), Realist Film Unit (production company)
Where Borders, Cheviot Hills, Ecclefechan, Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle
Event Empire Exhibition
Attributes Black and White, Sound
Clip Length 13:03
Film Length 13:03