Is Colin Ross advertising for tourism?
German administration official Ewald Moll grants travel films, including Ross’s, the important economic task of promoting travel.
In his lecture, published in the prominent film periodical Der Kinematograph, Moll distinguishes the travel film from the expedition film by placing it in the context of tourism rather than adventure, exploration or technological achievement. The travel film shows trips that “every adept traveler can pull off with the aid of the usual means of transportation and with the Baedeker in hand”. In 1925, these “usual means of transportation” “almost” include aeroplanes [p. 9].
Intriguingly, Moll counts Colin Ross’s breakthrough film Mit dem Kurbelkasten um die Erde (1925) as a prime example of modern travel film. The film charts a round-the-world trip featuring the USA, Japan, China, British Malaya, Siam, Sumatra, Java, and Bali—hardly well-frequented destinations for German tourists at the time. In Germany and Austria, tourism to those destinations would only start to become affordable to the middle-class half a century later.
Even in this case, though, Moll’s distinction insists that the function of travel films is not one of compensation for journeys that are categorically beyond the viewer’s means. Rather, the travel film provides a taste of the travel experience, an anticipatory widening of consumer address not limited to specific destinations, but rather to travel as movement within an established infrastructure of transportation and accommodation. In Moll’s own words: “The goal and mission of travel film is to raise the understanding of and pleasure in travel, to foster the desire to travel, and finally, to refresh memories of one’s similar travels.” [p. 9]
Ewald Moll. Der Reisefilm in volkswirtschaftlicher Bedeutung. Der Kinematograph: 1925 Jul 26; 962; 9–10.
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30