Sarah Erulkar

Sarah Erulkar at work

Sarah Erulkar (2 May 1923 – 29 May 2015) was a prolific and multi-award-winning Indian-born Jewish British filmmaker, specialising in sponsored documentary shorts.[1]


Erulkar worked in the British film industry for almost forty years (1944-1983), producing over 80 films.[2] She won two prizes at the Venice Film Festival (1952, 1971), while her documentary about the design of postage stamps, Picture to Post (1969), won her her first Best Short Film BAFTA in 1970. Her second would come with The Living City (1977), about her native Kolkata.

Erulkar began her career at the Shell Film Unit, where she had a rapid rise, graduating from scripting and editing Aircraft Today and Tomorrow (1946), to directing the second film she worked on, Flight for Tomorrow (1947). Next she directed Lord Siva Danced (1947), which featured celebrated Indian dancer and choreographer Ram Gopal, and was well received in both India and Britain.[3] Erulkar was forced to leave Shell in 1952 after marrying fellow SFU filmmaker, Peter de Normanville.[4] She would work as a free-lancer for the rest of her long career, first, as an editor at the National Coal Board Film Unit before resuming directing for numerous sponsors, including the British Productivity Council, the Central Office of Information (COI), the Gas Council and the General Post Office (GPO).

Erulker chose not to transition into either television or feature films. Her films covered a breadth of subject matter, including 'women's issues,' and crossed genres: 'from classic documentary, travelogue, and 'trigger' films to children's features, medical training films and public information, as well as the customary swathe of promotional shorts for various commercial bodies.'[3] Like her British documentary forbears, Erulkar brought a social consciousness to her films.[3]

Personal LifeEdit

Erulkar was born in Kolkata, India.[1] Her family moved to London, England in 1928. She studied sociology at Bedford College.

Erulkar was married to science filmmaker Peter de Normanville.

Partial filmographyEdit

  • Aircraft Today and Tomorrow (1946; SFU)
  • Flight for Tomorrow (1947; SFU)
  • Lord Siva Danced (1947; SFU)
  • New Detergents (1949; SFU)
  • Night Hops (1950; SFU)
  • The History of the Helicopter (1951; SFU)
  • District Nurse (1952; Foreign Office & Commonwealth Relations Office)
  • Birthright (1958; Family Planning Association)
  • Spat System (1960; GKN sponsor)
  • Woman's Work (1961; Samaritan Films)
  • Mary Lewis - Student Nurse (1961; Ministry of Health-sponsored COI film)
  • Anaesthesia with Methohexitone (1961)
  • Depression - Its Diagnosis in Genral Practice (1963)
  • The Smoking Machine (1963)
  • Physics and Chemistry of Water (1965)
  • Something Nice to Eat (1967; Gas Council)
  • Land of the Red Dragon (1968; British Movietone)[5]
  • Picture to Post (1969; GPO)
  • Ready for the Road (1970; COI)
  • The Air My Enemy (1971; Gas Council)
  • Never Go With Strangers (1971; COI)
  • The Living City (1977, co-directed with de Normanville)[6]
  • Male and Female (1980)[7]
  • Teenage Talk-In (1977-82)


  1. ^ a b McGahan, Katy (15 June 2015). "Sarah Erulkar obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 December 2016.
  2. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Erulkar, Sarah (1923-) Biography". Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Cranston, Ros; McGahan, Katy (2010). "Science and society: Peter de Normanville, Sarah Erulkar". In Russell, Patrick; Piers Taylor, James (eds.), Shadows of progress: Documentary film in post-war Britain. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 230–245. ISBN 9781844573226.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Bell, Melanie (1 October 2018). "Rebuilding Britain: Women, Work, and Nonfiction Film, 1945–1970". Feminist Media Histories. 4 (4): 33–56. doi:10.1525/fmh.2018.4.4.33. ISSN 2373-7492.
  5. ^ "Watch Land of the Red Dragon". BFI Player. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  6. ^ "BFI Screenonline: Picture to Post (1969)". Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  7. ^ Her Century Scottish Women on Film (Captioned), retrieved 14 October 2019

General references