In introducing a collection of papers deriving from a workshop dedicated to Pacific film and history, this article takes the opportunity to broadly map the disciplinary and textual terrain of professional historians' engagement with the cinema. The papers introduced by this essay were selected from the first workshop dedicated to the topic of film and history in the Pacific, held in Canberra in 2007, which brought together film-makers and scholars from a wide variety of backgrounds. Despite pioneering work in the 1980s and early 1990s, historical scholarship concerned with film in the Pacific has been sporadic and remains relatively undeveloped, in contrast to research on film in other regions or the growing study of the relationships between film, colonialism and postcolonial identity. The article first reviews recent literature on history and film, and advocates further exploration of the distinctive 'history-making properties of this medium. A survey of the evolution of cinematic imaginaries for the Pacific highlights the development of colonial technologies and documentary traditions, and concludes with reflections on the growing body of film made by Islanders, marking the emergence of a new range of visual sensibilities.