The Documentary Film Movement: An Anthology

The Documentary Film Movement: An Anthology

The Documentary Film Movement: An Anthology

The Documentary Film Movement: An Anthology

Synopsis

The first anthology to cover the documentary film movement of the 1930s and 40s as exemplified in modern British film culture, this book offers generous extracts from the writings of Jennings, Alberto Cavalcanti and Basil Wright. Each section is accompanied by short commentaries and a photograph of each figure. A full introduction describes the movement's history from 1927 to 1950 and the types of films made, relating these to other British film genres and contemporary debates on national cinema.

Excerpt

The documentary film movement has had a considerable impact on British film culture and, although the period of its greatest influence was the 1930s and 1940s, its legacy has continued to make itself felt in various ways up to the present day. The documentary movement has also been the subject of considerable critical debate, over both the role which it is perceived to have played in the 1930s and the influence which it is felt to have had on contemporary film and television. Indeed, few areas of British film history have been as controversial, or have received as much critical attention, as the documentary film movement.

A number of different, and competing; accounts of the movement already exist. According to one interpretation the movement's leader, John Grierson, elaborated an important theory concerning film's relationship to modernity and democracy. Grierson, a man impelled by profound conviction, formed a group of committed disciples in order to realise that theory. The film-makers of the documentary film movement then challenged the entrenched forces of reaction and monopoly within the film industry. A struggle ensued which was eventually lost, and the documentary movement faded from the scene, finally defeated by those whom Grierson once referred to as those 'cold English bastards'.

However, this interpretation of the documentary movement is not the only one available. Another suggests that the movement and its leader played a pivotal role in stifling the growth of a critical British film culture, and in establishing a realist paradigm which critically marginalised the avant-garde. According to yet another interpretation, Grierson and his film-makers were a set of well-meaning but bungling amateurs, unable to adapt to quickly changing circumstances, and . . .

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