The British Documentary Film Movement, 1926-1946
The most important and internationally influential development in British cinema was the documentary film movement led by John Grierson in the 1930s and 1940s. Paul Swann's study is a political and social history of this movement, which was characterized by actuality-based films made outside the commercial industry. Based upon examinations of official government records, this book provides a fascinating picture of how Grierson manipulated the civil service bureaucracy both for his own ends and, in his view, for the good of his country. The documentary movement was both a socially conscious group intent upon raising the consciousness - and consciences - of viewers, and something like a film school, providing opportunities to fledgling film-makers. Working in reaction to the escapist Hollywood films that then dominated British screens, the documentary film-makers drew upon traditions such as Soviet realism and the European avant-garde and used ordinary men and women instead of actors.