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.
Preface; Acknowledgments; 1. Introduction: the British documentary film movement; 2. The empire marketing board film unit, 1926–1933; 3. The general post office film unit, 1933–1937; 4. The general post office film unit, 1937–1940; 5. The 'independent' documentary film, 1932–1939; 6. The British documentary film, trade propaganda, and national projection, 1926–1939; 7. The documentary movement during the war, 1939–1945; 8. Conclusion; Appendix; Notes; Bibliography; Index.