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John Grierson

(1898—1972) documentary film-maker


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(1898–1972), filmmaker, propagandist. With the Empire Marketing Board in England in 1929, Grierson wrote, directed, and edited Drifters, a documentary film of the Scottish herring fisheries, which for the first time brought workers to the British screen with dignity. Many of the other films for which Grierson was responsible also focused on—in his own words—‘the ardour and bravery of common labour’. In Canada in 1939 he set up and became first commissioner of the National Film Board, responsible thereby for much of Canada's propagandistic war effort. He not only trained a generation of Canadian filmmakers and launched the NFB's reputation for documentaries, he also published widely and controversially on the relation among democracy, media, education, and propaganda. At the war's conclusion, Grierson was unjustifiably accused of being a communist, which ended his aspirations to produce films in the United States. In 1957 in his native Scotland, he launched a critically acclaimed television series that had an 11-year run. Towards the end of his life Grierson lectured at McGill University, attracting up to 700 students to his introductory film course.

From The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: History of the Americas.


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