January 2, 2017


John Grierson (1898-1972) b. Deanstown, Scotland.

John Grierson

John Grierson was the founder of the British documentary movement of the thirties and coined the word. He started the Empire Marketing Board Film Unit, and in 1933 the GPO Film Unit, gathering together such diverse and exciting talents as Humphrey Jennings, Paul Rotha and Alberto Cavalcanti. Under his aegis such classic films as Drifters (1929), Industrial Britain (1933), Song of Ceylon (1934) and Night Mail (1936) emerged. At the start of the war Grierson was appointed Canadian Film Commissioner and founded the National Film Board of Canada. In 1951 he became Executive Producer of Group Three, a production unit that was designed to make quality programme fillers. From 1957 he ran a successful weekly television programme on Scottish tv, "This Wonderful World", which showed excerpts from outstanding documentaries. Grierson’s academic background was responsible for the evangelistic fervour with which he pursued the cause of film as an instrument of education and enlightenment. The cinema has had no more devoted propagandist.

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