The most important and internationally influential development in British cinema was the documentary film movement led by John Grierson in the 1930s and 1940s. This is a political and social history of that movement, which was characterized by actuality-based films made outside the commercial industry. Based on examinations of official government records, the study provides a fascinating picture of the relationship forged between Grierson and the civil service bureaucracy for his own needs and the needs of his country. The book offers a fresh look at a rare moment in the history of cinema when a different mode of production, philosophy, and source of funding permitted a determined group to create a distinguished body of work.
"Here is a useful one volume history of an important aspect of the history of film." CAST/Communication Booknotes "Swann has written a readable, concise, and well-researched history of the organizational side of the British documentary film movement...this intelligent and often critical analysis suggests the thesis that the British documentary film movement may have been overestimated in the past in regard to both its impact and its contribution to the art of film making." Tim Travers, American Historical Review