A New History of British Documentary by J. Chapman

By J. Chapman

A brand new heritage of British Documentary is the 1st complete evaluation of documentary construction in Britain from early movie to the current day. It covers either the movie and tv industries and demonstrates how documentary perform has tailored to altering institutional and ideological contexts.

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Extra resources for A New History of British Documentary

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Throughout my entire connection with the motion picture industry I have specialized in educational subjects of science, travel and topical episodes, now referred to as ‘documentary’ films. 2 The films cited above all demonstrated, in different ways, Grierson’s notion of documentary as ‘the creative treatment of actuality’. Hence documentary came to be seen as a progressive mode of film practice characterized by aesthetic innovation and social purpose. 3 Since the late 1970s the critical ‘rediscovery’ of early cinema has seen the emergence of a revisionist historiography that has comprehensively redrawn the historical map of film production and exhibition during the medium’s formative decades.

Low’s premise that Mitchell and Kenyon made little contribution to the development of film technique is probably a fair one: the films themselves demonstrate little in the way of formal innovation and mostly consist of static takes with occasional panning movements (as the camera rotates on its axis to follow movement) and jump cuts (where the camera stopped turning and then restarted). Most of the films are short, between 50 and 100 feet in length, which at the upper end would equate to a running time of about a minute.

There are also parallels in form, especially in the prominence of the drama-documentary mode on television, which has often been seen as belonging to the same lineage as story-documentary films such as the GPO Film Unit’s North Sea and Men of the Lightship. 56 And on an institutional level there are broad parallels between the Griersonian ethos of documentary and the ideology of public service broadcasting as articulated by the first Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Sir John Reith.

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