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Griersonian Documentary - Land of Promise

by Michelle Langford

Grierson believed that the mechanical eye of the camera could reveal and interpret the modern world better than the human eye. The camera does not just hold a mirror up to the world; it allows us to understand the world differently. Grierson himself referred to the documentary as ‘the creative treatment of actuality.’ For Grierson, the documentary film fulfilled an important educational function and took on an almost evangelical purpose. He believed that cinema had a role to play in enlightening people to the actual conditions that underpinned society. He also embraced the label ‘propagandist’.

This clip from Land of Promise provides a good example of some of the fundamental principles of Grierson’s approach to documentary as an educational medium. Grierson is interested in facts and figures, contrasting old ways of working with new ways of working. He developed a documentary style in which the conveying of information is more important than concerns for documentary fidelity. ‘Voice of God’ narration is the hallmark of Grierson’s approach. The spoken word used to dictate the meaning of the image.

Land of Promise - Griersonian Documentary

Clip from Land of Promise

from Land of Promise (1946)
Creator: John Grierson
Posted by Michelle Langford