John Grierson (United Kingdom)

John Grierson was born in 1898 in Scotland. He studied philosophy at Glasgow University, but was drawn into film-making through post-graduate study in the US. He became friend with celebrated „documentary“ filmmaker Robert Flaherty. In a 1926 review of Flaherty's Moana, he used the term "documentary" to describe the dramatization of the everyday life of ordinary people. His ground-breaking work on the Scottish herring fleet, Drifters, had its premiere in 1929. In 1936, he produced the celebrated Night Mail directed by Watt and Wright. A prolific director and producer, he was particularly influential through his creation of film units within the Empire Marketing Board and the Post Office, nurturing a whole generation of documentary makers, including Edgar Anstey, Sir Arthur Elton, Stuart Legg, Basil Wright, Harry Watt and Alberto Cavalcanti. Among his many achievements, John Grierson established the National Film Board of Canada during World War II, and served as UNESCO's first Director of Mass Communications and Public Information in 1947. Throughout his long career, he was in some way responsible for the production of well over 1000 films and television programmes. John Grierson died in 1972.


  • Drifters
    49´, UK, 1929
  • Granton Trawler
    11´, UK, 1934

Doc Alliance Members

Doc Alliance is a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.