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Which clippings match 'John Grierson' keyword pg.1 of 1
09 NOVEMBER 2009

Expanding the narrow definitions of documentary animation

"The term 'animated documentary' can still upset a truth–seeking purist. But over the last few years our understanding of what a documentary is has expanded from the narrow direct cinema/cinema vérité definition of the 1970s and the 1980s. A more inclusive definition with room for both classic documentaries like the European city symphonies of the 1920s and the personal film essays of the 1990s and the 2000s is now gaining support.

There was a close connection between animation and documentary filmmaking in Europe in the 1920s (Walter Ruttman, Hans Richter, Dziga Vertov) and in the UK in the 1930s (John Grierson, Len Lye, Norman McLaren). This close connection continued at the National Film Board of Canada after World War II and through to this day. Even Hollywood's Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences accepted the animated documentary as documentary proper by giving the Oscar to McLaren (Neighbours, 1952) and Saul Bass (Why Man Creates, 1968). The direct cinema/cinema vérité movements and the total dominance of TV documentaries closely based on journalism have dominated the documentary tradition since the 1960s. But postmodernist thinking combined with more individual/personal artistic filmmaking have brought the artistic elements of the European documentaries of the 1920s and 1930s back. And this scene has also opened up for the modern animated documentary.

At the NFB the filmmakers never stopped making animated documentaries, and a similar tradition has been kept alive in the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden and Norway. I believe a major reason for this is the social democratic political thinking that lies behind both the ideology of the NFB and the film politics in Scandinavia. The film industry deserves state funding because the films play a vital role in our democracy."

(Gunnar Strøm, March 2005, 'How Swede It Is ...and Danish and Norwegian: Scandinavian documentary animation', p.13,

Fig.1 Monika Forsberg & Susie Sparrow 2006, We Believe in Happy Endings



Simon Perkins
23 AUGUST 2005

Indian Documentary: representing the collective

"Traditionally Indian documentary has emphasised the collective rather than the individual and thus has eschewed personal perspectives. As Tom Waugh has characterised it, the Indian documentary tradition overwhelmingly favoured the didactic social documentary in the Griersonian mode; such a documentary approach was prevalent during the first four decades after independence in 1947.[1] In the 80s, Indian documentarists moved towards the direct cinema style prevalent in the West in the 60s, adopting its realist aesthetic and reliance on interviews while continuing to retain Greirsonian voice–over narration. However, as Waugh points out, in contrast to Western documentaries – emphasis on individual protagonists, Indian films relied on the collective in representing its subject, including the collective interview. In place of the private home was the street. Waugh contextualises this formal aspect of documentary in the cultural, political, and economic imperatives of a post colonial society. Within this social formation and political orientation, the group rather than the individual and public spaces rather than private ones become the primary sites of political discourse and cultural expression."
(Jyotsna Kapur)

Kapur, J. (2003). 'Why the personal is still political – some lessons from contemporary Indian documentary.'Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media 23.



Amar Kanwar • collectivecollectivismcommunityconfessiondirect cinemadocumentaryIndiainterviewJohn Grierson • Pankaj Rishi Kumar • politicsrepresentation • social ideology • Tom Waugh • traditionWestern

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