The Establishment of the National Film Board * The NFB Logo * Animation * Significant Dates and Events * Oscar Won by the NFB * McLaren Filmography
The Establishment of the National Film Board
The National Film Board of Canada is a unique cultural, set apart from most other production houses by its mandate. Established on May 2, 1939, by an act of parliment, the National Film Board of Canada is founded by the Canadian goverment. The process had begun in 1936 and was not fully concluded until 1949. The Film Board was born in a five-year struggle between inertia and purposes, or between routine and charisma. John Grierson, a pioneer documentary filmmaker and visionary, founded the National Film Board of Canada and was the first Goverment Film Commissioner.He was born in 1898 in Scotland, the son of the headmaster of a village school. After WW1 he went to Glasgow University, graduating M.A .in philosophy in 1923. From 1924 to 1927 he was in the U.S. on a Rockefeller Research Fellowship in social science, studying at Chicago, Wisconsin, and Columbia Universities. He made a study of the development of newspaper and film media. Before returning to England, Grierson had two experiences which were to shape his thinking and his career. He helped prepare Eisenstein Battelship for American release, and he met Robert Flaherty, whose Nanook of the North he had seen several years earlier in Scotland. These two great directors represented opposite poles in their respective approaches to filmmaking. As the Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens recalled, Grierson would quote the Bible to a Communist and Lenin to Catholic.
In 1928 he returned to England and organized the E.M.B Film Unit, first as director and later as producer. The purpose of this group of film-makers was to “bring alive” in terms of cinema some of the essential but taken-for-granted phases of modern life. When the E.M.B. was dissolved in 1934, the Post Office took over the running of the film unit and Grierson became head of the new G.P.O. Film Unit. In 1935, he founded Film Center in London.Between 1930 and 1938 he was directly or indirectly responsible for the production of a long list of documentaries on behalf of the British Goverment. In the same period he also founded and published World Film News. On the invitation of the Canadian Goverment, he came to canada in 1938 to survey and report upon filmwork and possibilities in this country, and helped to draft the National Film Act of 1939.
The next four years were a time of phenomenal expansion for the Film Board. In October 1941, four month after the absorption of the MPB , there were fifty-five people on the staff. By december 1942, there were 293. By January 1944, there were 458. In 1945, the number of staff reached a peak of 787.during the war, the film Board produced approximately five hundred films. By the end of the war, a single series, World In Action, was reaching a monthly audience of 30 million in twenty-one countries. One thing is certain, by the nineteen-forties, Grierson had drifted far from his early line of thinking. He had always called himself a “propagandist first and filmmaker second, ” and his aesthetic was always action-oriented. In 1945, Grierson stepped down from the NFB to take on the job of Director of UNESCO Mass Communications (1946-1948) in Paris. Later he became Controller of Films at the Central Office of Information in London (1948-1950). Then, in 1951, together with John Baxter , he took charge of the National Film Finance Coporation Group 3,
designed to develop the talents of young feature film-makers and actors. There he influenced such talents as Kenneth More, Peter Finch, and Peter sellers. His dream was to make the National Film Board “the eyes of Canada” and to ensure that it would “through a national use of cinema, see Canada and see it whole: its people and its purpose.”Grierson died on February 19, 1972, in Bath, England at theage of 73.animated games
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