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HUMANITIES 523 Gary Evans. John Grierson and the National Film Board: The Politics of Wartime Propaganda University of Toronto Press. 360. $24.95; $16.95 paper John Grierson and the NFB ECW Press. 155. $14.00 Few figures in the history of Canadian culture have inspired as much reverence and awe among their peers as John Grierson (1898-1972). Few national governm~nt filmmaking bodies have enjoyed as much international prestige over so many decades as the one he founded in 1939, the National Film Board of Canada. Over the years, both the man and the institution have attracted their share of historical attention. Foremost among the writers on Grierson is the Scottish film critic and co-founder ofthe Edinburgh Film Festival, Forsyth Hardy. He first edited an early collectionofGrierson'swritings (Grierson on Documentary, Collins 1946, subsequently revised and updated, Praeger 1971). More recently he has completed the official biography (John Grierson: A Documentary Biography, Faber and Faber 1979). This work, despite its somewhat ambiguous title, is a discursive monograph. The commoner kind of publication is the compilation of homages, personal recollections, and testimonials such as the Cinematheque canadienne's Homage to John Grierson (1964), and James Beveridge's transcripts of interviews, speeches, and statements collected in the making of the 1973 NFB film Grierson and published as John Grierson: Film Master (Macmillan 1978). Historical studies of the National Film Board range from the ten-page pamphlet of an NFB Publicity Officer Games Lysyshyn, A BriefHistory: The National Film Board of Canada, NFB 1971) to the 760-page thesis of C. Rodney James (revised and republished as Film as a National Art: NFB of Canada and the Film Board Idea, Arno Press 1977). More recently, D.B. Jones has attempted to combine a I structure-function' history of the institution with an aesthetic-critical survey of its films (Movies and Memoranda, Canadian Film Institute/Deneau 1981). All these are discursive monographs . The compilationapproach maybe found in PeterMorris's32-page pamphlet, The National Film Board ofCanada: The War Years (Canadian Film Institute 1965) and, of course, the various collections of articles and conference papers on Canadian film all include a section of contributions on the National Film Board (Seth Feldman/Joyce Nelson, Canadian Film Reader, Peter Martin Associates 1977, pp 35-136; Pierre Veronneau, Les cinemas canadiens (La cinematheque quebecoise 1978) edited in English as Piers Handling, Self Portrait, Essays on the Canadian and Quebec Cinemas (Canadian Film Institute 1980, pp 42-53, 77-93); Seth Feldman, Take Two (Peter Martin Associates 1984, pp 112-48, 182-243). Forty-five years after the founding of the National Film Board by 524 LETTERS IN CANADA 1984 Grierson, two books have appeared bearing similartitles and combining discussion of both Grierson and the work of the NFB. In view of the scholarly tradition summarized above, it is no surprise to find that one is a monograph written by a Montreal teacher who had attended Grierson's lectures and seminars at McGill University in 1970-1, while the other is a collection of papers read ata 1981 conference held in Montreal to mark the opening of the Grierson Project at McGill University. Each proclaims a similar intention: to avoid a history of the man in favour of I a history of the movement he founded and the idea for which it stood' (Evans); 'it was infinitely more important to speak of the issues than ofthe man' (GriersonProjectconference). Neitherfulfils this promise completely. The great merit of Evans's book is to make accessible the details of Grierson's stay with the National Film Board by the extensive use of governmentpapers andunpublisheddocuments from the PublicArchives of Canada in Ottawa, from institutional libraries in Montreal, and from private sources. Use is also made of private interviews with many of the NFB filmmakers and officials from that period. The result is a narrative of the events which surrounded the NFB establishment and production in wartime Ottawa. The opening chapter on Early Film Propaganda sketches the history of the first such films in Canada: the CPR I scenics' designed to stimulate British emigration before the 1914 war, Max Aitken's role in developing anti-German Canadian films in the Great...


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