Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Shameless Propaganda

... is the title the National Film Board has given to the film that marks its 75th anniversary this year.. It examines the NFB of the Second World War years, under John Grierson, "the messages within the films produced in 1939-45, how they defined Canada at the time and what they say to us now."

The director, Robert Lower, considers the specific flavour of National Film Board propaganda:
It’s nice, it’s Canadian. The tone is friendly, reasonable and persuasive, neither the hectoring of Nazi newsreels nor the over-the-top breathless hype of US series like The March of Time. (This is not just my opinion; it was expressed by many Americans who watched both.) The flavour is achieved by an unrelenting positivism and a selection of topics intended to instruct and inform but never to criticize anyone but the enemy. And the tone is almost always reasonable. Examples of unreasonable tone are few and most of them are in my film.

Lower thinks Grierson's vision for public film-making carried the NFB into peacetime, even though Grierson himself did not last at the film board:
Both the Americans and the British focused almost exclusively on the drama of war and “our” virtue versus “their” monstrous perfidy. Grierson never wanted to be that filmmaker. He did it as a necessary element, but his motto was, “We must make peace as exciting as war,” so it was the business of peaceful life that drew him, the challenge of the quotidian. Those other units disappeared with the end of the war. The NFB—Grierson’s NFB—had made a connection with the lives of all Canadians, and that gave it legs. 
Shameless Propaganda debuts at Vancouver's DOXA festival this weekend, and airs on Documentary Channel May 13.

Image source: NFB
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