Before the now famous Discovery channel documentary style show, “Deadliest Catch” there was another documentary “Drifters” brought to us by EMB – Empire Marketing Board. Spear headed by John Grierson this 1929 silent documentary, follows the herring fishing industry in Great Britain. Although, it does not follow swearing sea captains and is a little less entertaining, it is still effective. The film was Grierson’s first film and as director he wanted to publicize how these men and their hard work fit into the global economy.
Before watching this documentary, I expected to see a primitive documentary by this first time filmmaker. However, as I watched in the dark lecture hall, myself and others found our attention glued to the screen. The documentary accompanied instrumental soundtrack was fascinating. The use of title cards was not interrupting at all, but informative. The only criticism I have is that the film was too effective. Myself and a few other classmates were overcome with a combination of sea sickness, resulting from motion sickness. Grierson’s shots of the rocking horizon and the motion of camera with the boat, is unlike any movie I have yet to see. In comparison to today’s 3d movies, the feeling of actually being on deck was unmistakable.
Grierson went on to become a liaison with the title of Creative Organizer for the EMB, in which his main focus was finding $$$ and sponsorship to fund film projects. Although, I would have loved to see more films directed by him. He continued on to the NFBC – Nation Film Board of Canada, after leaving the British Common wealth. If you have never seen this documentary, I highly suggest it. However, if you known you might become motion sick, watch it in segments. I do apologize I could not find a copy of this on YouTube, and it appears to not be available on Netflix or BBC either.