Here are three films from the British Documentary Movement, a school of filmmaking that flourished in the UK from the mid-1920s until the end of World War II. These films are beautiful and skillful nationalist texts that weave together a community of Britons across geographic and class lines.
Drifters is John Grierson's depiction of the fishing industry on the North Sea. The rhythmic editing employed here is clearly in dialogue with - but also distinct from - 1920s avant-garde films from the Soviet Union and continental Europe.
Night Mail is a mesmerizing ode to the postal service featuring the music of Benjamin Britten and concluding with a poem by W.H. Auden. It is also a clever and effective nationalist film that constructs a national community from the south of England to Scotland.
Listen to Briain is a gentle piece of wartime propaganda by Humphrey Jennings, the filmmaker whom Lindsay Anderson once described as "the only real poet that British cinema has yet produced."
In an era in which documentary filmmaking is enjoying a spectacular renaissance, it is worth looking back on this earlier era of achievement and innovation in cinematic nonfiction.