Industrial Britain represents a watershed in the development of the British documentary movement, the moment when artistic achievement was first blended meaningfully with social intent. The film developed from John Grierson’s opportunistic recruitment of the well known director and anthropologist.Industrial Britain provides a traditional picture of Britain as it is interrupted by industrial stacks billowing out smoke. It is a dramatic illustration of how the young British documentary movement grappled with the influence of the genre’s founding father. Flaherty’s ethos was essentially that of a 19th Century conservative individualist; he was attracted to the elemental extremes of nature and was suspicious of the mechanisation of the modern world. In films like Housing Problems, on the other hand, the young progressives of the British documentary movement would propound scientific solutions to the social and economic problems of the interwar period.
Widely regarded as the inventor of documentary cinema, Robert Flaherty approached filmmaking with an ethnographer’s eye. Born in 1884, Flaherty became the father-figure of documentary with his Nanook of the North, the first commercially successful feature length documentary film. Although nothing in his later life equaled its success, he continued making films such as Moana the film that became the reason for the introduction of the term ‘documentary’ from John Grierson.