“The herring fishing has changed. It was once an idyll of brown sails and village harbours — its story now is an epic of steam and steel.”
Herring fishermen in a North Sea coastal village head out to sea and bring their haul back to land for selling.
John Grierson’s Drifters is the type of movie that requires a bit of contextualization in order to appreciate its historical relevance (and hence its inclusion in Peary’s GFTFF). Taken at face value, it’s simply a reasonably engaging b&w silent documentary about the lives of herring fishermen in England, one which amply demonstrates that fishing is HARD, highly collaborative work — but it won’t strike one as particularly revelatory from a cinematic standpoint. However, knowing that Grierson would go on to spearhead the British Documentary Film Movement — which was established to “educate citizens in an understanding of democratic society” — one gains a better appreciation of what, specifically, he was aiming for with Drifters (which remains the only feature film he actually directed himself). It’s interesting to note that he was apparently heavily influenced by Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925); ffs will surely notice parallels in style. Check out Montage Film Reviews’ lengthy essay to read much more about the film and about Grierson’s greater vision with it.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A powerfully shot and edited early documentary
No, though it’s certainly worth a look for its historical importance.