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Crofter's Life in the Shetlands, A (1932)

Courtesy of Scottish Screen Archive

Main image of Crofter's Life in the Shetlands, A (1932)
16mm film, black & white, amateur
DirectorJenny Brown
Title effects Barbara Scott
Scottish Screen Archive collection

A cyclical year on a croft on the Shetland Isles with scenes of islanders at work on their croft land, at the fishing and celebrating the traditional Up Helly Aa winter festival.

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A Crofter's Life in Shetland (1931) was the first film made by Jenny Brown, with a second hand 16mm cine camera on which she taught herself the rudiments of photography and editing. She stayed with crofter friends in Shetland while shooting scenes through the changing seasons during 1930-1931. The intimacy she established with her hosts, who are the subjects of the film, clearly comes through.

Once completed, Brown arranged a screening in London and somewhat audaciously invited John Grierson to attend. Grierson came, saw, and was impressed: "Miss Jenny Brown has made a picture of the Shetlands. It is her first picture, and she has made it very daringly by herself without any professional assistance whatsoever. For a solo effort it is an extraordinary job of work. It not only gives you very beautiful pictures of Shetland but it gets down to the life of the crofters and fishermen, and brings the naturalness of it. Miss Brown has already broken through the curse of artificiality and is on the way to becoming a real film maker, a real illuminator of life and movement." A creative relationship ensued between the two, culminating in the production the following year of a further five short films for Grierson and later The Rugged Island: A Shetland Lyric (1934).

Kenneth Broom

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Extract (2:49)
Rugged Island, The: A Shetland Lyric (1934)
Shetland Experience, The (1977)