From its earliest definitions, documentary filmmaking has been able to, according to John Grierson, “exploit the powers of natural observation, to build a picture of reality,” and “bring the cinema to its destiny as a social commentator, inspirator and art.” Grierson was commissioner of the National Film Board of Canada when he presented the first Academy Award to a documentary film on February 26, 1942. The winning film, Churchill’s Island—along with the majority of documentaries that won or were nominated for Oscars throughout the war years—used cinema to inform, inspire, and indoctrinate a public thrust into unprecedented global conflict. The first in an annual survey of documentaries from the Academy Film Archive, this exhibition displays incredible feats of battlefield courage and ingenuity by soldiers and filmmakers alike.

Organized by Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator of Film, and Ed Carter, Documentary Curator, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

Licensing of MoMA images and videos is handled by Art Resource (North America) and Scala Archives (all other geographic locations). All requests should be addressed directly to those agencies, which supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.