Biography of 'GILBERTSON, Jenny Isabel (nee Brown)'

Image 1 for 'GILBERTSON, Jenny Isabel (nee Brown)'

Film-maker

Born: 1902, Glasgow
Died: 1990, Shetland

Gilbertson trained as a teacher and in 1929 did a secretarial course with journalism in London. She saw an amateur film of a Loch Lomond holiday and decided filmmaking was for her, making educational films and lecturing with them in schools, she bought a 16mm camera and practised by filming two 50ft rolls in the park. Arriving in Shetland to film seasonal life in January 1931, by autumn had made A Crofter’s Life in Shetland. After cutting the film together she invited John Grierson to view it. He was enthusiastic and advised her on documentary-making techniques and to buy a professional camera, so she bought a 35mm Eyemo.

Returning to the Shetland Islands, she made 5 films, which Grierson bought, for the GPO Film Library, he then advised her to make a story- documentary. This resulted in The Rugged Island- A Shetland Lyric, a story of the harsh life of crofting families in the 1930s. During a 1934/35 lecture tour of Canada with "Rugged Island", Gilbertson made Prairie Winter with Evelyn Spice. Gilbertson used this in a lecture tour of Britain. Between 1936-1939 she made three Shetland films.

From 1940 Gilbertson ran a small Shetland hosiery business. Realising in 1947 that she had no head for business, she reluctantly accepted an offer of teaching in the local school for one year and stayed for twenty. During this time she broadcast several short radio talks, wrote scripts for schools radio and two one-hour radio plays. While she was still teaching, her friend, filmmaker Elizabeth Balneaves, suggested they make a film together for BBC Northern Service. People of Many Lands - Shetland was broadcast on BBC in October 1967. Gilbertson retired from teaching in 1967 and was able to devote more time to filmmaking. She had collected material of the cyclical life of the ponies on Shetland and after several attempts to film the mares foaling she finished Shetland Pony in 1969.

In 1970, Gilbertson and Balneaves prepared to film in Canada, but Balneaves became ill so Gilbertson went alone. She made several films of Arctic life, People of Many Lands – the Eskimo was commissioned by the BBC Jenny’s Arctic - Part 1 was made for Canadian Broadcasting Company in 1972. To film Jenny’s Dog Team Journey, in 1975, 4 adults and a baby travelled 300 miles in two weeks over inhospitable terrain from Igloolik to Repulse Bay. CBC in 1976 and BBC in 1978 broadcast the film.

In 1977-78 Gilbertson, now 76, spent 13 months in Grisefiord, 900 miles north of the Arctic Circle to make Jenny’s Arctic Diary, recording a cyclical year in the life of the Inuit community. Gilbertson was remarkable in that all her films were what she described as a "one-woman job"; she did all the script-writing, filming, sound, lighting, direction herself. Her films were so successful because they had a very special quality; she identified with and was clearly accepted by the people being filmed.

Researcher: Anne Wade

Films associated with 'COCOZZA, Enrico'

Asc Desc

AMONG THE CLOUDS [1065]

The panoramic scenery of the Assiniboine Range in the Canadian Rockies, seen through the eyes of a climbing party. [This film was given to the film-maker Jenny Gilbertson by the Canadian Government in the 1950s to be used while lecturing in Canada].

1952

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BIG TIMBER [1079]

Coverage of lumberjacking in British Columbia, from trees cut and sawed to being shipped all over the world.

1949

silent

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CATTLE SALE, a [0989]

Scenes at a cattle sale in the Shetland Isles.

1932

silent

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'CROFTER'S LIFE IN SHETLAND, a' thumbnail

CROFTER'S LIFE IN SHETLAND, a [0981]

New video

A cyclical year on a croft in the Shetland Isles with scenes of islanders at work on their crofts, fishing and celebrations during the "Up Helly Aa" festival.

Full length video available

1931

silent

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DA MAKKIN O' A KESHIE [1127]

A crofter in the Shetland Isles demonstrates how to make a 'keshie' to carry home his peat. [One of a group of films made by Jenny Brown and bought by John Grierson for the GPO Film Library in the 1930s].

1932

silent

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GILBERTSON STOCK SHOTS [3397]

Possibly footage shot for PEOPLE OF MANY LANDS - SHETLAND (BBC). (16 mins)

1967

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'IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING' thumbnail

IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING [1129]

Crofters are seen gathering and then "rooing" sheep, carding and spinning the wool to make jumpers. [One of a group of films about Shetland made by Jenny Brown and purchased by John Grierson for the GPO Film Library in the 1930s]

Full length video available

1932

silent

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JENNY'S ARCTIC DIARY [3008]

A cyclical year in the lives of the Inuit community at Grise Fjord, Ellesmere Island, 900 miles north of the Arctic circle.

1978

sound

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JENNY'S ARCTIC PART I [2999]

Dog sleighs and hunting at an Inuit village.

1972

mute

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'JENNY'S DOG TEAM JOURNEY' thumbnail

JENNY'S DOG TEAM JOURNEY [2510]

A dog team journey made from Igloolik to Repulse Bay, 300 miles by sea ice and over the hills of the Melville Peninsula, with four adults and a three month old baby. The journey took two weeks, sleeping in an igloo every night. [BBC purchased British ri

Full length video available

1975

sound

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'NORTHERN OUTPOST' thumbnail

NORTHERN OUTPOST [0773]

Fishing and agriculture, transport, the archaeology and scenery of the Shetland Isles.

Full length video available

1940

sound

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ROVDEHORN [3023]

Film recalling the Norwegian government's gift of the car ferry 'Rovdehorn' to Shetland and historical links formed between Shetland and Norway during World War II. [Re-editing of original black & white footage shot in 1965, with colour prologue. Epilogu

1988

sound

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'RUGGED ISLAND, the : A SHETLAND LYRIC' thumbnail

RUGGED ISLAND, the : A SHETLAND LYRIC [0991]

A documentary story film about a young couple torn between the choice of emigration to Australia or remaining to work their croft in Shetland.

Full length video available

1972

silent

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'SCENES FROM A SHETLAND CROFT LIFE' thumbnail

SCENES FROM A SHETLAND CROFT LIFE [0980]

How peat is cut using a "tushkar" and made ready to be used as fuel in a croft in the Shetland Isles.

Full length video available

1932

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SEABIRDS IN THE SHETLAND ISLANDS [1128]

Footage of the seabirds found in the Shetland Isles. [One of a group of films made by Jenny Brown and bought by John Grierson for the GPO Film Library in the 1930s].

1932

silent

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'SHETLAND PONY' thumbnail

SHETLAND PONY [1130]

The rearing of Shetland ponies on island crofts.

Full length video available

1969

sound

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VOYAGEUR TRAILS [1077]

Story of Ozark Ripley and his party of friends going for canoeing and fishing trip on the French River in Canada, which was discovered by the French Explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1615.

silent

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WALRUS HUNT [6911]

Overview of Inuit hunters killing a walrus and dragging it onboard their boat.

sound

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YOUNG GANNET, a [0990]

A solan goose is caught by a crofter on Shetland, but is returned to the sea after a fortnight.

1932

silent

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