UK film has talent but not backing

April 18, 2003

British universities have helped fuel the rapid growth of the country's creative industries, but this drive has not been matched by policy-makers, particularly those responsible for film policy, writes Tim Greenhalgh.

Michael Chanan, a writer, documentary filmmaker and author who gave his inaugural lecture as professor of cultural studies at the University of the West of England last week, said that there was a structural weakness at the heart of British cinema.

He said graduates from British film schools and university courses consistently ran up against an intrinsic barrier to taking part in national film production, despite occasional successes. "There is no point in financing new British films with no chance of distribution," Professor Chanan said.

He said the inherent weakness in the British film industry was the result of a dependency on Hollywood from the 1920s.

"It lies at the root of what can only be called the chronic crisis of British cinema. It is state policy that has allowed domestic film production to be relegated to secondary status by American domination of distribution."

Professor Chanan took issue with the strategy of the Film Council's chairman, Alan Parker. "Parker's logic is that successful British films such as Notting Hill make 85 per cent of their revenues outside the UK, so we need to abandon forever the 'little England' vision of a UK film industry. I presume he can't be talking about Michael Winterbottom's In This World , which has just won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, or Peter Mullan's The Magdalene Sisters , which won at Venice last year."

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