All 28 entries tagged Contemporary British Cinema
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January 11, 2008
Globalisation & Representation in European Cinema: Hub Page
(From BBC Website April 2007)
This page is a hub page which can direct you to specific films covered in this blog which have as one of their core themes the representation of the processes of globalisation and migrant labour which may be legal , 'illegal' or undocumented or varieties of slavery including sex trafficking. There will also be a range of useful external links provided. The focus films are currently mainly British ones with some exceptions. Sadly there seem to be few current European films dealing with these issues although of course they may be 'out there' but just not well distributed. The availability of these will be monitored and added to this page as and when they are released / discovered. Whatever else there are a fantastic number of stories of human endurance, stoicism, tragedy and success out there. It is time these were represented far more strongly and effectively than they are and also they should be represented with some recognition at the meta level of what has created these conditions in the first place. Links are also provided to useful pages or references about trafficking, migrant labour, Shock Therapy etc.
A Paucity of Representation
On a Google search of a couple of terms I'm rather surprised that there is very little work on the web concerned with the representation of the processes of globalisation in particular cinemas and their outcomes at the level of narratives either fictional or more documentary style. British cinema is barely touched upon with the only recent film with any serious coverage being The Last Resort by Pawel Pawlikowski in a PDF of an academic conference held under the auspices of the Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe research group. Many other subjects which came up through the search focused on such things as the domination of global cinema by Hollywood, a process which has been happening since the end of the First World War so is hardly news.
What this particular page is concerned about is not the responses of Hollywood's 'other' ie the now, to my mind, inappropriately named World Cinema to this economic domination, although it is of concern. Rather I was hoping to find serious work linking the underlying processes of politcal economy and the global flows of migration into Europe and attempts to represent this process. In the conference refered to above there was a useful looking body of work developing around recent Italian cinema. Sadly I'm not familiar with most of the films mentioned and haven't seen them promoted here however I will be checking them out. Even as late on as 1997 in a city like Vilnius in Lithuania one could see many beggars often old and with bad disabilities out on the streets in desparate straits. in the process of gaining nascent democracy the price was being paid by the weakest in society.
Amongst others an entrepreneurial streak was established, cowboy economies ruled, various criminal gangs grew up and gang murders were frequent. A range of dodgy companies trading in cross-border deals with Russia in metals started up. These countries became entrepots for sex trafficking and migrant labour now being sucked into the burgeoning and quite deregulated economies of countries like Britain.
Globalisation: The Neoliberalism of Thatcher & Reagan
When discussing globalisation it is obviously a huge concept to come to terms with. I'm taking globalisation to mean the development of a dominant discourse of neo-liberalism which started with the nearly simultaneous election of Thatcher and Reagan in 1979 / 1980 after the crisis of capitalism in the 1970s which saw the rate of profit sink in both countries and other leading Western economies, furthermore the 1970s was a decade of severe industrial strife as well as other political upheavals in Europe. Globalisation went on for about a decade which saw the enforced collapse of the Soviet Union through a door that was already half open. To get to this point required the breaking of the trade union movements in Britain and the USA through a process of deindustrialisation in these countries and the installing of an infrastructure which could develop an informationally based economy. At the same time the Soviet Union which was the main external pole of resistance to gloablisation came under increasing pressure. Undoubtedly the war in Afghanistan in which the current Taliban and al Quaida networks were supported by British and American special forces training helped to sap the energy of Soviet forces who were a relatively untrained conscript army at least as unwilling to be fighting as a lot of young Americans in Vietnam.
Shock Therapy & Diaspora
A core part of the strategy of the Anglo-American axis of power after the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 - a symbolic and real signifier of the collapse of the Soviet Union - was the institution of the so-called 'Shock Therapy' economic regime in the former Soviet block. This prioritised an effective destruction of the economic infrastructure of these countries which were often internally linked by creating a range of tarrifs which made it impossible for the old system to function as effective economic competition for Western economies. It also opened up the system to takeovers by Western companies.
The system of Shock Therapy also managed to wipe out the savings many people had made which were held in Roubles. The collapse of the Rouble which became almost worthless meant disaster for many older people in the ex-Soviet Union such as the Baltic States as well as people under the influence of the Soviet regime in countries such as Poland. At the same time the welfare system which had ensured that everybody had housing, health and work largely fell apart. The newly emergent states were unable to afford anything like this.
Of course this doesn't explain other sources of cheap labour pouring into Southern Europe from Africa or into the United Sates via Mexico. Historically massive phases of economic expansion have sucked in labour from other parts of the World. Migration into Britain to build the transport infrastructure in the 19th century largely came from Ireland, the railways system in the USA was based upon Chinese labourers. Post-war European expansion was fuelled with labour from different parts of the world depending upon the imperial past: Britain from the West Indies, India and Pakistan; France from Algeria and various African colonies; Germany had its Gastarbeiter system using labour from Turkey, Spain, Morocco and the then Yugoslavia.
On this basis one can either argue that the growth of capitalism as an economic system is a form of globalisation which is a direct response to the collapse of empire as a result of the 20th century 30 Years War 1914 - 1945 or as I have done here take it as the outcomes of a specific moment in which the years of 1979 / 80 were a key political turning point which allowed the establishing of a truly globalising economy with a series of outcomes one of which is mass diasporas into the more advanced economies.
Representing Globalisation the Strength of British Independent Cinema
In general the repesentation of the multi-faceted aspects of globalisation have been weak however it is argued here that British cinema has been possibly the best national cinema in representing the underlying political economy of globalisation as defined above. Some of the work of Ken Loach has been concerned with the de-regulation of British industry and the dodgy outcomes of economic liberalisation from the early 1990s until now. Riff-Raff, The Navigators and It's a Free World have certainly covered many of these issues as they have unfurled underpinned by the director's understanding of political economy. Ae fond Kiss also saw Loach take on board the issue of ethnicity and identity very directly. Independent British cinema has certainly been strong on both the concerns of migration and diaspora and also on the issues of hybridity and the changing cultural identity of Britain in recent years. Arguably it could have been stronger but that is an issue well beyond the desires of individual filmmakers who have done an excellent job in the face of an industry which provides little in the way of marketing and promotion, distribution and exhibition.
I consider that the issue of representing ethnicity in British cinema frequently relates to the period of pre-globalisation in films such as East is East. The waves of immigration into the UK predated globalisation on my working definition and representation and ethnicity can often relate to several generations of British people and the hybridity stemming from that embeddedness. The representation of ethnicities from temporary migration and recent migration as a direct outcome of globalisation are treated differently although there are clearly crossovers and overlapping as in the case of the representation of those who are British but become caught up in post 9-11 resistance to globalisation as represented in films like The Road to Guantanamo.
Other contemporary British films which deal with the issues of Globalisation currently include:
11-09-01; Collected shorts including Ken Loach. A series of responses to 9/11
For an overview about these films and their contribution to contemporay British cinema please go to Representing the World Locally.
Non-British Films Representing the Forces of Globalisation
Lily 4-Ever: Lucas Moodysson (Sweden, the economic Shock Therapy regime helps promote Sex trafficking to better off Western Economies)
Cache: Michael Haneke (France) (An allegorical tale of French repressed memory of the murdurous treatment of Algerians in the 1960s)
Code Unknown: Michael Haneke (France) (The breakdown of communications in the contemporary world)
Babel ( 2006) Alejandro González Iñárritu (Japan/ Mexico / USA). Another powerful allegory of miscommunication and such things as arms dealing. At Cannes 2006 many lauded the film as the first great film about globalisation.)
Shock Therapy and its Consequences in Transition Economies (Requires institutional access)
Mervyn King as reported by the Daily Telegraph on the way wages have been kept down by immigrant labour.
From a different political pespective The Worker outlines its case on Migrant Workers and their exploitation
The UK signs a European Convention on trafficking. Will regulation finally catch up with the situation?
January 04, 2008
Kinoeye Reference Hub Page
As the Kinoeye film and media blog develops a range of reference pages are being made available. You may wish to bookmark this page to be able to quickly refer to what is currently available at any time.
Reference pages will include: bibliographies glossaries, chronologies, convenient list of directors, actors etc.
National Cinema Hub Pages
In depth individual explanations of terms
January 03, 2008
British Directors: Joe Wright (1972-)
Joe Wright in a short career has proved to be highly successful director of heritage style costume dramas based upon literary adaptations. Atonement (2007) opened the 64th Venice Film Festival making Wright the youngest director ever to have had a film opening this festival.
Wright was trained at St. Martins art school in London now Central St. Martins University of the Arts London. He has been identified as dyslexic and left school with no qualifications. His dyslexia was comensated for by an excellent ability within the field of visual communications and the strength of his painting and film making skills exceptionally won him a place in the prestigious St Martins to study fine art and film He won recognition making a short film for the BBC and directed the highly successful historical drama series Charles II: The Power and The Passion for the BBC which won the 2004 BAFTA TV award, Best Drama Serial. This helped him to get film contracts for the historical / heritage / costume drama genre films Atonement and Pride and Prejudice.
The Charles II TV Series is also available:
Filmography (Feature Films)
2005: Pride and Prejudice
Atonement, 2007. Dir Joe Wright
Still under construction. Critical review to follow later but the links will be useful.
This has been the most vaunted British film of 2007 and was chosen to open the 2007 Venice film festival which is an accolade in itself. Based upon the novel of the same name by Ian McEwan the film is a literary adaptation which works within the heritage format as it can be seen as a costume drama and a reflection upon a particular historical period but not based upon events, rather historical events act as a backdrop for the drama. It may well be possible to offer a reading of this film as one which partially deals with a crisis in national identity. The 'Dunkirk spirit' has become a metaphor for the creation of national unity and determination to succeed in the face of victory. The film itself comes from Working Title Productions which indicates that the film is not going to have a seriously critical social ar political edge.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that another cinematic repreat of an historically great moment and an equivalent potential turning point the Spanish Armada is coming up in the form of Kapur's Elizabeth the Golden Age a mainstay period of reconstituting national identity. This does seem a rather overweighty response to the perceived threat of the mythical 'Polish Plumber' from Britian's cinematic establishment. I'd have thought something from Edgar Wright combining a sort of slapstick 'Carry On: Sticking it up Your Pipes' launched at the ICA would be a more appropriate response to BNP paranoia but there you go...
By the middle of December following an early autumn release the film had been nominated for seven Golden Globe awards and on the shortlist for another 8 prizes. The nominations have been forwarded by the London film Critics circle.
What are the Golden Globes?
The Golden Globes, handed out each year by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, is one of the main events in the film awards season in the run-up to the Oscars. Unlike the Oscars, the Globes ceremony has one set of categories for dramas and a separate set for comedies and musicals.
Venice, London and Redcar is an unusual mix of cities and towns to visit to promote a feature film. But Wright is passionate about his need to fullfil his promise to the people of Redcar, to return once the film was completed. (Northern Film and Media).
January 02, 2008
British Directors: Edgar Wright (1974-)
Edgar Wright did a lot of his early work in TV as so many up coming film directors have done in the past. spaced was a successful sitcom which went into two series runnig between 1999 - 2001 and significantly helped Wright to establish a reputation. His first work after studying film at Bournemouth was low budget comedy and he has worked in the comedy idiom ever since. Wright has done a lot of work with Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson and the success of Spaced allowed them to launch Shaun of the Dead a comedy-horror. The success of this film with a moderate budget allowed them to make Hot Fuzz. Wright also spent some time working with more established comedy acts in the BBC namely Alexei Sayle and Dawn French.
Romero eat your heart out - or maybe they will. Shaun of the Dead marked the return of the comedy-horror hybrid genre.
BBC film Network Wright interview. Includes extract of Hot Fuzz
Working Title Shaun of the Dead with trailer available
Hot Fuzz, 2006. Dir: Edgar Wright
Bye Bye The Matrix !
Well I haven't fully investigated it yet but the marketing of the film was clearly brilliantly organised. The BBC website below provided the materials for a very carefully orchestrated launch. Perhaps even more unusual was a preview in the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). This was clearly an attempt by Working Title to build on its considerable reputation and target an much wider audience than might usually go to what might seem to be a typical 'Britcom'. The success of the low budget Shaun of the Dead also by director Edgar Wright also created an air of anticipation.
Film Availability: DVD available in UK
This is an abslotue must go to site if you are interested in the film at all. There are a host of interviews etc off the landing page. First class pages *****!
Working Title: History of a Production Company
(For a larger case study of a production company please see Channel Four / Film Four)
Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner co-chairpersons of Working Title Productions
They have been listed as the most powerful figures in the British industry and in 2002 Premiere magazine put them at 41st in the world-wide movie power list.( BBC News story (2004)
Without well positioned and highly effective producers film makers would have an even more difficult time. Firstly this article will look briefly at the role of the film producer, it will then look in more detail at Working Title as a case study of a success story. Without good producers in the last few years British Film culture would have been much poorer. Good producers are essential for the success of any national cinema especially given the outside pressures from the big guns. Film making is a high risk business and good producers know how / learn how to reduce risk.
However according the the Daily Telegraph NBC Universal already holds a majority stake in Working Title Films, and has been looking to create a European TV studio in London.
Extract from Guardian interview:
Bevan had founded Working Title in 1984 with Sarah Radclyffe, and in 1992 went looking for a corporate backer. Polygram was the one, and Fellner came on board, Radclyffe having left. According to Bevan: "Before that we had been independent producers, but it was very hand to mouth. We would develop a script, that would take about 5% of our time; we'd find a director, that'd take about 5% of the time and then we'd spend 90% of the time trying to juggle together deals from different sources to finance those films. The films were suffering because there was no real structure and, speaking for myself, my company was always virtually bankrupt."
What the film producer does
A film producer creates the conditions for making movies. The producer initiates, coordinates, supervises and controls matters such as fundraising, hiring key personnel, and arranging for distributors. The producer is involved throughout all phases of the filmmaking process from development to completion of a project. (Wikipedia entry 2nd Jan 2008)
Here is the blurb marketing a training course for potential producers:
The producer is at the sharp end of the film business. They are required to
keep all options open, develop networks of potential funding and talent,
identify outlets and new markets for their productions, keep a range of
projects live, ready for pitching. This Film School will provide an
invaluable insight into the working practices and strategies, of the lives
of a variety of producers. They will range from those working exclusively in
shorts, in the UK, through to feature films and working in a global market.
It will provide essential information and tips for up and coming producers,
how to pitch a project, where to seek funding, how to maintain networks of
contacts. Everything you wanted to know about the producers’ job description and the detail of producing film will be revealed in this film School. (My emphasis, Encounters Short Film Festival )
Films Produced by Working Title
Working Title's breakthrough hit was 1994's Four Weddings and a Funeral, a romantic comedy which made the term British blockbuster seem less of an oxymoron.
Films which have been critically and financially successful include both British and American films:
Atonement has been a great success for Working Title functioning as a film in the "heritage genre"
Flops include Captain Corelli's Mandolin. It was their most expensive film and, ironically, the one that seemed most likely to succeed.
This is even more ironic given that the prices in Kefalonia have risen as the tourist trade increased dramatically after the film's release.
How Working Title chooses the films to support
How does Working Title choose which films to make? Fellner says projects get championed by individuals in the development department and these 'percolate' their way up to the top. Bevan and Fellner then both take the decision on what to greenlight (Skillset)
Recent Films Produced Include
Targeting Audience: The Secret of Their success?
The Working Title philosophy has always been to make films for an audience - by that I mean play in a multiplex. We totally believe in this because we know it is the only hope we have of sustaining the UK film industry. (Lucy Guard & Natasha Wharton)
Working Title 2 / WT 2: Making the Small Budget Feature
As Working Title became more bound up with larger productions it became more awkward to deal with smaller ones so WT2 was established to deal with low budget titles.
Despite its famous name, the structure at Working Title is pretty lean. It employs just 42 full time staff, split between the main Working Title production arm and its low-budget offshoot WT2, run by Natascha Wharton, which since 1999 has produced films like Billy Elliot and Ali G Indahouse. (My emphasis, from Skillset )
WT2 has had a good success rate and clearly the whole organisation is run very effectively.
Other films it has produced are the less than well received Calcium Kid starring Orlando Bloom
Extract from a Channel 4 Film Feature
Lucy Guard, Head of Development for Dragon Pictures and Natscha Wharton (left) who co-runs WT2 share with us their secret to developing talent..
How did WT2 come about?
When I was at Working Title we set up a New Writers Scheme to develop new talent. Normally we do not accept unsolicited material (scripts that do not come from an agent or producer) but for the scheme we had to relax a bit and open the doors. The problem was that at Working Title, smaller films would inevitably get less attention than the bigger budget projects so we decided to set up WT2 to give proper attention to those smaller films. Quite a few of the writers we were developing on the Scheme we are now working with us at WT2 while others have set up their projects with other companies, which is great.
Available films produced by Working Title /WT2 include:
WT2 Films available include:
BBC on Inside I'm Dancing a WT2 title (This is technically an Irish film)
Working Title plans TV Shows:By Juliette Garside. Daily Telegraph Jan 2008
Screenonline Working Title entry + links to individuals concerned
Independent Film Producer Rebecca O'Brien. Who works with Ken Loach
(For a larger case study of a production company please see Channel Four / Film Four)
British Directors: Stephen Frears (1941-)
Stephen Frears has had a fine film making career making many notable British films some of which have had a controversial edge live My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammie and Rosie Get Laid. With these films and with Dirty Pretty Things Frears has shown he can make films with his finger on the pulse of social change. His most successful recent film was The Queen which won many accolades. A fuller evaluation will appear in due course however there are a good range of web links established to aid research.
2006: The Queen
2005: Mrs Henderson Presents
2002: Dirty Pretty Things
2000: High Fidelity; Liam
1998: The Hi-Lo Country
1996 The Van
1995: Mary Reilly
1993: The Snapper
1992: Accidental Hero
1990: The Grifters
1989: Dangerous Liaisons
1987: Prick Up Your Ears
1987: Sammy and Rosie Get Laid
1985: My Beautiful Laundrette
1984: The Hit
1979: Bloody Kids
Screenonline Biography.(Excellent range of other links to specific films here)
BBC Film Network page on The Queen. Clip and trailer available here.
Guardian interview of Frears 2004 (who reveals that he watches Big Brother)
British Directors: Mike Hodges (1932 - )
Mike Hodges is still known for his 'gangster heavy' film Get Carter which seems to get number one in the 'Lad's Mags' lists for the 'well 'ard'. In fact it was an insightful view of relationships between British Gangland and various local businesses and of course the police. In terms of representations of Newcastle and the North East at the time the corruption of the Poulson affair.
The film was a continuation of the representation of British Gangland from Brighton Rock through The Long Good Friday which also dealt with corruption and was prescient about developments in the London docklands. Hodges has contributed another gangster heavy film in recent years I'll Sleep When I'm Dead.
For more on the theme of British Crime Films please follow this link.
A fuller evaluation of Mike Hodges work will follow however there are some useful links here to help with your research.
1970 Get Carter
1974 Terminal Man
1979 Flash Gordon
1985 Morons from Outer Space
1987 A Prayer for the Dying
1990 Black Rainbow
2001 Murder By Numbers
2003 I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
2004 Murder by Numbers
BBC Radio 3 series of interviews with Mike Hodges about work in progress on I'll sleep When I'm Dead
Bullet Boy, 2005. Dir: Saul Dibb