So the announcements for the Oscar Nominations have been made and nine films are up for best picture, with Hugo, The Artist and The Descendents leading the pack. However, throughout the list of nominations there was a distinct lack of British contribution. Although last year our fair nation dominated the awards season with The King’s Speech there is very little to shout about this year, with the only nomination worth any acknowledgement being Gary Oldman’s for his Best Actor nod for his role of George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Now, we could look at this and suggest that the Americans have very much just stuck to their own this year and not gone down the road of nominating less mainstream, British flicks such as Tyrannosaur and Tinker itself. However, I believe we must look towards our own shores as to why this year has been such a damp squib for British film.
A few weeks ago, David Cameron visited Pinewood studios as the government assessed how the film industry has been performing and ultimately deciding whether The Conservatives should continue to fund the British Film Industry (BFI). In 2010 their decision to cut all funding towards the UK Film Council was met with fierce opposition from actors, directors and film fans. However, this was expected from an economy making cuts all across the board.
Upon visiting Pinewood, David Cameron said he wanted more films like The King’s Speech, films that not only garner favour and help the world see the power of British cinema, but are also marketable and economically viable. Sorry Mr Cameron but only very few films are critically successful across the board while making a lot of money, garnering huge audiences and achieving awards success. Especially when all of the funding for potential filmmakers to spread their wings is axed. If they cannot begin somewhere then audiences are going to have the same formulaic, systematic cinema repeated year after year and British cinema will go into a dark age, the likes in which various European countries such as Spain and Italy were facing under dictatorships. It is a shame that The Conservatives only seek an economically beneficially culture, putting it ahead of artistry. One thing that politicians should never do is dabble in the creative industry because a cut in funding now could damage the amount of money that British films contribute to the economy in the future.
This is why we have had so many directors moving to Hollywood such as Christopher Nolan, Tom Hooper, Edgar Wright, Gareth Edwards and so on. This is because there is just no money over here whereas in the States they get the freedom and the economic stability to make the films they want. We are in severe danger of living in a cinematic world of sequels, generic films and American imports, that while good, rids us of our culture and what made our films famous in the first place. It is a deep shame that out government do not believe in the age old mantra Ars Gratia Artis, Arts for art’s sake. Comedian Stewart Lee perfectly sums up the attitude to the arts here and describes how this started with Mrs Thatcher back in the eighties.
Cameron also wants a cut in the gritty dramas that don’t make much money, although that is what our industry is based upon. The films of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach are much more important to society than the money they produced. Where would the film industry be without the pioneers of British cinema such as Humphrey Jennings, David Lean and Powell and Pressburger. What these people did was more important than the money. Where would we be without film funding, some of the most influential and important films would have never been made and many of the best British directors would never have begun their careers.
More money must be pumped into the film industry, the museums are given huge amounts and while important it does not have the same power of transcendence as cinema. Not everyone has access to the museums, with some thinking they are only for the rich and culturally literate to enjoy whereas film transcends classes and economics. It has the emotive power that any other medium doesn’t. If The Conservatives do not push money into this cause the BFI will be dead within the decade and we will all be so much the poorer for it.