Channel 4 and British film culture
It’s always satisfying to review a title produced by ‘one of our own’ so here’s a a collection of academic journal articles printed in book form and co-edited by Justin Smith. Those of you in Eldon will recognise him as one of our resident film experts holding the titles of Professor of Media Industries and Reader in British Film Culture.
Justin’s interest in the historiography of films goes back a long way. “Primarily a cultural historian with an interest in cinema, my research focuses on film history, post-war British cinema, audience studies and fan cultures, cultural theory and popular culture, and film and television policy.”
Film on Four considers aspects of the legacy that made Film4 synonymous with a rejuvenated national cinema. Justin Smith and Paul McDonald tell us that when Channel 4 was launched in 1982 it commissioned new feature films for television broadcast and selective cinema release. This marked a shift in British film culture and renewed our interest in home-grown film production. It gave the more discerning film-goer more choice than high budget glossy Hollywood blockbusters and introduced a new audience to low-budget intelligent arthouse films – without the sub-titles . Channel 4 withstood early criticism from some industry voices but in 1987 its contribution to European cinema was recognised with the accolade of the Roberto Rosselini award at the Cannes film festival. The high number of quality films which have subsequently been produced “has made Film4 synonymous with a rejuvenated national cinema and established television films as a vital cornerstone of government film policy.”
Laura Maine tells us that Channel 4 has supported more than 400 feature films in its 30 year existence. Here are a few: Wish You Were Here (1987), Mona Lisa and Dance with a Stranger (1985), A Room with a View, My Beautiful Launderette, Letter to Brezhnev (1985), Another Time, Another Place (1983), Hope and Glory (1987), Drowning by Numbers (1988), Distant Voices, Still Lives, Angel (1982), Prick Up Your Ears (1987), Paris, Texas (1984) and Trainspotting (1996). There are also the box office hits such as The Crying Game, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Slumdog Millionaire. There were the little-known actors who were propelled to stardom such as Daniel Day-Lewis, Ewan MacGregor, Robert Carlyle and Helena Bonham Carter. There were the directors like Danny Boyle, John Boorman and Peter Greenaway – together with his sound-track composer Michael Nyman. Britain has a far richer and diverse culture as a result of these hugely talented individuals.
Film on Four consists of five essays and a piece entitled Interview Dossier documenting interviews with the four key figures responsible for Channel 4’s film production activities since its inception in 1982.
There are a number of doctoral theses held in the University Library analysing British film culture here. You may recognise some of the authors…
For more history of British film books see (Emeritus Professor of Film History) Sue Harper’s work here.
Click here for Justin’s study on cult film Withnail and I.
The book Film on Four is part of the Journal of British cinema and television which we hold in print and on-line. You can also register with Film4 on-line for all the latest TV listings, Film4 films in production, interviews, video clips and trailers.
For more film resources recommended by Greta, your CCi Faculty Librarian, click on the My Subject pages. And don’t forget Box of Broadcasts where you can save your favourite films,documentaries or clips onto a playlist.
If you are want a career in film-making and are interested in submitting an idea or a film to Film 4 you can contact Channel 4 for details here.
And finally…a little treat for those of you who remember Hope and Glory – some YouTube film clips
I just love the bit where Bill goes back to school and it’s been bombed! ENJOY!