film press

   British film press has poor roots in the British film industry. In major film studios such as Elstree, Shepperton, Pinewood Studios and Ealing, communications were mostly confined to genres and stars, while in film distribution, in-house magazines almost entirely favoured their Hollywood base. The British Film Institute (BFI) Handbook lists over 150 film journals, magazines and newspapers, but only a tiny proportion relates to industry: examples are British Film covering film making and broadcasting in the UK, Scottish Film on film making within Scotland, In Camera for cinematographers and technicians, Screen International for UK oriented trade, and Producer for independent producers.
   The main roots of the film press are in British public opinion and related film values, and in new social identities, film collectives and culture industries. Films have been a staple of the British press both in quality and tabloid circulations, with articles and commentaries appearing in a dozen national, daily or weekly British newspapers with circulations ranging from 200,000 to over four million.
   From 1960 to 1980, the social and political nature of film was an important concern in British public opinion, and film commentaries reflected the political orientations of their editors and film editors. One of the biggest controversies stemmed from Peter Watkins’s film The War Game (1965) about a nuclear attack on Britain, which sections of the press considered propaganda for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Similarly the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times attacked the factual undertones of Ken Loach’s Hidden Agenda (1990) concerning a British shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland. These debates about realism and documentary fiction were covered by intellectual magazines like Screen up to 1994 (see Screen and screen theory). But by the 1970s, the serious film press had already been developing auteur criticism from the Continent. Movie transferred Cahiers du Cinema orientations to the British context, and became critical of the British new wave. The two magazines directly connected to the BFI—Monthly Film Bulletin and Sight and Sound— were developing new European and American as well as British styles and perspectives. Quality screen monthly magazines such as Films and Filming (which became Film Review) followed suit. In the 1980s the serious film magazines (and an emerging fringe press) were affected by cultural studies and cultural movements in Britain. Some developed psychoanalysis, feminist theory, semiotics or Marxism, but many were directly influenced by social and political movements. For example, Framework, which began in 1968 as a university periodical assisted by the BFI was continued in the 1980s by the black film workshop Sankofa, emphasizing black, diasporan, feminist and gay film movements (see diasporan filmmakers; film, feminist; gay film), while Leeds Animation Workshop was dubbed as women’s eye propaganda for its feminist counter-propaganda to the cinematic debates over realism.
   In 1983, Artrage announced a critical black presence in British cinema, and Ceddo Film/ Video Workshop issued guerrilla press releases akin to the music of Bob Marley. Ten years later, Screen was including articles on popular Hindi cinema (for example, ‘Images of Elvis in Indian Film’), while Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willeman were compiling an Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema. Britain’s Asian press, Asian television and the Bandung File reflected the world’s first mass video audience reemerging in the mid- 1990s as big-screen Bollywood (Bombay Hindi cinema) audiences.
   Yet the overarching influence on film press stems from Britain’s role in an international film system which links films to wider media circuits and culture industries. British films represent less than 10 percent of British film markets, where audiences are controlled by loosely coupled multinational consumer organizations. The Sunday supplements’ inclusion of films as part of a catch-all leisure net presaged more hybrid magazines like Arena and The Face covering film, literature, music and fashion, and the arrival in the late 1990s of magazines like Uncut, whose August 1998 (Take 15) issue includes articles on ‘Nic Roeg on David Bowie’, ‘Music and Movie News’, ‘Canned Heat’ (Cannes top 10 films), and ‘Banned Aid’ (British Board of Film Classification censorship). It is geared to highly marketed actors and directors such as Helena Bonham-Carter, Elizabeth Hurley, Kate Winslet, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Peter Greenaway and Kristin Scott Thomas. This might explain the unwillingness of British film festivals and film institutes to either have or develop effective World Wide Web sites, or it may be due to an amateurish approach. In the latter case there remains a variety of interesting publication. For example, Film Dope, Film History and Vertigo provide specialized research and debate for British film-makers and audiences; Music From the Movies covers film music and its composers; Picture House is devoted to British cinema buildings of the past; and Talking Pictures has interviews and articles on all aspects of film culture in the UK. The first issue in 1998 of the annual Journal of Popular British Cinema reviews the subjects of genre and British cinema in Carry On films, 1950s war films, swinging London, crime films, British sexploitation, punk films and Hammer Horror films.
   See also: film reviews
   Further reading
    Diawara, M. (1993) ‘Power and Territory: The Emergence of Black British Film Collectives’, in L.Friedman (ed.), British Cinema and Thatcherism: Fires Were Started, London: UCL Press.
    Petley, J. (1997) ‘Factual Fictions and Fictional Fallacies: Ken Loach’s Documentary Dramas’, in G.McKnight (ed.), Agent of Challenge and Defiance: The Films of Ken Loach, Trowbridge: Flicks Books.
   ARTHUR McCULLOUGH

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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