Great Britain


While earlier efforts such as those of the New Wave in the 1960s had moved their focus beyond London and the Home Counties, the regionalism on offer extended north to cities such as Nottingham but still remained predominantly English in nature. With the emergence of alternative funding bodies such as Channel Four, and more recently the National Lottery, a greater awareness of regionalism has become necessary for any understanding of British cinema. It is nearly impossible today to conceive of one single cinema of Great Britain.

Scotland as a setting has been employed in numerous British films, notably Ealing films such as The Maggie and Whisky Galore! . It has of course also featured in the telling of Scottish legends, such as those of Shakespeare's Macbeth or Rob Roy. Additionally, Scotland provided a number of key figures to the British industry, among them John Grierson. An indigenous Scottish film industry, however, took far longer to develop. While much of the UK and Ireland prospered from the shifting economy of the 1980s and 1990s, former industrialized areas in Britain's north—particularly in Scotland—and in parts of Wales, where heavy industry and mining had been dominant industries, struggled immensely. Using cinema to voice the concerns of underrepresented contemporary Scots was a significant breakthrough. One director who managed to do so successfully was Bill Forsyth (b. 1946). After having made short documentaries, Forsyth directed his first feature, That Sinking Feeling (1980), about a group of unemployed Glasgow youth involved in a robbery of stainless steel sinks. This was followed by Gregory's Girl (1981), which used a social realist aesthetic and a tale of adolescent love to explore life in Scotland's postwar "new towns." Perhaps Forsyth's most successful film was the low-key comedy, Local Hero (1983), produced by David Puttnam. The film evoked the humor of the Ealing comedies as it explored the clash between contemporary consumerism, represented by an American oil company, and traditional Scottish values, represented by a local fishing village. Forsyth later spent time working in the United States before returning to Scotland to make Gregory's Two Girls (1999), a sequel to Gregory's Girl .

Restless Natives (1985), produced by Channel Four and directed by an American, Michael Hoffman, is a film that essentially modernizes the myth of Rob Roy. It follows two Edinburgh youth who, cut off from the new economy, turn to robbing the tour buses that seem now to dominate their landscape, only to find that their exploits become a bigger tourist draw than any scenery the Highlands has to offer. The main characters of Restless Natives are possibly the comedic predecessors of the youth of Danny Boyle's Trainspotting (1996), a film adapted from a stage play that itself was adapted from a novel by Irvine Welsh. The film's dry wit, its harrowing portrayal of heroin abuse among the disenfranchised youth of Edinburgh, its contemporary soundtrack, and Boyle's slick shooting style resulted in Trainspotting becoming one of the main exports of mid-1990s "Cool Brittania"—this despite the fact that its extensive use of working-class Scottish slang and authentic dialect meant that it had to be offered with subtitles in many other English-speaking markets (particularly the United

States). Another film that required subtitles was Ratcatcher (1999), directed by the photographer-turned film maker Lynne Ramsay (b. 1969). Set during a garbage strike in Glasgow of the 1970s, the film's use of local dialect, along with its attempts to make use of costume and other authentic historic elements, make the film an ironic sort of heritage film, uncovering a heritage that official Britain may prefer be left forgotten.

Perhaps Wales's biggest claim to film culture has been in the figures that it has exported to Hollywood, including the likes of Richard Burton (1925–1984), Anthony Hopkins, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. The Welsh industry has been small and itself is split between English-language films made in Wales and Welsh-language films that have, understandably, a very limited audience. Likely the most popular Welsh-language film of all time is Hedd Wyn (1992), directed by Paul Turner, which was nominated for an Academy Award ® for Best Foreign Language film. Endaf Emlyn (b. 1944) directed the Welsh-language feature Gadael Lenin ( Leaving Lenin , 1993), a film that explored relationships among a group of Welsh youth on a school trip to Russia. Justin Kerrigan's Human Traffic (1999) captures the youthful vibrancy of contemporary Cardiff. Only one of the film's main characters possesses a Welsh accent; the rest are from various other parts of the UK. In this way, Kerrigan is able to address the changing nature of the Welsh capital as it has become a key center of technological development and has undergone a boom that has transformed it from a Welsh city to a UK city. Other films have focused on the Welsh underclass. Twin Town (1997), directed by Kevin Allen, is in the British underclass film tradition in its representation of a dysfunctional working-class family in Swansea.

Given an increased focus on regional filmmaking, a migratory and multicultural population, the ever-increasing economic significance of the European Union, and the growth of co-productions as part of the global cinema market, any secure definitions of what constitutes a British cinema can no longer exist. Instead, Great Britain can now be seen as a significant cinema center where a multitude of voices can be found.

SEE ALSO Class ; Documentary ; Early Cinema ; Heritage Films ; National Cinema ; New Wave ; Realism

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Barr, Charles, ed. All Our Yesterdays: 90 Years of British Cinema . London: British Film Institute, 1986.

Curran, James, and Vincent Porter, eds. British Cinema History . London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1983.

Dickinson, Margaret, and Sarah Street. Cinema and State: The Film Industry and the British Government, 1927–84 . London: British Film Institute, 1985.

Friedman, Lester, ed. Fires We Started: British Cinema and Thatcherism . Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. Revised ed., London: Wallflower Press, 2006.

Higson, Andrew. Waving the Flag: Constructing a National Cinema in Britain . Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press, 1995.

——, ed. Dissolving Views: Key Writings on British Cinema . London and New York: Cassell, 1996.

——, ed. Young and Innocent?: The Cinema in Britain, 1896–1930 . Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press, 2002.

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Petrie, Duncan. Screening Scotland . London: British Film Institute, 2000.

Street, Sarah. British National Cinema . London and New York: Routledge, 1997.

Scott Henderson

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