After the ceremony, whilst talking to the Guardian, Ms Mirren spoke about the UK film industry’s lack of focus on the European market, instead putting its efforts into the United States. “I think we have the great misfortune in Britain of speaking American. We’re always looking over there to sell our movies. And the brilliance of European film is that they can’t do that because Americans won’t watch movies with subtitles… So a [European] film has to be spectacularly successful to be shown in America.”
The point being that throughout Europe, film makes don’t try to tailor their films to the US market because they will never be successful. Unfortunately, this may not be the case in the UK. This is very strange as Europe is the biggest market for British cinema. As Mirren said that night; “In a weird way it’s [sharing a language with the US] kind of paralysed us. The best movies [we make] are the truly authentic British movies, without looking at the American market – by Ken Loach, by Andrea Arnold. They look the other way; they see themselves as European film-makers.”
The European film awards are administered in Berlin and were founded 25 years ago by the director Wim Wenders as an alternative to the Oscars. In his opening address, Wenders advocated greater investment in European cinema as a cure for the economic and identity crises from which he felt the continent was suffering. “With cinema we can rightfully own and convey the European dream.”
There is perhaps a more pragmatic reason for investing in European films as well. The creative industries are now a significant part of the European economy, especially in major European cities like London. Many countries, including the UK already have state funded investment in film, but we could do more. You can go anywhere in the EU and find cinemas dominated by films originating from Hollywood. This means fewer opportunities for European films to make money, and more importantly, fewer chances for EU citizens to see them.
It’s time we thought seriously about how we can help films originating from within the EU get greater distribution. We have a rich and varied cinema industry in Europe, we should be doing more to help promote it.