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UK Film Council Axed

"I'm reeling from the shock," Mike Leigh tells the Guardian. "This comes totally from left-field." Mike Figgis, on the other hand, is "deeply disappointed but not that surprised — we were just waiting for the axe to fall." And fallen it has, on the UK Film Council. The Guardian: "Since it was created by Labour in 2000 the UKFC, with 75 staff, has been responsible for handing out more than £160m of lottery money to over 900 films. Successes range from Bend it Like Beckham to Gosford Park to Fish Tank with the occasional dud — notably Sex Lives of the Potato Men — along the way. Last August the Labour government began consultation on merging the film council with the BFI."

Earlier in that same report: "In a raft of mergings, streamlinings and closures, [culture secretary Jeremy] Hunt also axed the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). John Woodward, chief executive of the UK Film Council, briefed an unprepared staff about the decision at the council's central London headquarters this morning. No one had seen it coming. He said the decision had been taken with 'no notice and no consultation.'"

Catherine Grant points to the Facebook group "Save the UK Film Council," which, in turn, points to another, larger group with the same name.

As the Telegraph's David Gritten notes, not everyone is sorry to see the UK Film Council go. Alex Cox, back in the Guardian: "It's very good news for anyone involved in independent film. The Film Council became a means by which lottery money was transferred to the Hollywood studios. It pursued this phoney idea that James Bond and Harry Potter were British films. But, of course, those films were all American — and their profits were repatriated to the studios in Los Angeles."

Updates, 7/27: "Andrew Pulver, over at the Guardian's film blog, rightly describes the announcement as a 'hammer blow' to the country's film industry, one that seems particularly bizarre as it was one of the few areas of the arts that actually saw a return on its investment." That said: "In the long run, this week's announcement could be good news for British film," argues Daniel Trilling. "Money is likely to be tighter, but there is an opportunity at least to rethink what kind of films we want to emerge from Britain in the years to come."

In the Telegraph, Matthew Moore has more from Mike Leigh: "It's like if they suddenly said: 'We're abolishing the NHS' ... It's totally out of order."

Michael Chanan: "Anyone familiar with my opinions on the Film Council knows that I've been critical of its modus operandi, but I can only agree with Ken Loach when he calls the announcement an ideological move, explaining that 'The UK Film Council was essentially the equivalent of a research and development department. In cutting it, it is destructive to our emerging young talent. There is no other organisation that could invest in the future as it did.'" Chanan then picks out "some of the choice Twitter comments."

If you're so inclined, you can sign a petition: "We, the undersigned, believe the UK Film Council to be a vital cultural resource and call upon Jeremy Hunt to rescind his department's decision to close it."

"The September issue of Sight & Sound, due in the shops next week, contains an editorial on the subject of government cuts which is now, in the light of this news, out of date, so we have decided to publish it online with this introduction." Editor Nick James: "As you will read, my main concern was that cuts in government support would endanger the continued existence of film as an art form in the UK. While the UKFC in its original form did little for that cause, in more recent times it has realised the cultural value of such a cinema. Until we know what kind of funding arrangement will replace it, we can only hope that cultural value will be the priority."

Updates, 7/28: "The news that the UK Film Council is to be scrapped inspires me with mixed feelings, all of them negative," blogs David Cairns. "It's true that this organisation, which attempted to promote commercially viable British cinema, failed more often than not. But it seems a wretchedly British response to a good idea that's not working: abolish it, rather than fix it."

Meantime, "Directors UK looks forward to working with the government to create a new, sustainable film structure: one that will encourage British filmmakers to create outstanding movies and allow the film industry to continue to thrive."

 

IN OTHER NEWS


The Venice Film Festival will open on September 1 with Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan (with Natalie Portman, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder) and close on September 11 with Julie Taymor's The Tempest (with Helen Mirren, Russell Brand, Alfred Molina, Djimon Hounsou, David Strathairn, Chris Cooper, Alan Cumming, Ben Whishaw and Felicity Jones). And the jury, presided over by Quentin Tarantino, is now complete.

"Philippe Garrel's French/Italian/Swiss co-production Un Été Brûlant (A Burning Hot Summer) starts shooting this week," reports Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa. "The 62-year-old director, whose four latest films were in competition at Venice (Night Wind in 1999, Wild Innocence in 2001 and Regular Lovers in 2005, winner of the Silver Lion for Best Director) and Cannes (Frontier of Dawn in 2008), has this time cast Italian actress Monica Bellucci and Louis Garrel (who teams up with his father for the third time here) in the starring roles."

"David Edward Blewitt, an Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated film editor, died July 8 of complications from Parkinson's disease at his Sherman Oaks home. He was 81." Erik Pedersen in the Hollywood Reporter: "His big-screen credits include Ghostbusters (1984) and The Buddy Holly Story (1978). His Academy Award nomination was for The Competition (1980)." Swedish director Jan Halldoff has also passed away. He was 70.

Flurry of new content: Film International and Neil Young. Mike Everleth's "Underground Film Links" for the week; "This Week in Film History"; a roundup of general goings on from Pamela Cohn.

For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow The Daily Notebook on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.

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There’s another piece in the Guardian that bothered me — subheading: “No other body will do a better job.” We should oppose the implications of the brutality of the cut (as we must to all public bodies under the axe at the moment), but be careful about getting even slightly nostalgic for the UKFC — it’s policies were, imho, mostly disastrous. I fear the BFI will have to undergo a shift in priorities in order to take the strain — not something to look forward to.
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Two superb letters in the Guardian today.

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