U.K. films suffer from 'inferiority complex'

Report looks at movies' cultural impact

LONDON -- U.K. filmmaking and movies have long suffered from self-criticism, much of which is fueled by "an underlying inferiority complex about Hollywood's capacity to dominate the public imagination."

The inferiority complex bombshell was dropped in a report published Thursday and commissioned by the U.K. Film Council titled "Stories We Tell Ourselves: The Cultural Impact of U.K. Film 1946-2006."

And the feeling is a long-standing source of hand-wringing, the research indicates.

While movies "are immensely popular in the U.K.," the U.K. Film Council findings show "intense concerns have been voiced about its place in the nation's life for almost 100 years."

The concerns are linked to long-term issues about cultural identity and what exactly makes a film British.

This has recently stirred up heated debate in the wake of movies such as the "Harry Potter" franchise. And with "Mamma Mia!" classified under the current rules as British, industry opinion continues to be divided on what should constitute a U.K. film.

"Made in the U.K. by predominantly British personnel, with their stories and settings clearly located in the U.K., these ("Harry Potter" franchise films) are officially U.K.-U.S. co-productions, financed and owned by a U.S. studio. But they do not seem to be universally perceived as British," the report says.

Also fanning the flames of the debate is a perception that high quality productions with Studio production muscle behind them make them more U.S. than British.

"While the 'Harry Potter' films may be effortlessly experienced as British by Anglo-Saxon audiences attuned to their cultural signals and the cadences of British English, non-Anglo audiences focus instead on the scale and production values and identify them more readily as American," the report said.

British movies in the U.S. market also face a double-edged sword with the commonality of language.

"While language has been an advantage for leading British actors in U.S. blockbusters, it has often been a hindrance for smaller films with English regional accents which distributors have had to subtitle, so lowering the potential crossover appeal of these films," the research says.

A spokesperson for the U.K. Film Council told The Hollywood Reporter that the report had been collated by Birkbeck College, Media Consulting Group and NARVAL Media, for the industry at large.

Taking 200 iconic films from the past six decades, the research aims to trace how British cinema has upheld some traditional British values -- and mocked, challenged and undermined others -- and highlight the cultural impact of British film.

The 200 films were drawn from two lists -- a list of 100 titles randomly chosen by computer from 4,500 movies, and 100 handpicked by experts and industryites -- before being analyzed by the researchers and commentators.

It will be used by the Film Council in the coming months to shape its bid for funding rounds after the latest government-backed funding package and spending plan ends in April 2010.

It comes at a time when British films are flying high with Danny Boyle and Kate Winslet's Oscar success still fresh in the memory.