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Good intentions, high hopes and low budgets: Contemporary social realist film-making in Britain

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While not an unbroken tradition (Hill), there has been an enduring relationship between British film culture and social realism as a mode of expression. This enduring relationship can be evidenced across a diverse range of texts from the documentary movement of the thirties, to the social problem films of the fifties and the kitchen sink social realism of the 1960s, through to the socially purposeful art cinema of the 1980s and the so-called Brit-Grit of the 1990s. But how is British social realism doing in the first years of the twenty-first century? Writing in The Observer in 2005, Vanessa Thorpe announced the death of social realist miserabalism. This report seeks to provide evidence that British social realist film-making is not dead. Indeed, it is still an important part of British film culture. The report also explores the status of these films in the British film industry, their conditions of production and exhibition and their contemporary thematic concerns.

Keywords: British film; contemporary; practises; production; representation; social realism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Bedfordshire.

Publication date: 2007-11-07

More about this publication?
  • The journal aims to provide a platform for the study of new forms of cinematic practice and fresh approaches to cinemas hitherto neglected in western scholarship. It particularly welcomes scholarship that does not take existing paradigms and theoretical conceptualisations as given; rather, it anticipates submissions that are refreshing in approach and exhibit a willingness to tackle cinematic practices that are still in the process of development into something new.��
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