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Texts and contexts

The 2000s were a decade that saw many important Scottish films make big splashes in critical and commercial terms, the decade ending with Peter Mullan's acclaimed film Neds. The field of Scottish cinema studies was more or less born with Scotch Reels (1982), a collection of essays edited by Colin McArthur. The collection sought to unearth a history of cinematic representations of Scotland and to argue for the need for more indigenous production. Scottish cinema studies is now a field that is very much alive and vibrant, as evidenced by a recent wave of book-length publications such as the latest anthology on Scottish cinema, Scottish Cinema Now (2009). This book seeks to add to this growing tide of scholarship and in so doing assist with the project of subjecting the works of Scottish cinema to sustained close analysis and historicization. The central context of this book is the production landscape surrounding Scottish cinema over the last thirty years. After Local Hero and Trainspotting, Mrs Brown ranks as the most prominent indigenously produced contemporary Scottish film in terms of both popularity and critical prestige. The book explores Lynne Ramsay's career after Morvern Callar telling us about the optimistic narratives presented by Scottish cinema historians. The book also concerns with a figure who has been less successful in critical terms than his peers even if his films, particularly Young Adam and Hallam Foe, have resonated more with audiences than Red Road, Orphans or Neds.

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Surveying Scottish cinema, 1979 –present
Christopher Meir

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book seeks to challenge many of the assumptions that dominate thinking about Scottish cinema. It is concerned specifically with the role played by the devolution of public service broadcasters, particularly BBC Scotland, in shaping Scottish cinema. The book concerns the role of subsidy programmes and public service broadcasters in fostering the development of indigenous film-makers. It also concerns the ways in which various policy instruments have facilitated the transnational movement of film-makers to Scotland, as well as the movement of Scottish film-makers to other countries to make their films. The book deals with publicly funded works, most of which involve some combination of public service broadcaster funding and lottery subsidies distributed by Scottish Screen.

in Scottish cinema
National cinema, indigenous creativity and the international market
Christopher Meir

This chapter examines the relationship between Bill Forsyth and the international market, an exploration that focuses on the genesis of the film from the partnership between Forsyth and David Puttnam. This exploration also focuses on issues related to the marketing and distribution of the film. Duncan Petrie and David Martin-Jones respond to a polemical tradition of Scottish film criticism, who see Local Hero as a crucial text for illustrating the deleterious effects of the market on a potential Scottish cinema. Local Hero is a film of its time, and the village of Ferness is anything but an isolated community set apart from the world of politics, economics and history. Writings from the seminal Scotch Reels collection to Petrie's study have presented the film as a moment in which Forsyth, despite his promise as an emerging indigenous talent, succumbed to the worst kinds of regressive discourses of Scottish cultural representation.

in Scottish cinema
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Scottish cinema in an age of devolved public service broadcasting
Christopher Meir

After Local Hero and Trainspotting, Mrs Brown ranks as the most prominent indigenously produced contemporary Scottish film in terms of both popularity and critical prestige. Besides the cultural issues, there are a number of industrial issues that Mrs Brown can help to illuminate, issues that are also central to Scottish cinema during this period. These include the unique problems associated with balancing the apparently discordant impulses relating to export and domestic relevance. It also includes the impulses relating to public service and mass appeal, and the devolution of production resources such as public service broadcasters in the 1990s. In order to discuss these issues, this chapter begins with the institutions themselves, those being the BBC and its devolved incarnation BBC Scotland. The chapter examines the role that television networks, especially public service broadcasters, have played within the British and Scottish film industries.

in Scottish cinema
Christopher Meir

This chapter argues that Lynne Ramsay's relationship to policy is significantly more complex than simply providing the financial basis for a new artist to succeed. It explores about what Ramsay's career after Morvern Callar tells us about the optimistic narratives presented by Scottish cinema historians. The chapter looks at the funding of Morvern Callar, an examination that necessarily focuses on the involvement of public subsidy bodies, particularly Scottish Screen, in the making of the film. As was the case with Mrs Brown, the chapter also argues that the involvement of the BBC in making the film, and generally supporting Lynne Ramsay's career, merits close attention. The chapter also looks closely at the involvement of Alliance Atlantis, the now defunct Canadian sales and distribution company that acted as a co-producer of the film.

in Scottish cinema
Christopher Meir

This chapter examines the 'moment' of Young Adam, focusing on a number of issues which speak to the importance of the film for understanding contemporary Scottish cinema. These include national representation as well as the predicament of the Scottish film artist within the economy of an international marketplace, in which national film bodies periodically attempt to intervene. The chapter introduces us to Young Adam's two recognized 'authors', Alexander Trocchi and David Mackenzie. Young Adam, has been described by Steve Blandford as an example of a publicly supported art cinema. It yields a number of important insights into policy, Scottish national cinema, art cinema and the position of artists in the international film market. A promotional strategy of Young Adam and across the career of Jeremy Thomas, with regard to the adaptations projects he worked on, can be usefully compared to Dudley Andrew's account of contemporary auteurism.

in Scottish cinema
Ken Loach, Ae Fond Kiss and multicultural Scottish cinema
Christopher Meir

A fundamental assumption of this chapter is that Ae Fond Kiss is a film which can yield a great number of insights into contemporary Scottish cinema. Ken Loach occupies a singular place in the British film industry, where he is one of the last practitioners of overtly politically engaged social realism. He also occupies a distinct place in British cinema historiography, where his work has for some become associated with a certain ideal of national cinema production. In keeping with John Hill's description of his oeuvre generally, with Ae Fond Kiss Loach unfashionably insists on a bleaker view of multiculturalism, even if it utilizes the conventions of more mainstream commercial cinema. The film is also a significant text within a larger British tradition of representing the nation in multicultural terms and performs the vital function of localizing those traditions within a specifically Scottish milieu.

in Scottish cinema
The Last King of Scotland and post-imperial Scottish cinema
Christopher Meir

The Last King of Scotland is one of the most high-profile films that Scotland has seen receiving a number of awards: an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and an international box office return second only to Trainspotting. This chapter attempts to foreground the film's transnational aspects at all levels of its existence, while resolutely insists on its thematic engagement with Scottishness. The ways in which the film was born out of a sophisticated multinational production network coincides in very interesting ways with the film's themes, which centre around Scottish involvement in post-imperial neo-colonialism. Most films from the 2000s that depict the British in Africa stay away from nostalgia and instead focus directly on problems caused by British and European neo-colonialism.

in Scottish cinema
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Christopher Meir

Changes in the industrial landscape of Scottish cinema have been vital to the upsurge of film-making, but it is vital to note that these changes have been much more profound than the simple establishment of culturally oriented devolved funding bodies. As significant as Scottish Screen, the Glasgow Film Office, BBC Scotland, Channel 4 and others have been in supporting Scottish film-makers, their agendas have never been as noble or indeed clear as other writers have implied. Channel 4 and Scottish Screen went out of their way to support James McAvoy and Kevin Macdonald, for instance, in the case of The Last King of Scotland. English capital is still extremely important to Scottish film-making. Scottish films have challenged our understanding of Scottish national identity and representation, engaged with national history and the national literature.

in Scottish cinema