Shaking up the cinematic canon

Daria Lisitsina

With major cuts to the arts in the U.K., the film industry is in a tight spot. Funding is hard to come by across the board, but the more experimental projects lacking an affiliated star are very difficult to get off the ground indeed. Nonetheless, limitation once again has proved to be the mother of invention. The lack of finances has meant that the creatives have just had to get a little more creative in their production and distribution methods. The British film industry has long served as an Anglophone anti-dote or alternative to Hollywood. It sits somewhere between European art-house, New York indie cool and Hollywood mass appeal. British actors and directors, the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston and Steve McQueen, have conquered Hollywood with their effortless charm.

Film criticism, the very thing that sustains and validates cultural production, is having an identity crisis in the wake of what many be perceived as Interenet-aggedon. The plethora of voices and opinions the internet allows to disseminate has put pressure on individual critics to validate their existence and alleged authority. Perhaps as a result, British critics (I'm thinking mainly of Mark Kermode here) have branded themselves, more concerned with being a personality than with producing honest criticism. Everyone loves a review that slates a film –and Brits, of all people, love writing a strongly worded letter, but appreciative high-quality reviews are harder to do.

In my own criticism, I try to get at the heart of something, as well as entertain. The nature of the field in the U.K. is that critics form a niche and are associated with certain areas of expertise. I keep an open approach, but my interests tend to sway towards independent cinema, especially foreign cinema. Luckily, London's cosmopolitan vibe and its numerous small foreign film festivals means that there is a market for cinema from beyond the U.K.'s borders, resulting in a fruitful cultural exchange that feeds back into the work of home-grown talent. I am a film critic primarily because it's fun to spread your enthusiasm for an art form and to contribute to the cinema conversation in some way. I also see my role as a sort of cultural defence lawyer, arguing in favour of works that have been wrongly dismissed and casting a fresh, critical eye on films that have been over-praised and over-hyped.