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British Film Identity Study: Borders & Belonging

jclarke | Friday March 08, 2013

Categories: A Level, EDUQAS A Level, EDUQAS AS, FM2, Section B: British Film Topics, Analysis, Film Analysis, Film History, Film Industry, Film Distribution, Production Companies, Films & Case Studies, Non-Hollywood Films, Dirty Pretty Things, Gypo, This is England, Genres & Case Studies, British Film, Social Realism

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National identity and cinema are inextricably connected around the world. Within this national cinema dynamic is to be found the question of what it might mean to ‘be British’, or, more specifically, English. It’s a question that’s the basis of a longstanding narrative that relates powerfully to our filmic identity and, more immediately, our identity as an island nation, physically and culturally (and economically) separate to the mainland of Europe.

If you watch, read or listen to the news (itself a set of constructed narratives that follow generic patterns) you will often come across articles (stories) about various complicated issues that entwine to contribute to British identity. Immigration and the dynamics of Britain’s multicultural identity are key in this and certainly find dramatic expression in two films: Dirty Pretty Things and This Is England. Both of these films articulate the concepts of borders and belonging in various ways.


In the book Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, John Storey writes that “Ideology can refer to a systematic body of ideas articulated by a particular group of people.? [1] and he further explains that ideology can “indicate how some texts and practices present distorted images of reality.? [2] It’s certainly reasonable to suggest that we should hold Storey’s comments in mind when we watch Dirty Pretty Things (2003) and This Is England (2006). These are films that are perhaps not quite cinema in the way that we would usually understand in relation to the concept of entertainment with its emphasis on a sense of harmony and of order being restored by the end of a given story.

There are certainly a wide range of films that we can refer to that dramatise ideas around what it might mean to be British and which also re-present to us some sense about the ways in which Britain is comprised of diverse cultures that enrich each other....

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