Talking Pictures

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The BFI Governors – ‘like watching old movies’.

Posted by keith1942 on September 5, 2014


In Establishment clutches!

In Establishment clutches!

I have, with difficulty, been following the work of the British Film Institute’s Board of Governors. That made me feel a little like a character in an Alexander MacKendrick film: especially The Man in the White Suit (1951). You can read elsewhere details the additions of unelected members to the Board of Governors. And I have posted on its move to diminish elected representation. What this means is that the ordinary people who pay for the funding of the bfi, through taxation and the Lottery [an alternative tax] have even less say in how that money is spent. As Roy points out we have a Board dominated by people who live in London and so, unsurprisingly, London gets the lion’s share of attention and resources.

The move through election quotas to the removal of representation to the increase of unelected members hardly seems coincidental. Rather like Winston Smith (Edmund O’Brien) in the 1955 1984 the ordinary member seems caged by a bureaucratic labyrinth.

The Board seems entirely composed of members of the Establishment. This particular British many-headed hydra was declared defunct in the 1960s – a decade of great cinema and great politics. But just like the monsters in Hammer Horror [e.g. Dracula, drinking our blood or taxes] the beast returns in ever more-frightening forms.

Keeping abreast of these moves requires the brusque persistence of Inspector Halloran (John Mills) in Town on Trial (1959) as he fights a local establishment in a murder hunt. The only fairly full records are the Board minutes, though even here ‘confidentiality’ leads to redaction.  It takes three months for them to appear in public. The information on the Southbank notice board or on the members WebPages is sparse and intermittent.

The Member’s representatives [with the honourable exception of Cy Grant] appear to come from the same mould as the Peter Finch character in No Love for Johnnie (UK 1960). To be fair to Johnnie he did actually turn up and listen to the complaints of his constituents late in that film. The current remaining representative does not appear to have made any response to changes or informed his constituents on matters.

There is one possible course of response which might induce a change of direction. This is to follow the example of Mr and Mrs Lord, their children and relatives in The Happy Family (UK 1951) when faced with unresponsive bureauracrats vis-a-vis the Festival of Britain site. A chorus of ‘no’ might just occasion a rethink.

Note the next meeting of the Board of Governors is on September 24th.

Note you can contact the Board by writing to the Board of Governors and also by email. The contact should be the Board Secretary Iain Thomson. Iain

Alternatively you, could, as I have done, write to the Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport who oversees the BFI and the Board of Governors: i.e. The Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid, M.P.



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