Mike Leigh opens Berlin Film Festival with anti-Hollywood stance

Why is Mike Leigh so opposed to Hollywood? After the opening of the Berlin Film Festival today, his comments stating that Hollywood dominates and threatens European filmmaking is misguided.

Mike Leigh at the Berlin Film Festival :

“Hollywood’s inevitable domination is dwindling and this is great news for European directors, including me.”

The close ties between the UK and American film industry are certainly beneficial to both countries. Making a film is always about collaboration and lots of US productions are often shot in Europe. While I respect Mike Leigh for his contribution to cinema I don’t think his views are realistic or supported by many in Europe including Germany.

If Europe really wants to become a film production powerhouse it needs to centralize its industries and subsidies, however the main problem for this is one, a language barrier and two; culture differences. What works for France, won’t work for Spain, Italy, Romania and so on. The US market for films is in one language and there is a skilled workforce in Hollywood that makes the industry  highly competitive. From a culture perspective, British audiences tend to prefer American movies over Bollywood productions and European cinema. There is always going to be a demand for Hollywood in Europe, but that doesn’t mean Europe should not thrive and support its own filmmakers. I think that idea needs to be strengthened. I hope investment increases for local productions to be successful in the European market, and also overseas in America, the Middle East and even Asia. Why not?

Mike Leigh:

“I congratulate myself for heading this jury, because, to me, festivals like Cannes and Berlin have contributed to establishing our cinema’s influence and to countering the wave of films from Hollywood. This problem does not only threaten Europe. Try to be a European director, or in fact one anywhere in the world, and you cannot look at your work from a competitive point of view because of this domination.”

Cineuropa

I would hope that people reading these statements do not feel that this reflects the overall sentiment of Europe towards Hollywood because it doesn’t. There is a pro-Hollywood movement in both the UK, France and elsewhere from what I have experienced, speaking with filmmakers across Europe at major film festivals this past year. There is also a thriving French film industry right here, but again, it has its flaws, like any other.

Film festivals like Cannes and Berlin are very open to Hollywood films especially at the Cannes Film Festival, where the draw of Hollywood stars and movies is significant. These festivals are after all a business and Hollywood is very good at marketing their movies and people come out to festivals to see them. Try telling the Cannes Film Festival to block all Hollywood ties and embrace European cinema. That festival would fall apart. You can’t close your doors to Hollywood because you don’t like the idea that they are better than you. Why not try to give the tools to European filmmakers so they can be succesfull like their Hollywood friends? I also would say being competitive with Hollywood gives European cinema the initiative to be greater than it is right now. It can only get better.

Mike Leigh is this year’s President of the Jury at the 2012 Berlinale Film Festival 

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