Voices of inheritance : aspects of British film and television in the 1980s and 1990s
During the 1990s the notion of the heritage film has become a taken for granted category of British cinema. Rather than dispute the merits of particular films that lie within this genre I question the construction of the relation between the idea of heritage and contemporary British film and television. Using the critical literature established by the contending cultural histories that address the rise of heritage in British culture, I highlight other, frequently personal and national engagements with inherited pasts. The concentration upon inheritance lends a greater emphasis to what is passed on from the past and endures in the present. The modes of articulating these inherited pasts are formally distinctive and constructed out of the vocabulary of documentary and fiction. The corpus of texts begins with the apparently radical avant garde film-making of Derek Jannan and moves through the work of the Black Audio Film Collective to the apparently conservative television documentaries of Alan Bennett. These key voices are then situated in relation to the hegemonic definition of heritage and current debates concerning British film and television. The persisting opposition which defined British cinema during the 1980s posits an unofficial cinema characterized by dissent and urban decay against an official cinema represented by the heritage film. My corpus of texts challenges this opposition. The different engagements with inherited pasts take place from different speaking positions and represent a diminishing publicly funded tradition of film and television production. The range of positions from margins to centre reveal that there was a contestation of the cultural sources which are aggregated into the construction of heritage during the 1980s and 1990s.