British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Encountering Europe on Screen

What role does European film and television drama play in constructing our sense of European identity? The Mediating Cultural Encounters through European Screens (MeCETES) project seeks to find out, as researcher Dr Huw Jones explains.

Huw Jones PhotoAbout the Author: Dr Huw D Jones is a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the MeCETES project. He has an MA in Cultural Geography from Royal Holloway University of London and a PhD on Art, Politics and National Identity in Wales 1940-1993 from Swansea University (supported by an AHRC Doctoral Studentship Award). He has published in the Journal of Contemporary British History (2013), Visual Culture in Britain (2014), Cultural Trends (2010), the Journal of Scottish Historical Studies (2011), and Planet: The Welsh Internationalist (2009). He also recently edited the book The Media in Europe’s Small Nations (CSP, 2014).

In recent years British television audiences have been enjoying a wave of subtitled European dramas. Scandinavian crime series such as The Killing and The Bridge have become regular fixtures on BBC Four’s Saturday night schedule, frequently pulling in over 1 million viewers. Channel 4 broadcast its first foreign-language drama series in over 20 years when it premiered the French supernatural thriller The Returned to an audience of 1.9 million in June 2013. Even Sky is getting in on the action with The Tunnel, an Anglo-French remake of The Bridge, and the Danish family drama, The Legacy.

Meanwhile, European cinema continues to attract a loyal following in the UK, particularly amongst arthouse enthusiasts. In recent years, titles such as Volver (2006), The Lives of Others (2007), Coco Before Chanel (2009) and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2010) have each taken over £2 million at the UK box office. And of course these films are not only being consumed in cinemas. Television, DVD and most recently the advance of Video-on-Demand (VoD) services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and iTunes have made it easier than ever to access the best in European film and television.

European cinema continues to attract a loyal following in the UK, particularly amongst arthouse enthusiasts.

These trends can be seen as one aspect of globalisation. The financial pressures created by open markets have impelled film and television producers to sell to global audiences. Digital technology has made it easier for media content to cross borders, while the proliferation of channels and platforms has obliged programmers to fill schedules with more imported material.

The European Union (EU) has been keen to harness these technological and market forces in order to foster European ‘unity in diversity’. Between 2007 and 2013, its MEDIA programme invested €755 million in the development and pan-European circulation of European audiovisual content. The Council of Europe’s Eurimages scheme and the European Convention of Cinematographic Co-Production have likewise sought to encourage more European collaboration between filmmakers.

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