Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Films are to be watched

Film makers make films so they can be seen. Obviously they also choose to earn their living doing so. Yet getting their films seen is and remains the most important aim of any film maker. Somehow, a large part of the industry has lost this perspective and seems to regard making money as more important than getting films shown.

Michael Moore gave away copies of his films on the torrent. Most distributors and the industry regard P2P as a danger; yet it is one that they play into the hands of themselves. If you buy a DVD, you have to spend five minutes watching a warning about copying. Get hold of a copy and there’s no warning. So only the honest get punished for being honest.

Many film makers are taking advantage of the opportunities of new media and new distribution channels to present their films to a larger audience. Recently Ken Loach decided to put all his old classic films on Youtube. They are the films I grew up with and which shaped my opinions and youth. Yet having put them on Youtube to reach a mass audience, the distributors in France, Holland and Belgium decided this was obviously in breach of their copyright and made Youtube block anyone wanting to watch these films from those countries. That’s a great way to make friends and influence people.

The Dutch Peruvian film maker Heddy Honigmann has for a long time fought for her films to be released on DVD. At last she has got her way and a boxed set of four films is available – but only with Portuguese subtitling. Her international distributors apparently cannot cooperate closely enough to make such a venture possible with at least Dutch and English subtitles. This is a shameful state of affairs and reflects an unwillingness and apparent inability of the film industry to drag itself kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

I appeal to all distributors to do their utmost to make the as much of the history of cinematography available to as many people as possible. It’s really not going to do any harm to allow Ken Loach or anyone else to put their films on Youtube. You never know, people might see them and want to view a good quality copy in the comfort of their living room instead of hunched in front of the computer.

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