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Bafta’s lurch to the Left spells curtains for creativity


THERE was a time when the politics of Luvviedom was something the British public could easily look past: one thinks of the eminent Redgraves in the Workers’ Revolutionary Party and Vanessa’s support for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, actors popping up on Radios 3 and 4 pushing the Hampstead Marxist outlook and various, usually publicly funded, plays that no one beyond the political cognoscenti and the upper middle chattering classes took any notice of. Clearly it was all highly privileged waffle, almost a sort of rag week mentality one would expect from the profession. However, they were most of them very talented and, apart from the odd agitprop stinker, the British film and television industries produced work of a high quality.

This has been changing for a number of years as a new and far more belligerent form of cultural Marxism – political correctness to use its threadbare but better-known name – storms through our institutions with a mission to fight all forms of reality tooth and nail.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta), which has been drifting Leftwards for years, has announced it is introducing official diversity requirements for two of its award categories: Outstanding British Film and Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. I have no doubt there will be more categories dragged into the race and gender nostrums in due course. Bafta says it is adopting the British Film Institute’s Diversity Standards. As Bafta’s site explains:

The Standards focus on under-represented groups across four areas:

A: On-screen representation, themes & narratives

B: Project leadership & creative practitioners

C: Industry access & opportunities

D: Opportunities for diversity in audience development

This is socialism applied to creative work and its roots lie, like so many other bugbears of the moment, in the Equality Act, the Labour government’s last and immensely powerful hand grenade of legislation, lobbed at the country it despises on April 6, 2010, just four weeks before the public decided they had had enough of Gordon Brown and his chums. ‘Socialism in one Act,’ as a then cabinet minister commented. The influence of the Act on the BFI and Bafta’s rules is made clear here.

What Bafta’s adoption of the BFI’s diversity rules will mean in practice is that henceforward only works of political correctness will be considered as being of  merit. For decades the public funding of art, dependent as it is on meeting Left-wing strictures, has accordingly corrupted the work produced. Now our cultural commissars and panjandrums intend to distort non-publicly funded work by excluding it from consideration if it does not push the Left’s agenda. This has nothing to do with art or excellence. It is Soviet behaviour: the move is a bid, typical of the Left, to exert full control over art and render it as propaganda for ideological fantasies.

Some intellectual wags have suggested over the years that all art is propaganda of a kind, though it does not take much common sense and thought to establish the difference between, say, Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane and Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, or for that matter between Carry On Up the Jungle and Gillo Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers.

I can well imagine the ‘best’ films of the future under the new dispensation. Isis Brides perhaps, a moving tale of how young women were exploited by patriarchal men, who were themselves, of course, only being naughty because of the wicked USA’s oppression. Milly Elliott, a gritty tale of a transgendered miner’s son during the Scargill/Thatcher argy-bargy. There could perhaps be a remake of Chariots of Fire, this time about the fastest running knife criminals in East London (it transpires they are only misunderstood poets who need more welfare spending).

When you consider some of the names connected with the founding of Bafta in 1947, its current stance seems quite bizarre: David Lean, Carol Reed, Powell and Pressburger, in short some of the world’s best film-makers. It is fairly easy to imagine their response at being told that the diktats of bureaucrats would now have a large say in the content, casting and critical evaluation of their work.

How can any of this be stopped? Surprisingly easily, on paper at least. The BFI, from whence Bafta’s rules came, is largely funded by the government, by you and me in other words. It is high time that ministers started sharpening their axes and using them on publicly-funded culture.

What will the public make of the new diversity rules? The BFI’s statistics for its publicly funded films do not tell a very happy story as it is. For various reasons the British film industry has almost ceased to exist a number of times before. If it decides to make Leftist brainwashing its primary function it may face oblivion once again.

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Robert James
Robert James
Robert James is a national newspaper journalist.

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