Assessing Cultural Impact: Film4, Canon Formation and Forgotten Films

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For over 30 years Channel 4 has supported more than 400 feature films through its production arm, Film4. However, despite the scale and variety of this contribution to British cinema, only a handful of these productions are regularly cited in print media and academic texts as being representative of the Film4 catalogue and/or influential in British film culture generally. This article will look at the creation of top films lists as a case of canon formation, and the ways in which the Film4 canon in particular continues to be shaped and contested, not only by critics, academics and cultural institutions, but by Channel 4 itself. It draws upon the work of Janet Staiger (1985) on canon formation and of Joseph Lampel and Shivasharan Nadavulakere (2009) on retrospective consecration in order to consider the processes by which certain films are more likely to appear in critics' best films lists. Bearing in mind that the brand identity of Film4 depends also on Channel 4's own promotional activities, the article will go on to examine two case studies of Film4 anniversary seasons in order to assess the part that scheduling plays in constructing the channel's own representations of its contribution to British cinema. Finally, after exploring some of the reasons why certain films are remembered (and why others are forgotten), attention will turn to the ways in which certain forgotten films can be re-presented in DVD and video-on-demand markets. This reveals the extent to which commercial factors are also determinants in the processes of canon formation and can impinge upon the attribution of cultural value.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-480
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of British Cinema and Television
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014

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