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BA Film Studies and East Asian Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Contemporary British Cinema

Unit code DRAM20031
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Drama
Available as a free choice unit? No


The course will critically examine issues and themes in contemporary British cinema from 1996 onwards. We will initially explore how ideas of the national and post national are implicated in a study of British cinema and then examine the characteristics of the British film industry and British film policy in the last 25 years, assessing their relative strengths and weaknesses. We go on to explore genre and representation in contemporary British Cinema, looking at heritage cinema, ‘art’ cinema, social realism, race, gender and sexuality. We look at the auteur in the context of British cinema production and consider the effects of devolution on regional film production in the period under consideration. Directors studied include, Mike Leigh, Andrea Arnold, Ken Loach and Michael Winterbottom. Students will be encouraged to consolidate and extend their use of concepts and critical methods involved in film studies in order to assess and analyse the main features of British film over the past 25 years. 


Pre-requisite units: Any L1 core Drama Study or Film module

Co-requisite units: Any L2 Core Drama or Film module – Practitioners in Context 1; Practitioners in Context 2; Screen, Culture & Society



To give students an overview of British cinema from 1990s to the present day

To familiarize students with the main features of contemporary British film

To acquaint students with the social, cultural and political context of key British films

To equip students with the tools to analyse a range of British films and critically assess the aesthetic and representational strategies deployed by film-makers.



Indicative syllabus (representative only – all of the topics listed below may not be covered every year and there will be a second film each week to study):


1. Introduction: What is a British Film? Debates around the national and post national in relation to British cinema. Case Study: In this World (2002)

2.  Government and the British Film Industry. Looking at film policy, funding and institutions associated with this e.g., UK Film Council and BFI. Case study: Swandown (2012)

3: The ‘Heritage’ and Post Heritage Film. Case study: Elizabeth (1999)

4: The ‘Art’ Film. Case study: The Arbor (2010)

5: British Social Realism. Looking at the history of this genre and contemporary developments. Case study: I Daniel Blake (2016)

6: Men and masculinity: Looking at how the crisis of masculinity has been represented in British cinema. Case study: Billy Elliot (2000)

7: Women and British film: Looking at the work of Andrea Arnold and the representation of women in her films. Case study Fish Tank (2009)

8: Ethnicity and British film: Looking at representation of British-Asian communities on film: Case study: Mischief Night (2006)

9: National-Regional: Wales: Looking at regional cinema post devolution and representation of Wales from post colonial perspective. Case study: House of America (1998)

10: The City in British Cinema: London. Looking at how London has been represented in British film. Case study: Wonderland (1999)

11. Auteur: Mike Leigh: Case study: Vera Drake (2004)

12: Presentation week and guidance on essay preparation

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching hours: 1hr lecture +3hr introduced screening + 90min seminar*

*This teaching structure has been approved in conjunction with other programme level activity as meeting the School’s 3hr contact hour requirement 

Knowledge and understanding

  • Define well established critical approaches to British cinema in terms of  industry, genre, aesthetics and representation.
  • Demonstrate an ability to evaluate and interpret British cinema according to these frameworks.  
  • Demonstrate an in-depth knowledge and understanding of 2 areas of significance to British cinema and how they might be applied to an analysis of film/films under consideration. 

Intellectual skills

  • Demonstrate an ability to make connections between concepts, and apply these relationships in analysis and argument
  • Demonstrate an ability to synthesise material from diverse sources, consider multiple and competing lines of argument, evaluate arguments of others, and revise approaches in response to feedback
  • Demonstrate an ability to initiate and undertake critical analysis of contemporary British film and to develop a line of argument in response

Practical skills

  •   Communicate understanding of course materials effectively in both speech (as evidenced through seminar participation) and writing (as evidenced by summative assessments)
  • Effectively deploy persuasive techniques when ‘pitching’ a proposal for funding in class seminar exercise
  • Demonstrate an ability to take personal responsibility and take initiative in decision-making in group work.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively with others about intellectually demanding concepts, topics, materials
  •  demonstrate an ability to draw with accuracy, focus, detail and precision on complex materials in independent and group work
  • demonstrate an ability to effectively present – through discussion and in writing – complex topics, drawing convincingly on oral, written and visual media as appropriate to the topic

Employability skills

Analytical skills
¿ an ability to develop detailed, planned and multi-layered approaches to tasks
Group/team working
¿ an ability to work productively as part of a group and independently in learning environments that present complex challenges
Problem solving
¿ a good level of critical thinking and problem-solving skills
¿ an enhanced ability to effectively adapt self-presentation to different audiences/contexts, especially when communicating complex topics

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Group presentation


15-20 minutes




3000-3500 words


Consultation on presentation and essay plans - oral





Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Essay - written


Presentation – written

Formative and Summative

Consultation on presentation and essay plans - oral



Recommended reading

·         Ashby and Higson (2000)British Cinema –past and present London and New York:Routledge

·         Barrow and White (eds) (2008)  Fifty Key British Films London:  Routledge

·         Blandford Steve (2007) Film Drama and the Break up of Britain  Bristol and Chicago: Intellect.

·         Dave, Paul, (2006) Visions of England- Class and Culture in Contemporary Cinema Oxford and New York:Berg.

·         Leggot, James, (2008), Contemporary British Cinema- From Heritage to Horror, London, Wallflower.

·         Murphy, Robert, (2009) British Cinema of the 90s, London, BFI.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Victoria Lowe Unit coordinator

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