Unfair competition stifling independent films, says Brian Cox

'Best work' goes unseen while giant blockbusters thrive

Brian Cox, the Emmy-winning actor, criticised the film industry yesterday for failing to push independent movies, and spoke of his fear that his "best work" may go unrecognised.

Cox, who starred in the Bourne trilogy and created Hannibal Lecter on the screen before Anthony Hopkins, in 'Manhunter', is promoting his latest film at Tilda Swinton's alternative film festival in Nairn this week, in the hope of attracting a distributor.

The Escapist, which also stars Liam Cunningham and Joseph Fiennes, is about a prisoner serving life (played by Cox) who breaks out of jail to see his estranged, dying daughter.

"It did very well [at film festivals], but we have no distribution," Cox said. "I am trying to get it seen by more than two people and a dog. I think it is very hard to work at the level we work at making these independent films and not to have recognition."

Cox has discussed the problem with Nairn festival co-organisers Mark Cousins and Swinton, who is part-funding the eight-and-a-half day Ballerina Ballroom alternative film festival. "I think people do want to see films, but it is tough," Cox said. "One time in this town... in one day, Pirates of the Caribbean was played 52 times. A small independent movie played up against that doesn't have a chance.

"There is an inequity, a lack of fairness. Film festivals take up the slack but the cinema I grew up with and love is a cinema of films that were visceral and touched the heart... I'm not knocking it, because I earn my living doing it, but I want a reasonable platform to show the work which I consider to be my best work.

"It is these little festivals that reignite everything. What is lacking is cinema-going as a community activity.... We are too busy flogging it, making the bucks, as opposed to thinking about what the thing is."

The Nairn festival, which started on Friday, features free entry for those who bring fairy cakes, a "grunge scale" of six out of 10, and £3 tickets for beanbag seats. It has attracted audiences from across the world.

Joel Coen, of the Coen brothers, has programmed two evenings. Swinton describes the festival as a nub of creativity. "The Edinburgh International Film Festival is the chicken, the Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams is the egg," she writes on its website.

The programme includes Scottish classics such as The Bill Douglas Trilogy, Murder Most Foul – for "a bit of Miss Marple in the morning", today – and God Gives Nuts But He Does Not Crack Them, a short film from Matt Hulse about the extraordinary deaf Scottish cyclist James Duthie.

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