Leading Article: Hail the creators, not their countries

ONCE AGAIN, as the Oscars are handed out in Los Angeles, many in this country are hailing "British" triumphs. We are delighted to see the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Tom Stoppard, Marc Norman and Stephen Warbeck collect the golden statuettes, and the plaudits of their peers. But to celebrate their triumph as a "British" success, somehow reflecting glory on the rest of us non-thespians, seems rather to miss the point. They are honoured not because they are representative of a nation, but precisely because they transcend most people's less artistic lives.

The national conceit does not just affect Britons. Since governments nominate foreign language films from their own nations to the Academy, there is always the temptation to treat that category as a national beauty pageant. Roberto Benigni's awards are being seen, at least partly, as a breakthrough for the Italian film industry.

We should not get too excited. There is much to trumpet about British film, with actors, studios and technical staff among the best in the world. But their efforts owe little to a mythical national "character", and still less (thankfully) to communal action embodied in government intervention. Companies such as Channel 4 and the American concern Miramax handle a fickle industry better than the likes of the Lottery Board, yet to sponsor a hit film.

So while celebrating the success of the winning films and film-makers, we should avoid the temptation to be jingoistic. It does not really matter whether a film is British, American or Chinese. What matters most is that as many films as possible are made, expressing a diversity of outlook and catering to a variety of tastes. The example of Shakespeare, the unwitting star of Sunday night's spectacular, is that universal ideas and feelings that all peoples share are the key to creative success.