Minghella bemoans 'jaundiced' British for cultural negativity

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The Independent Online

Anthony Minghella, the Oscar-winning film director, said yesterday that the British had a "jaundiced" view of their culture and were "too quick to concede defeat" over the demise of the creative industries.

The director of The English Patient and Cold Mountain complained that he found it "exhausting" that "the death-knell of British culture" was "always ringing".

Mr Minghella, the chairman of the British Film Institute, was speaking before the launch of a venture aimed at bringing together young British talent in film, theatre and television.

The Stellar Network, which has been set up by the director's daughter Hannah Minghella and her colleague Nicola Behrman, is also backed by the actors Jude Law and Alan Rickman and the playwright Sir David Hare.

Mr Minghella said: "Sometimes you wish that all of us would be a bit less jaundiced. The death-knell of British culture is always ringing and that can be exhausting."

The director, who lives for much of the year in America, said the British appeared to view their own culture in a very different way from the way it was seen overseas.

"Anybody outside Britain will look into our cultural life and say that they envy it," he said.

"We are a country which is quick to concede defeat. We are comfortable always with identifying the end of an industry or the end of an era. The film industry has always been 'in crisis' from its first day until today."

Mr Minghella said that there was "actually a lot of fantastic stuff going on here", citing the current productions at the National Theatre and exhibitions at the National Museum of Film, Television and Photography in Bradford.

"It's quite a healthy culture we have. You have to step away from it a bit," he said. "When you are in America, people are very envious of the depth of talent we have in actors, writers, producers. Everybody is coming over here to vacuum up the talent we have."

The Stellar Network, which is launched in Leicester Square in London tonight, hopes to bring a new confidence to young British film-makers.

The organisation, which is based on a concept developed in America, promises to put on special screenings of new films attended by star Hollywood actors and directors who will give master-classes.

Hannah Minghella said the New York arm of the network, founded two years ago, has 400 members, and had recently put on a screening of Chicago , attended by the actors Renée Zellweger and Richard Gere and the director Rob Marshall, and Frida , attended by the actor Salma Hayek.

Ms Minghella, who works for the film company Miramax, said she believed Britain was awash with film-making talent but that young writers and directors were often pessimistic of their chances of success.

"I met so many people in New York who have ideas for short films or projects and, three months later, the film was made or a contract signed," she said. "But in London, people sit upstairs in a pub and moan that it's not possible to get a film done." She hopes to change that with monthly meetings and film screenings in Soho, central London, at which young film-makers can exchange ideas and make contact with the organisation's American-based members.

Although Mr Minghella decried British negativity, he conceded that the outlook might be a spur to creativity. "Maybe it's our irritation with ourselves that creates the pearls. That it's out of this sense of dismay at our apparent lack of achievements that we create work," he said.