Idris Elba on the importance of independent film to diversity: “I wouldn’t be here without it”

The actor wrote an essay calling for progression to continue in the film industry and beyond, and for independent cinemas to be protected

Idris Elba has written an essay on the importance of independent film and its impact on diversity, saying he “wouldn’t be here without it”.

The actor reflected on his life and career in the film industry in the piece, recalling going to the cinema as a child and wanting to be on screen, as well as the need to protect independent cinemas in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Film isn’t elitist,” he wrote in the Times. “We all express ourselves through the stories we tell, what we watch and the communities we create. One person’s film culture is watching Spider-Man at the Rio, another’s is going to a Kurosawa season at the BFI or catching the new Christopher Nolan movie at an Imax. But it’s those smaller independent and community cinemas that have been hardest hit by the lockdown.”

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He continued to explain that “lower-budget independent films” would struggle to raise money, get insurance and make distribution deals because of the pandemic. Elba added that, without government support, filmmakers without access to resources or connections would have to “battle to get their stories told – and the diversity of our film culture will end up seriously on the brink”.

Idris Elba
Idris Elba (Picture: Getty)

“Film isn’t just entertainment,” he continued. “We’re looking at each other, watching what other people do and encouraging greater honesty about each other’s cultures. It’s the age of mass storytelling in which a video recorded on a phone can bring together families separated by lockdown — or inspire a powerful global movement.”

Elba noted that the power of “deeply personal” films like Parasite, Moonlight and Blue Story were how they showed us different perspectives and experiences from our own, emphasising the importance of protecting that representation. “A nation finally acknowledging its diversity needs a diverse film culture — we have to protect it at the time we need it most,” he wrote.

“We may need the money mainstream cinema from America brings in, but to create future stars and introduce new voices, independent film is where it’s at,” he continued. “I wouldn’t be here without it.”

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Elba is the latest star to call for increased diversity within the film and TV fields in the UK. Simon Pegg said in a new interview that they “would be such a healthier, more interesting place if there were more voices, different stories, different experiences”. “It’s so dominated by one particular voice and colour of face, it just perpetuates a bland mono-voiced cultural landscape,” he added.

Sandra Oh, meanwhile, has shared her experiences of working on British TV sets. The Killing Eve star said the UK was “behind” on diversity, saying she was “totally used to” being the only Asian woman on set.

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