A few days ago I came across the following news headline.
"Titanic wreckage to become Unesco heritage"
Do my eyes deceive me or has the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation entered the world of film criticism. I know Titanic was never popular with the critics, but 'wreckage' is a bit harsh. But to give it UNESCO protection is a ground breaking move. This is no doubt prompted by the imminent release of Titanic 3D - they clearly thought urgent action was needed.
There has been some talk about tangible and intangible heritage of late and UNESCO has been at the forefront of that debate and has slowly been trying to protect more than just buildings and landscapes. But I have to admire their leap into the protection of overblown, expensive, critically lambasted yet immensely popular modern cinema productions.
Cinema is clearly under threat from the internet and other technological advances. At the same time awareness of cinema heritage is growing. Awarding 'The Artist' the Best Film Oscar this year is evidence of this. But the speed of heritage protection development in the cinema world is bewildering. It took 50 years to get world heritage protection off the ground. Even then many sites of 'universal' importance have taken a long time to get onto the world heritage list. After having protected the obvious (Taj Mahal, Stonehenge etc.) it took many years to getting round to protecting coal mines and housing estates.
Compare this development to UNESCO's move to movie protection. No discussion, no committees agonising for 50 years - just immediate action. Then what is the first movie they want to protect? Citizen Kane? Casablanca? Gone With the Wind? No - straight to the cinematic equivalent of a Berlin housing estate - Titanic.
Why? Like a housing estate Titanic isn't high culture, its popular culture. Like a housing estate its large and expensive and not loved by critics. And like a housing estate it has problems of chronic rising damp.
Thus I applaud UNESCO for breaking out of the straight jacket of current heritage protection thinking. In this spirit I look forward to my local 'Hooters' bar becoming a listed building, the local rubbish dump becoming a conservation area and my car becoming scheduled as an ancient monument. This may be too idealistic but still I will be writing to UNESCO to propose that the second movie they might like to consider protecting is 'Carry On Up the Khyber'.