Mr Peter Kirkpatrick

Research project: Revisiting the Past to Convey Messages About Today: Engagement with Social and Political Issues in British and American Cinema of the 2010s


The 2010s saw a number of prominent social and political issues, the common themes of which are equality and awareness, including debates about racial equality in the wake of Obama's Presidential Election and the Black Lives Matter movement, the MeToo movement, the Refugee Crisis, and increased discussions surrounding mental health awareness. This increase in movements was accompanied by a three-fold increase in the number of biopics and historical films produced globally – genres which, as James Chapman argues in his 2005 book Past and Present: National Identity and the British Historical Film, "will often have as much to say about the present in which [they are] made as about the past in which [they are] set" (p. 1) – with many from Britain and America engaging with relevant social and political issues. This merits study as it reflects a new point of development for these genres which could shape them formally and shape perspectives of them going into the 2020s.

This PhD will examine how filmmakers depicted true stories, many of which are over forty years old, to engage with and convey messages relevant to contemporary issues, which shall be achieved through a two-step process of extensive research into the prominent social and political issues of the 2010s, and application of said research to the chosen case studies via textual analysis. This argument shall also incorporate an examination of how the films' themes and messages were conveyed through marketing campaigns and the use of online methods, the latter having played a significant role in film marketing during the 2010s thanks to the rise of social media and YouTube. This examination will be done through analysis of both official marketing tools and the social media accounts of filmmakers.

The final thesis will be a written piece that builds upon existing scholarship on biopics and historical films, by providing an original contribution to knowledge regarding their socio-political relevance, form and direction through an era-specific focus. It will also provide a genre-specific understanding of social media's impact upon film marketing which would fill a gap in the pre-existing knowledge concerning how filmmakers use their own social media presence to promote their work.

  • Research degree: PhD
  • Title of project: Revisiting the Past to Convey Messages About Today: Engagement with Social and Political Issues in British and American Cinema of the 2010s
  • Research supervisor: Dr Simon Brown
  • Other research supervisors:


I studied BA (Hons) Film Studies at the University of Portsmouth, where my interest in the social and political relevance of cinema really began to flourish. I wrote on this subject area in relation to a variety of topics, including Mexican cinema, 1950s' science-fiction and contemporary fantasy cinema. When I studied MA Film Studies at Kingston University, this subject area became especially prevalent in my work. During my MA, I wrote on it in relation to a plethora of topics, including Italian Neorealism, British cinema of the 1960s and 1970s, contemporary science-fiction, and (as part of my dissertation) the Best Picture nominees at the 89th Academy Awards. My dissertation research shaped my PhD idea the most, as three case studies were biopics or historical films, while my research into how social and political relevance could shape Oscar campaigns helped to shape the marketing angle of my PhD.

Areas of research interest

  • Social and political engagement in cinema
  • Contemporary British and American cinema
  • Biopics and historical films
  • Film history
  • Film marketing in the digital age
  • The Academy Awards


  • MA Film Studies, Kingston University
  • BA (Hons) Film Studies, University of Portsmouth