An Education director Lone Scherfig was the first woman to deliver BAFTA’s David Lean lecture.

Lone Scherfig has stressed the need to protect the British film industry and praised the “high moral standards, strong values, persistence and wit” of its members at BAFTA’s annual David Lean lecture.

Speaking on December 15 about British competition with America, the director of An Education and The Riot Club, said: “You may think that unlike other European countries you don’t have the advantage of a home market, speaking a language that you share with Americans, but in Europe we are not in doubt about which films are British and which are American.

“That is because of your traditions, your values, your tone, your cinematic history that comes back with every generation, and your education.” 

Speaking about the need to protect British film, she said: “I feel very grateful to the audiences here, to the festivals here, people that protect the British film industry’s core values, its politics, and its decisions.

“But it’s also individuals from the BFI, the BBC and Film4, people who continue to make films that maintain your tradition of grandeur but also films about shame, about hunger, about people who are hit by rain stones, people who won’t let each other go or people who need to talk about Kevin”.

Scherfig stressed the importance of education to the film industry. She spoke about her pride in Denmark, which in her student days she said had a small gap between its richest and poorest citizens. “It didn’t give us much to make films about,” she said. “My education was free.”

In contrast, speaking about British education, she said: “After a year’s daily dinners with The Riot Club, I understand how education and access to it defines your society to a degree that’s almost chilling.”

But she spoke positively about the effect of education on the British film industry. “People who have that education and make decisions of power in your film community use it to ensure films are of this calibre and to protect the British film tradition.”

Scherfig shed light on her student days, when she attended the National Film School of Denmark with Lars von Trier. She said: “We discussed seriously how we could abolish television.”

Speaking about von Trier, she said: “Lars at that time thought he was Jewish, but he would still dress in a Nazi-inspired outfit and long hair.” 

She said that the teachers were “frustrated” at the film school: “They couldn’t understand why the rest of us could not just be as original and inventive and eccentric as Lars.”

She also described von Trier as “the most constructive, respectful, helpful critic I’ve ever had.”

Scherfig is the first female director to give a David Lean lecture. “I’m often asked whether it makes a difference that I’m a female director,” she said. “I just don’t have a proper answer because I don’t know.”

She said that growing up in Denmark, “we did have very prominent female directors and they kept coming, one or two every generation. It’s not as unusual to have that job there as it is in any other country.”

Currently, Scherfig is working on two projects. The first is a film produced by Stephen Woolley and Amanda Posey about the creators of propaganda films. The main theme, she said, is “cinema itself.”

She is writing the other film, The Backdoor To The Russian Tearoom. “We’re trying to take it to a much more adventurous place with big images, lots of Russian elements and lots of snow over New York City,” she said.