"Indeed, a minimum of life, an unchaining from all coarser desires, an independence in the middle of all kinds of outer nuisance; a bit of Cynicism, perhaps a bit of ‘tub’."
Friedrich Nietzsche

22 Jan 2012

Rex Bloomstein Filmography

To follow my last post, I want to feature a parrhesiastic commentator of a very different kind. Unlike Waugh and Hitchens, whose fearless speech was expressed through their own strong opinions, Rex Bloomstein gives a voice to the oppressed and the marginalised—even when, as in the case of holocaust denier David Irving (An Independent Mind 2008), marginalised because of his own offensive ideas. That is the craftsmanship and the generousity of Bloomstein: an intelligent audience shouldn’t need the narrative of a chronicle spelled out for them, they should draw their own conclusions, make up their own minds.
     Better known as a documentary film-maker, now with his own independent film company Rex Entertainment, I listened last Sunday (15th Jan) to Bloomstein’s Radio 4 broadcast Dying Inside, featuring interviews with older prisoners in three of Britain’s jails. Many had serious health problems and were resigned to dying in prison. Bloomstein’s familiar style of letting his interviewees speak for themselvesand his audience draw their own conclusions about what they are witnessingis a very rare experience these days when most documentary makers use interventionist directorial control. The only other documentary film maker that comes to mind with a touch as light as Bloomstein’s, and who likewise engenders a high degree of trust in his subjects, is Louis Theroux (and, of course, Werner Herzog, if one regards him as a documentary maker). Yet Theroux has a very different style and is very much the central character of his films, whereas Bloomstein is largely invisible. Both also focus on the individual rather than the storyalthough Theroux prefers the weird and querky, while Bloomstein (though the querky are not left out) focusses on big humanitarian issues. The following list of films identifies just what themes Bloomstein is committed to. 

Crime & Punishment, Prison Life: 
  • The Sentence (1975)
  • Release (1976)
  • Prisoners Wives (1977)
  • Parole (1978)
  • Strangeways [TV series] (1980)
  • Lifers (1982)
  • The Torso Murders ( 1991)
  • Strangeways - Revisited [BBC2 Timewatch Series] (2001)
  • Lifer - Living with Murder [Channel 4 series] (2003)
  • Kids Behind Bars [BBC 3 series] (2005)
Human Rights and Freedom of Speech: 
  • Human Rights
  • (1984)
  • Torture (1985)
  • Attack On The Liberty (1987)
  • Martin Luther King – The Legacy [Thames Television] (1988)
  • Prisoners of Conscience [series] (1988 - 1993)
  • Human Rights, Human Wrongs [series] (1994 -1999)
  • Roots Of Evil [series] (1997)
  • Urgent Action [series]  (1998)
  • An Independent Mind (2008)
  • This Prison Where I Live (2010)
The Holocaust and the History of Anti-Semitism 
  • Auschwitz
  • and the Allies (1982)
  • The Gathering (1982)
  • The Longest Hatred (A trilogy charting the first television history of Anti-Semitism, 1989)
  • Liberation (1995)
  • KZ [described as the first post modern Holocaust documentary based on the Mauthausen concentration camp] (2005) 
  • The Patient is the Family [Bloomstein’s first film, made at the BBC concentrated on the Institute for Family Psychiatry] (1969) 
  • All In A Day - The Launch (1970)
  • All In A Day -  The Auction (1970)
  • All In A Day -  The Candidate  (1971)
  • All In A Day - The City  (1971)
  • The Advertising Agent  (1973)
  • Musclemen (1974)
  • The Candidate Part Two (1974)
  • The Appeal  (1975)
  • Tom Keating–Portrait Of A Master Forger (1976)
  • Traitors to Hitler (1979)
  • Please God Don’t Let Peace Break Out [a portrait of the arms bazaar that is the Paris Air Show] (1989)
  • Next Time Dear God Please Choose Someone Else [tribute to American Jewish Humor] (1990)
  • What Do You Expect, Paradise? [study of Arlington House–a hostel for homeless men] (1992)
  • South Bank Show: Cliff RichardThe Life & Times Of A Pop Legend (1993)
  • Hustlers, Hoaxsters, Pranksters, Jokesters and Ricky Jay (1995)
And yet, although you might well recognise one or more of the productions listed above, you are not necessarily aware of Bloomstein himself. Striking in appearance, with a gentle voice that yet demands attention, Bloomstein himself shuns self-publicity even if he is passionate about his work. At any rate, that was my impression of the man on the occassion I saw him at the preview screening of An Independent Mind
     When our TV and Cinema screens are so full of sentimental, sensationalist and mediocre reporting of big issues, it is regretable that Bloomstein is not more of a houshold name. I do not have the space or time to discuss all of Bloomstein’s films here, in any case, I’m not a film critic. But I do urge readers of my blog to experience for themselves the unique quality and power of Bloomstein’s work.

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