The BBC led their 10 O’clock News today with a five minute piece on the delay to the Chilcot report. It gave a retrospective on the Iraq War that did not mention, once, Weapons of Mass Destruction as the raison d’etre but told us the war “removed a brutal dictator”. They said the dead of the war were in thousands – not hundreds of thousands, not even tens of thousands. “Thousands died”, they said. Literally true, but diminishing the scale. They could equally have said dozens died, also literally true – just an awful lot of dozens.
Then they allowed Blair unanswered and unquestioned to speak sincerely to camera about how much he wanted the report published, and the reporter stated without challenge that Blair had not delayed publication and had not objected to the publication of his correspondence with President Bush – both statements which are a very long way from the whole truth.
Even by recent BBC standards, it was the most vomit inducing production. They compounded it by finishing with Ed Miliband in parliament demanding publication, when he has a shadow cabinet packed with the very criminals who launched the illegal war – a fact they did not note. Anti-war opinion was briefly represented by – Nick Clegg!!!
I do not recognise what the British state has become. Or rather I do recognise precisely what kind of state it has become, and it bears no relation to the democracy it claims to be.
In 1945, overseen by Alfred Hitchcock, a crack team of British film-makers went to Germany to document the horror of the concentration camps. Despite being hailed as a masterpiece, the film was never shown. Now, in a documentary called Night Will Fall, the full story of its creation and suppression is being told.
“In the spring of 1945,” says the narrator, over bucolic springtime shots of the German countryside, “the allies advancing into the heart of Germany came to Bergen-Belsen. Neat and tidy orchards, well-stocked farms lined the wayside, and the British soldier did not fail to admire the place and its inhabitants. At least, until he began to feel a smell …”
So begins a British film about the Holocaust that was abandoned and shelved for 70 years because it was deemed too politically sensitive. The smell came from the dead, their bodies burned or rotting; or from malnourished, often disease-ridden prisoners in the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, near all those thriving German farms.
As allied troops liberated such camps across what had been German-occupied Europe, the British Ministry of Information’s Sidney Bernstein (who later founded Granada Television) was commissioned to make a documentary that would provide incontrovertible evidence of the Nazis’ crimes.
Bernstein assembled a remarkable team, including the future Labour cabinet minister Richard Crossman, who wrote the film’s lyrical script, and Alfred Hitchcock, who flew in from Hollywood to advise Bernstein on its structure. They set to work on a documentary entitled German Concentration Camps Factual Survey. As they worked, reels of film kept arriving, sent by British, American and Soviet combat and newsreel cameramen from 11 camps, including Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. As well as the dead, the footage showed starved survivors and human remains in ovens.
In one piece of film, from Majdanek concentration camp, we see huge bags containing human hair. Collected from the murdered, it would have been carefully sorted and weighed. “Nothing was wasted,” says the narrator. “Even teeth were taken out of their mouth.” Bernstein’s film then cuts to a large pile of spectacles. “If one man in 10 wears spectacles,” we are asked, “how many does this heap represent?”
Now, 70 years on, director and anthropologist André Singer has made a documentary called Night Will Fall, to be screened on Channel 4 later this month, telling the extraordinary story of filming the camps and the fate of Bernstein’s project.
Singer tracked down and interviewed survivors who appeared in the original footage. Among them was Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, now 89, who recalled the day British troops arrived at Belsen-Bergen. “It was an unbelievable moment. Suddenly, you hear English spoken. ‘You should remain calm. Don’t leave the camp. Help is one the way.’ That sort of thing.”
Lasker-Wallfisch and her sister, Renate, had been moved from Auschwitz as the Nazis retreated from the advancing Red army the previous year. At Auschwitz, Lasker-Wallfisch had been a member of the camp orchestra, playing cello as the slave labourers left camp for work each day and again when they returned. She also performed at concerts for the SS.
“It is difficult to describe,” Lasker-Wallfisch says of her liberation. “You spend years preparing yourself to die and suddenly you’re still here. I was 19. Every British soldier looked like a god to us. It was not what we expected, to be still alive – but there we were.” The sisters settled in Britain after the war. Anita played in the English Chamber Orchestra and became renowned as a solo cellist.
The sisters were exceptional. “I should have known this but didn’t,” says Singer. “Some of those who were liberated remained in those camps for five years after liberation. Often they had nowhere else to go – certainly not to Britain or the US. We didn’t want them.”
Singer also interviews another illustrious Holocaust survivor, a Croatian named Branko Lustig. He was a child in Belsen, so sick at the time of liberation that when he heard a strange noise he thought he’d arrived in heaven to a chorus of angels’ trumpets. In reality, they were the bagpipes played by Scottish soldiers.
Many years later, Steven Spielberg chose Lustig, by then a film-maker, to be a producer for Schindler’s List. Lustig has a theory about why British authorities suppressed Bernstein’s film. “At this time, the Brits had enough problems with the Jews.” By that, no doubt, he means that Britain was dealing with Zionists agitating for a Jewish homeland in the British mandate of Palestine – and seeing the full extent of Jewish suffering would only inflame them.
Singer says he’s already had flak for including Lustig’s theory. “Why the film was scuppered is not very well documented,” he says. “But Branko may well have a point.” Singer points out that in 1945, the incoming Labour government’s foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, was anti-Zionist and unsympathetic to the foundation of a Jewish state. But he concedes there is no strong proof. “The only documentary evidence we have is a memo from the Foreign Office saying that screening such an ‘atrocity film’ would not be a good idea.”
Part of the reasoning for that memo, Singer argues, is that the British thought the Germans needed to be nurtured as allies against the growing power of the Soviet Union. But were such compunctions realistic? Would showing the film to postwar Germany have been a propaganda reverse for the British, serving to alienate the Germans and tip the emerging cold war in the Soviets’ favour? Singer doubts it.
No matter. The film, which some have called a forgotten masterpiece of British documentary, was shelved for 70 years. Bernstein died in 1993 and, according to Singer, one of his regrets was not completing his Holocaust documentary.
Footage from his unfinished film, however, proved key to the prosecution of camp commandants at the Nuremberg and Lüneburg trials in 1945. Anita Lasker-Wallfisch recalls testifying at Lüneburg against, among others, Bergen-Belsen commandant Josef Kramer, known as “the Beast of Belsen”. Her evidence was supported by film that contradicted the accused’s defence. “Kramer had said he didn’t have the food to feed his prisoners and that was why they were in such a state. The footage destroyed that,” says Singer. Kramer and other officers from Bergen-Belsen were hanged that year.
Bernstein’s film never got the chance to be as revered as later Holocaust documentaries, including Lanzmann’s Shoah, Resnais’s Night and Fog, and Ophüls’ The Sorrow and the Pity. As Singer explains, an incomplete version was shown at the Berlin film festival in 1984 and on PBS in the US in 1985 under the title Memory of the Camps. Only recently did a team from the Imperial War Museum complete and digitise the picture.
Into the gap left in 1945 by the suppression of Bernstein’s film came another documentary, made by the great Hollywood director and exiled Austrian Jew Billy Wilder. But Wilder’s Death Mills was a hectoring piece of propaganda, keen to indict Germans, while Bernstein and Crossman had attempted to make their film a warning to all of humanity. “Bernstein’s was a work of art by comparison,” says Singer, “mainly because of Crossman’s lyrical script.”
Certainly, German audiences didn’t enjoy Death Mills. Wilder recalls that when it was screened in Würzburg, there were 500 in the audience at the start and only 75 at the end. Whether German Concentration Camps Factual Survey would have had a similar reception is debatable. It would have been anything but easy viewing, not least when Crossman’s script indicted those who lived near Dachau concentration camp but affected ignorance of the barbarism that took place there: “Germans knew about Dachau but did not care.”
Crossman’s script ends with these words: “Unless the world learns the lessons these pictures teach, night will fall. But, by God’s grace, we who live will learn.” Does Singer go along with that? “I wish they had proven to be correct, but since 1945 there have been a number of genocides that have not been stopped by lessons from the past.”
That said, Singer still thinks such deeply upsetting and horrific images should be seen. “I was born on 4 May 1945, so I’m of a generation who knew about these things, but I have sons of adult age who knew little. We need images like this for the new generation.”
So does he think Night Will Fall should be shown in schools? “I do,” he says, “but there’s a strong body of opinion against. It’s seen as too upsetting. But we’re in an age where such imagery is so prolific. I think the imagery in Bernstein’s film and mine, if used in the right context, can only help understanding.
“We can only truly understand the horror of war if we use images like this.”
Many commentators, including myself, have been sounding the alarm for many years that only a short-sighted society filled with fearful imbeciles would ever grant government tyrannical powers in the name of fighting an overhyped, outside enemy. As has happened countless times in world history, once these powers are granted they are always eventually used against the domestic population. Sometimes it is used to crackdown on dissent, but sometimes it’s used just to earn money and shake down the domestic plebs. It appears the British Broadcasting Corportation (BBC) in Great Britain is now using it simply to collect tax.
The Daily Mail reports that:
The BBC is using laws designed to catch terrorists and organized crime networks to track down people who dodge the license fee, it emerged yesterday.
The publicly-funded corporation uses the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), designed by the last Labour government to fight terrorism, to catch those who evade paying the £145.50 fee.
Now, however, its ability to use sweeping surveillance powers could be stopped by a new review announced yesterday by culture secretary Sajid Javid.
Mr Javid’s independent inquiry into TV licence fee enforcement will examine the corporation’s use of covert surveillance operations on those it thinks have not paid the obligatory licence fee.
Almost 200,000 people are prosecuted a year – one in nine of all lower court cases – and more than 50 people were sent to prison in 2012-2013 for failing to buy a TV licence. Many get penalties of up to £1,000 and a criminal record.
Emma Carr, of the campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘The public were told these powers were going to be used to catch terrorists and paedophiles, not to help the BBC to snoop on people who haven’t paid the license fee.
Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which features the F-word (and its derivatives) 506 times.
Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street contains more F-words and derivatives of it (506) than any other movie drama thus far. But with nine others already containing more per minute (Nil By Mouth is tops at 3.34, against Wolf’s 2.83), the work for expletive-friendly directors seems plentiful. And with every F-bomb comes more work for editors skilled in dubbing over such expletives for different markets, age groups and broadcast times:
The Wolf of Wall Street
Production year: 2013
Directors: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Jonah Hill, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey
■ The version of Fargo originally overdubbed for US channel TNT is considered a classic because of the variety of its alternatives for the F-word and its derivatives. One F-word remains, possibly because – having run the gamut from freakin’, fruitless, fruitful, frizzin, froozin and freezin’ to flip, faking, forget, feel and full-of – the editor was simply lost for a word.
■ Ken Locke, known as the BBC’s “de-f***er”, developed the method of swearing into a mirror in order to match explicit mouth movements with “lesser words or spliced components” from elsewhere in each film. He overdubbed 101 of the 102 F-words in Apocalypse Now.
■ Of all words, the MF-word – partly because of its “quadrisyllabic pronunciation” – encourages the most inventive solutions from editors of alternate editions. In Do the Right Thing it became “micki-ficki”; in Me, Myself & Irene it was “mamma jamma”; in The Running Man, “mound of flesh”; in Die Hard 2 “kemosabe” and “Mister Falcon”; in Snakes on a Plane “monkey fighting” and “Monday-to-Friday”. The editors who overdubbed “melon farmer” into Die Hard and Jackie Brown may not have known that it’s an insulting term for people of Hispanic origin.
■ It is Fuck, a documentary about the F-word itself, that holds the cinematic record for most F-words and derivatives – 857 in total, with two more per minute than The Wolf of Wall Street. In Portugal the title became F K, on Australian cable TV F**k, in Brazil F*ck, in Greece Fuck: I apagorevmeni lexi (the forbidden word). In America, the Swedish film Fucking Åmål became Show Me Love, and its expletives were “translated into appropriate American language”.
■ The Watergate tapes popularised the phrase “expletive deleted” and Richard Nixon is depicted using the F-word eight times in one scene alone of Oliver Stone’s Nixon, and often the CS-word (which is most effectively overdubbed, for family viewing, with “fairy godmother”). Yet of 60 hours of tape Nixon had transcribed, under subpoena by the house judiciary commission, his coarsest expletives were eventually revealed as “shit” and “asshole”. Nixon said “If my mother ever heard me use words like those she would turn over in her grave.”
Chatshow host ignored repeated orders not to wear ribbon, while guests including Jeremy Clarkson were allowed to do so.
The Graham Norton Show: Colin Farrell, Sharon Osbourne, Norton, Jeremy Clarkson and Jo Brand wear Aids awareness ribbons. Photograph: Ian West/PA Wire
Chatshow host Graham Norton has had his knuckles rapped by BBC bosses for “illegally” wearing a red ribbon on World Aids Day on his show.
The 50-year-old ignored BBC orders not to wear the ribbon on his show on 29 November this year – sparking the wrath of BBC chiefs, who outlawed him from wearing the ribbon to highlight World Aids Day on 1 December.
Despite the fact that all of his guests on The Graham Norton Show – Jeremy Clarkson, Jo Brand, Colin Farrell and Sharon Osbourne – were all allowed to, and did, wear the red ribbons – the Irish comic was told not to.
The gay comic, a passionate supporters of Aids charities – including the Elton John Aids foundation – flouted the ban despite being repeatedly told not to wear the ribbon on the popular show.
BBC chiefs, however, rapped the funnyman, saying he had breached BBC guidelines and his production company So Television – now owned by ITV – was criticised for letting him wear the ribbon.
The controversy was raised by BBC news and sports reporter in south-west England Hamish Marshall – who was sent on a BBC training course which said the comic was “in the wrong” for wearing the ribbon.
He said: “During the Safeguarding Values training, an example of practice, ruled as wrong, on the Graham Norton Show was highlighted.
“We were told his guests could wear a red ribbon for World Aids Day but he couldn’t.
“Despite the cynics in our group saying this would be flouted, we were told that, like the rest of us, Graham Norton has to obey the rules – however much he disagrees with them.
“Well, guess what happened last week? Graham Norton wore the red ribbon on his show – a couple of days before World Aids Day.
“Can you ask the powers-that-be what action has, or is, being taken as a result of this (and) is it only ‘talent’ on big contracts who can flout rules if they disagree with them?”
The BBC controller of entertainment commissioning, Mark Linsey, said although it was aware World Aids Day was something “Graham cared passionately about” he should not have worn the ribbon.
He said: “World Aids Day is an issue which Graham cares passionately about and he did wear a World Aids Day insignia on his programme.
“However, this is in breach of BBC guidelines.
“The production company has been contacted and reminded that he cannot do this and Graham has accepted he was wrong to do so.
“The BBC has been assured it will not occur again.”
A BBC source said on Monday: “The whole thing is totally disgraceful – Graham is a well known supporter of Aids charities and there is no way in the world he was not going to wear the ribbon.
“It means so much to him and is very close to his heart and for the BBC to have a go at him is as unbelievable as it is disgusting.
“His guests were all allowed to wear ribbons – even Jeremy Clarkson – so if Graham didn’t wear one, can you imagine how he would feel?”
On 7 November this year, Norton and other celebrities raised more £85,000 for the Terence Higgins Trust charity at a “supper club” event to support people living with HIV.
The Graham Norton Show attracts nearly 3.2 million viewers each week, a 22.6% audience share.
Graham Norton has been given a warning by the BBC after he wore a World AIDS Day ribbon on his chat show on November 29.
BBC staff are supposed to stay “independent and distanced from government initiatives, campaigners, charities and their agendas” and BBC entertainment controller Mark Linsey has confirmed that he has reprimanded Norton and his production company So Television over their actions.
“World AIDS Day is an issue which Graham cares passionately about and he did wear a World AIDS Day insignia on his programme,” Linsey told BBC in-house magazine Ariel.
“However, this is in breach of BBC guidelines. The production company has been contacted and reminded that he cannot do this and Graham has accepted he was wrong to do so. The BBC has been assured it will not occur again.”
The only exemption to BBC rules is the poppy, which can be worn to support the Royal British Legion.
The issue was raised by a BBC reporter, who had been told on a training course that the comic was “in the wrong” for sporting the ribbon.
“Can you ask the powers-that-be what action has, or is, being taken as a result of this (and) is it only ‘talent’ on big contracts who can flout rules if they disagree with them?” the reporter asked.
This man has seen 8,524 movies. How does he know? Because he invented the Internet Movie Database – the indispensable cinema encyclopaedia – and put Bristol on Hollywood‘s map.
Connections … Col Needham, at his Bristol offices. Photograph: SWNS.com
Col Needham is 46 and lives in Frampton Cotterell, a small village eight miles outside Bristol. He is bright-eyed, wears glasses and has the face of a beaming baby. Despite nearly three decades of living in the West Country, he still sounds Mancs. Every Tuesday lunchtime, he and his wife Karen go on a date to their local Odeon. At the pub, he has a small glass of white and goes easy on the nuts. He laughs a little more than average – every fourth or fifth statement is broken by a big giggle – but other than that, he is not an obvious headturner.
Needham is also the most powerful Brit in Hollywood – by miles, by millions. He is our Harvey Weinstein. More than that, he’s our Mark Zuckerberg, too: the Steve Jobs of south Glos. That’s because, 23 years ago, Needham created the Internet Movie Database – a compendium of film and TV credits, connections, goofs and trivia. At first it was a cottage hobby: run from his semi in Stoke Gifford (four miles from Frampton) while he was working for Hewlett Packard and the internet was still in its infancy. But as the web grew, the potential of a site whose raison d’etre was connectivity became plain. IMDb quickly became the market leader in its field. It still is: when it comes to online film coverage, no one can touch IMDb. The site is now among the 50 most popular websites in the world, with 160 million monthly unique users.
Needham sold to Amazon in 1998, but retained the reins. Today, not only does he pave a path for film fans, he also keeps the people who actually make movies on a tight leash – through subscription site IMDbPro (which, among other things, gauges every star’s current wattage) and sister sites such as Box Office Mojo (which tracks profits and losses). When he met Steven Spielberg at the Oscars in February, it was the director who grabbed hands and paid lip service first.
That, says Needham, was especially thrilling: his first trip to the cinema was to see Jaws, aged eight, with his mum. Afterwards, he recalls, “I was scared of even going in a swimming pool, let alone the sea.” He was hooked, hungry for all the movies he could consume. Six years later, in 1981, came his first experience of home entertainment: he was loaned a VHS of Alien and watched it every day for a fortnight. Then, in April 1989, he took his first trip to the US: he checked into his hotel, drove to the nearest video store and rented A Clockwork Orange, which was banned in the UK at the time. “My secret plan … well, my broadly public plan” – he pauses for a happy laugh – “is to make everyone love film and TV as much as I do. Growing up, we went to the cinema quite a lot. But it wasn’t until I got online that I started being able to discuss films with other people.”
Robert Redford‘s new film sees the Hollywood liberal play a craggy radical, hiding away from a criminally subversive past under an assumed name. Once the FBI rumbles him, the agents on his trail spend some time comparing the image of his lined face to that of his much younger, 1970s, moustachioed self.
Cinema audiences across the world have travelled down that same long, ageing trail with Redford too, watching as his luminous youth in the role of Bubber in the 1966 film The Chase was gradually replaced, first by the poised cynicism of The Candidate and then by the stately leading man in Out of Africa or the worn-out sleaze of his Indecent Proposal to Demi Moore. Yet, as a man, Redford’s radical zeal remains undimmed.
The Company You Keep, which the 76-year-old also directed, tells the story of an anti-Vietnam war activist who has been forced to reinvent himself. It is a notion familiar to the actor in real life, who has a habit of “returning to zero” to refresh himself and look at things again.
“It gives you a kind of energy,” Redford has said. “It’s recharging, and it allows you to keep taking chances rather than getting safe with the ones you’ve taken.”
This spring the man with the solar-powered smile has returned to public life with just this sort of renewed vigour. On Wednesday he will be in London’s O2 venue to launch Sundance London, a three-day independent film festival that sprang from the non-profit event he set up in 1981 in Utah and named after his role in the western that made him a household name in 1969, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Earlier this month Redford revealed that he is to make and narrate a television documentary about the real events behind another of his totemic film roles – as the journalist Bob Woodward in All The President’s Men. Director Alan J Pakula’s 1976 Oscar-winner told the story of the Washington Post reporters who helped uncover the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Nixon.
Of all Hollywood’s veteran stars, Redford has perhaps shown the most unyielding attitude to the fripperies of the town. Maybe because he was born there, in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica in 1936, he has little trouble rejecting its values or its celebrity guff. When Paris Hilton jetted into Utah for his festival in January, he spoke out angrily against her presence.
“What movie is she in?” he asked at a press conference. “She and her hard-partying, swag-grabbing cohorts have made the festival not much fun. There are too many people who come to the festival to leverage their own self-interest.”