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Leap Year – Leap Back to Working Lunch

It’s Monday February 29 2016 – and I have been trying to remember what I was doing last leap year.

Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t remember 4 years ago but I did uncover something I did in November 2001.

Working Lunch

Not just child’s play was an article I wrote for the Working Lunch website off the back of an item I produced on investing in children’s toys.

It’s fascinating seeing how the BBC websites  have developed since. Selecting the BBC News Front Page link catapulted me straight back to 29 February 2016.

Now I wonder where I’ll be four years from now…


Bitter Lake – Adam Curtis new film premieres on iPlayer

Bitter Lake, Adam Curtis’ new film, made its debut on Sunday 25tJanuary. The documentary was not broadcast on a terrestrial channel. Instead, it made its debut on iPlayer, thereby making this service a channel in its own right rather than a catch up destination.

In many ways, IPlayer is a natural home for Curtis’s unique brand of shape shifting, genre denying documentaries.

Nobody else creates television quite like Adam Curtis. He locks himself away for months at a time with piles of tapes and weaves together unsettling narratives.

From The Century of the Self (2002) to All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (2011), watching a Curtis film is like seeing a damaged dream.

Bitter Lake is made of archive footage from Afghanistan. Putting it on iPlayer allows Curtis the freedom to let his unsettling narrative play out for as long as he feels the story requires rather than how long the channel dictates. It is not easy to watch. There is no straightforward structure. It is not a fight between good and evil, rather an unsettling combination of fact and mood.

Because Bitter Lake is in iPlayer, sequences no longer need to be rigorously edited so they follow the style and format of a current affairs programme. Instead they can hold shots for a long time, allowing the observer to slowly become absorbed.It delves beneath the surface. It is not an easy watch but it is hypnotic and strangely beautiful in parts.

Now Adam Curtis has led the way, it will be interesting to see how other filmmakers use this new channel.

Wolf Hall – BBC Two

Wolf Hall finally opened its dark doors on Wednesday evening.

I loved Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies and so I had been eagerly waiting for this adaptation.

The bloody story of the Tudors has held a special fascination for me ever since I was little.

But Hilary’s re-telling of a well known, long ago history is very different. The use of the historical present tense makes well-trodden events feel fresh and unexpected, the well-known ending is not in sight. We see through Thomas’s eyes and are given uncanny access to his thoughts.

I was intrigued to see how the books would make the transition from page to screen.

With a stellar cast including the great theatre actor Mark Rylance as Cromwell and Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Wolsey, this was a gorgeously complex and twisting hour of historical drama where political loyalties shifted with the wind.

It’s still very much Thomas’s story. The camera often lurks just over his shoulder, seeing events from his perspective.

Filming by candlelight to provide an extra layer of authenticity was made possible by the Alexa camera. The flickering shadows made this adaptation feel very dark and real indeed.

I am very much looking forward to watching this story twist and turn out to its violent conclusion.

If you’re interested in how books are adapted, you might find my BBC Academy podcast (featuring Sarah Phelps who adapted the much discussed Great Expectations with Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham) of interest.