Arena at Jewish Book Week Series
October 2021 – March 2022
Six events discussing landmark Arena films, featuring individuals involved in their making and exploring the lives of subjects from Mel Brooks to Amy Winehouse. Details and dates for each event will be listed here as they are announced.
Martin Scorsese has described Arena as ‘home to some of the greatest non-fiction film making of the past 40 years’. Under the editorship of Alan Yentob (1978-85), Nigel Finch and Anthony Wall developed a new kind of film, a free form examination of subjects that hadn’t previously been thought appropriate to the realms of the arts documentary – a song, My Way; a car, The Private Life of the Ford Cortina; a radio classic, Desert Island Discs. The success of these films laid the foundation of Arena’s reputation for wit, style and surprise.
Finch and Wall were core to a group of directors who pioneered an approach which applied the highest filmic values to art and culture both low and high, from Visconti to Superman, Louise Bourgeois to Amy Winehouse, Bob Dylan to Flamenco.
Wall and Finch became Editors in 1985 and continued to direct. Wall carried on as sole Editor after Finch’s death in 1995. During his forty year tenure, Arena won over a hundred domestic and international awards including nine BAFTAs and twenty-five nominations; six Royal Television Society awards; the Prix Italia; Primetime and International Emmys and, most prestigious of all, the Special Medallion at the Telluride Film Festival for a ‘commitment to cutting edge film making’. It was there that Werner Herzog declared Arena to be ‘the oasis in the sea of insanity that is television’.
Film Editor: Emma Matthews
Series Film Curator and Executive Producer: Anthony Wall
Executive Producer: Anne Webber
Producer: Laura Granditer
Arena at Jewish Book Week
3 October 2021, Live at Kings Place and via at-home streaming
To launch an exclusive Jewish Book Week-BBC TV Arena series, Arena producer Sally Angel and editors Anthony Wall and Alan Yentob discuss the many Jewish subjects featured in the multi-award-winning arts documentary series – who have ranged from Arthur Miller and Linda McCartney to Jonathan Miller and Amy Winehouse – with a specially shot message for Jewish Book Week from Mel Brooks, star of one of the most iconic Arena films. The discussion is chaired by Mark Lawson.
Included in the ticket price is access to the Arena film, I Thought I Was Taller: A short history of Mel Brooks. This film will be available to view online for seven days from 3 October.
Image credit: BBC Arena, Mel Brooks I Thought I Was Taller, 1981
Sally Angel is Creative Director of Angelica Films, an All3Media company. She has produced Emmy, BAFTA, RTS and Peabody award-winning programmes for UK and US broadcasters. As a producer/director at the BBC, she worked on all the leading arts strands including Arena. Her recent credits include Arena’s Nothing Like a Dame and Uncle Vanya for the BBC which won a Southbank Sky Arts Award. She is also a psychotherapist.
Mark Lawson is an English journalist, broadcaster and author. Specialising in culture and the arts, he is best known for presenting the flagship BBC Radio 4 arts programme Front Row between 1998 and 2014. He is also a Guardian columnist, and presents Mark Lawson Talks To… on BBC Four.
Anthony Wall was one of the core directors on Arena from 1979-1985 under the editorship of Alan Yentob. He and Nigel Finch took over as Series Editors in 1985. After Finch’s death in 1995, Wall remained sole editor until 2018. During those years, Arena won nine BAFTA awards and over a hundred awards from all over the world. Voted by leading television executives as one of the fifty most influential programmes of all time, Arena was described by Werner Herzog at the Telluride Film Festival as “the oasis in the sea of insanity that is television”.
Alan Yentob has held almost all of the most prestigious posts in BBC television. He was Editor of Arena from 1978 to 1985 and is one of the country’s major figures in arts television, both as a creator and champion. He currently edits and presents the award-winning BBC1 arts series Imagine. His Arena director credits include I Thought I Was Taller: A short history of Mel Brooks.