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Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

Press Release

BBC's flagship arts series Imagine returns to BBC One

The BBC's flagship arts strand Imagine returns to BBC One with a compelling line-up of films exploring human stories: how art and history remain at the heart of political change in Egypt and Iraq; the struggle of two of the iconic songwriters of the 20th century to come to terms with their personal demons; and the story of one of the world's best-known brain specialists and his patients, who have overcome rare and strange conditions through the power of their creativity.

Starting the series, as part of Books on the BBC 2011, Alan Yentob meets clinical neurologist and author Dr Oliver Sacks in Imagine: The Man Who Forgot How To Read And Other Stories. Through fascinating and bizarre case studies including patients who've lost the ability to read, recognise faces and see in 3D, the film explores how we see not just with our eyes, but also with our mind.

In Imagine: The Pharaohs' Museum On Liberation Square Alan visits the Egyptian National Museum, a treasure trove of exhibits from Pharaonic times, which sits on Tahrir Square – the scene of the recent uprising. Exploring how attitudes to history and culture are changing since the revolution, Alan meets with officials, curators and even Omar Sharif, to understand how the country's unique cultural history has shaped its present. The film will also feature exclusive unseen footage shot by young Egyptian filmmakers who were at the very heart of the revolution.

Alan Yentob also introduces a documentary casting new light on one of the most iconic figures in music history – John Lennon. Imagine – Lennon: The New York Years delves into Lennon's life following his move to New York City, as well as his relationship with Yoko Ono. Michael Epstein's film features never-before-heard studio recordings from the Double Fantasy sessions and never-before-seen outtakes from Lennon in concert and his home movies, the film reveals a wealth of new insights.

During his brief split from Ono, Lennon travelled to LA to let his hair down. Whilst there, he famously spent time "living it up" with one of his musical heroes – Harry Nilsson. Alan Yentob introduces Imagine: Harry Nilsson – The Missing Beatle, which explores the life and career of one of the most talented, but least known, American songwriters and vocalists of the Seventies, remembered as much for his wild lifestyle as for his outstanding performance of Everybody's Talkin' from the movie soundtrack Midnight Cowboy. John Scheinfeld's documentary features interviews and newly discovered footage, the film unveils the accomplishments of this unsung hero and asks how he inspired a generation of musicians and performers.

In the final programme, Imagine: Iraq In Venice (Working Title), Alan will follow six Iraqi artists as they represent Iraq at the prestigious Venice Biennale festival for the first time since 1976. Separated from the country they love, the artists will be united at the festival through the shared theme of their work – water – particularly relevant in a country where water is more expensive than oil. Imagine will follow the artists as they prepare the work they will exhibit in The Iraqi Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, whilst negotiating with the Iraqi government and officials in Venice.

Alan Yentob, editor and presenter of Imagine, says: "I like to think of the stories in this season of Imagine as tales of the unexpected which both will surprise and inspire our viewers."

The series will run as follows:

Tuesday 28 June: The Man Who Forgot How To Read And Other Stories
Tuesday 5 July: The Pharaohs' Museum On Liberation Square
Tuesday 12 July: Lennon: The New York Years
Tuesday 19 July: Harry Nilsson: The Missing Beatle
Tuesday 26 July: Iraq In Venice (Working Title)

Notes to Editors

Further programme information below:

Imagine: The Man Who Forgot How To Read And Other Stories
Tuesday 28 June
BBC One

Launching the new series of Imagine as part of the Books on the BBC season, presenter Alan Yentob meets clinical neurologist and author Dr Oliver Sacks to investigate the myriad ways we experience the visual world and the strange things that can happen when our mind fails to understand what our eyes see. During this investigation, Yentob tells the life story of Sacks, the man who would become one of the world's most famous scientists.

Alan delves into this world by going to meet several of the case studies from Sacks's latest book, The Mind's Eye.

He meets Stereo Sue, neurobiologist Sue Barry, who always saw the world as a flat 2D image until she suddenly acquired stereoscopic 3D vision in her late forties; Canadian crime writer Howard Engel, the man who forgot how to read, who remarkably continues to write despite a stroke that destroyed his reading ability; Chuck Close, the renowned portrait artist, who cannot recognise or remember faces, and Danny Delcambre, an extraordinary and spirited man who, although having a condition which means he was born deaf and is gradually going blind, lives life to the full and uses close-up photography to record the world around him.

Often overlapping with these case studies is Sacks's own story. Here, doctor and patient combine as he talks about his childhood, his own struggle with face blindness, and the loss he felt when eye cancer recently destroyed his 3D vision.

Imagine: The Pharaohs' Museum On Liberation Square
Tuesday 5 July
BBC One

Imagine presents the story of an historic moment in our times by celebrating the world famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Alan Yentob explores the museum's unique and priceless collection and examines the influence and relevance of Egypt's ancient history and culture on people living in its present and shaping its future.

The Egyptian Museum, with its unique treasure trove from the tombs of the Pharaohs, stands on the square in Cairo which was at the heart of the recent revolution – the aptly named Tahrir, or Liberation Square. During the chaos of the protests the museum was looted by thieves but was protected by a cordon of young revolutionaries. While fighting for a better future, they remained conscious of the need to conserve their past. Imagine features previously unseen footage shot by young Egyptian filmmakers who were at the very heart of the revolution.

Drawing on the comment and expertise of contributors, including actor Omar Sharif, Booker-prize nominated author Ahdaf Soueif and Dr Zahi Hawass, Egypt's leading archaeologist and Minister for Antiquities, Yentob will reveal the complexities of ancient Egyptian society and capture the quality and diversity of artworks produced up to 5,000 years ago by this remarkable civilisation.

For many Egyptians, this magic place, cluttered and covered in dust, stands for even more than thousands of years of a history which has fascinated the world. Recognised as the beating heart of Egypt, it offers a clue not only to the country's past but also its potential for the future.

Imagine – Lennon: The New York Years
Tuesday 12 July
BBC One

Alan Yentob introduces Imagine – Lennon: The New York Years. Michael Epstein's film uncovers John Lennon and Yoko Ono's move to New York City as Lennon sought to escape the mayhem of the Beatles era and focus on his family and private life. It was in New York that Lennon created some of his most famous work, writing most of his songs in his apartment at The Dakota on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Revealing the tumultuous life of one of the world's most famous couples as they adjusted to life in the Big Apple, the film charts the ups-and-downs of their creative and personal lives – including their battle against the immigration services, and Lennon's infamous "lost weekend".

The film also features never-before-heard studio recordings from the Double Fantasy sessions and never-before-seen outtakes from Lennon in concert and his home movies. The film includes exclusive interviews with Yoko Ono and with artists who worked closely with Lennon during this period, including Elton John and photographer Bob Gruen.

Imagine: Harry Nilsson – The Missing Beatle
Tuesday 19 July
BBC One

Paired with Lennon: The New York Years is Harry Nilsson: The Missing Beatle, a film that tells the story of the riotous life and music of Harry Nilsson. Nilsson, a friend and hero of Lennon's, was one of the most successful, influential, but least known, songwriters of his generation. He is remembered as much for his wild lifestyle as for his performance of Everybody's Talkin' from the movie soundtrack Midnight Cowboy.

Alan Yentob introduces John Scheinfeld's documentary which showcases new and archived audio and film, including home movies, music videos, promotional films and segments from the unreleased documentary made during the recording of Son Of Schmilsson, Did Somebody Drop His Mouse? The film will also feature interviews with Robin Williams, Yoko Ono, Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, Ray Cooper, the Smothers Brothers, and Micky Dolenz.

Imagine: Iraq In Venice (Working Title)
Tuesday 26 July
BBC One

Iraq has produced some of the world's most exciting artists today but during Saddam Hussein's rule, artists were banned from even exhibiting their art. This year, for the first time in 35 years, Iraq will have a pavilion at the prestigious Venice Biennale. Iraq's representation at this internationally acclaimed festival will be an epoch-making event.

For Imagine, presenter Alan Yentob follows the six Iraqi-born artists chosen to represent their country as they prepare for the show. Now scattered around Europe and America, the six Iraqi artists have been separated by war and conflict from the country they love; they are Walid Siti, sculptor and print maker; video artists Adel Abidin and Azad Nanakeli; mixed media artist Ali Assaf; photographer Halim Al Karim and Ahmed Al Soudani, the only painter in the group and the most commercially successful of all the artists.

Their common theme is "wounded water" – water being perilously scarce in Iraq, a country where water is more expensive than oil, and where war, drought, development and dams are playing havoc with the water supply. The six offer an intriguing view both from inside and from outside of the country – this is a study of exile as well as of belonging.

AT

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