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Arena Gazette


  • Arena's Nobel Prize Winners

    In celebration of Bob Dylan being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, the critically-praised 2005 Arena, "No Direction Home", directed by Martin Scorsese, will be shown again on BBC Four on Friday 9 December 2016. Since the announcement last month, there has been much discussion and debate, with Dylan remaining characteristically quiet on the matter. "No Direction Home" is an irresistible demonstration of the depth and breadth of Dylan’s talent.

    Dylan may be one of the most-debated Nobel recipients in recent history but he is far from the only Prize winner Arena has documented over the years; what better way to celebrate his becoming a Nobel laureate, than to take a look at some of the acclaimed names that have come before him.


    First up is Eliot. Winning in 1948 for ‘his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry’, Eliot remains one of the nation’s favourite poets. In his Nobel Lecture, Eliot wrote that ‘while language constitutes a barrier, poetry itself gives us a reason for trying to overcome the barrier’, going on to explain how different languages and poetic traditions nourish poems from other languages and traditions. His humane thesis was that…

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  • Happy Birthday John Huston

    Here at Arena we are celebrating the 110th birthday of one of the most influential film directors of the 20th Century, John Huston; we are proud to say he was the focus of our film, Huston’s Hobby (1981, dir. Alan Yentob and Gavin Millar).

    The American’s portfolio of work is varied. It began back in the 1940s during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and survived the decline of the studio system during the fifties, the Hollywood New Wave of the sixties and the rise of the blockbuster in the seventies.

    The son of actor Walter Huston and father of actress Angelica Huston, he is known for his collaborations with actor Humphrey Bogart and Orson Welles, and his friendship with novelist Ernest Hemingway.

    Before he ventured into motion pictures, Huston experimented with boxing and bull fighting. His career choices were bohemian in nature and broad in variety, much like the man himself.

    The beginnings of his career as a film director came during the Second World War: Huston’s first feature film was The Maltese Falcon (1941) starring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet. It was also the first pairing of Greenstreet and Lorre, who would go on to make eight further films together.…

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  • John, Jo and Imagine: some stories our country tells us

    In 1971 John Lennon sang “Imagine there’s no countries, It isn’t hard to do”. On the eve of the UK’s In/Out EU referendum, opinion polls show, that imagining “no countries” is proving very hard to do for millions of voters in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Watching the current Brexit debate I am struck by just how far we are from the optimistic early 1970s when John and Yoko asked the world to “Imagine” and the UK joined the European Economic Community.

    In the 1996 four part film “Stories my Country told me” Arena addressed the complexity of national identity and how it is driven by the stories we tell ourselves. The story Thomas Mair wanted to tell appears to have been “Britain First” when he murdered  Jo Cox, the MP for Batley and Spen, a Labour parliamentarian and mother of 2 young children.

    Later, when asked his name in court, Thomas Mair refused. He had no name, but only the lines given to some B movie superhero caught up in the pathos of a fantasy revenge plot redolant of old style 19th Century national epics: “Death to Traitors, Freedom for Britain”.

    But what Britain? In truth Brexit campaign have been asking their voters to imagine too. Since EU membership is the…

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  • Arena: Night and Day - Voice of Time

    There’s a horrible moment in one of John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s Strontium Dog strips from the 1970s. Trapped in a fierce gunfight, Johnny Alpha – the Dog of the title – reaches for one of his terrifying sci-fi weapons, a literal “time bomb”. He throws it towards his enemy who is then stuck in a localised time-loop, endlessly repeating the same gesture of violence. As Alpha leaves the scene, he tells his companion that the man will remain in the loop “until he starves to death”. This is the feeling I once had at a twenty-four hour film marathon. It was a weird mix of endurance, machismo…

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  • All the World's a Screen - Adapting Shakespeare

    In anticipation of our latest film, Arena: All the World’s A Screen - Shakespeare on Film, transmitting on BBC Four, this Sunday 24 April at 9pm, we consider what makes the Bard’s work so attractive to filmmakers across the globe (pun intended). Directed by David Thompson, All the World’s a Screen charts the cinematic evolution of Shakespearean adaptations since the conception of cinema, right through to the present day. Adaptations are fundamental to cinema: from classics like Hitchcock’s The Birds, to small comedy-dramas like The Lady in the Van, all the way to huge budget sci-fi films like…

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  • Female Performers & Arena

    Our latest film, transmitting on BBC Four tonight, Friday 18 March at 9pm, is the first feature-length profile of the country music legend Loretta Lynn. At the age of 83, Loretta is still going strong and would work every day if she could: she’s still got thousands of songs to sing and thousands of things she’d like to say to the world. Over the years, Arena has profiled several female musicians, so what better way to celebrate the transmission of Arena: Loretta Lynn – Still a Mountain Girl than to take a look at five clips of female performers from our archive (we’ll leave the ranking to…

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  • The Disneyland, Treasure Island that is Soho

    Soho, fun-loving and never quiet, attracts a wide mix of people. The heart of London’s West End has a history as rich as our archive and its streets, pubs, offices and sex shops, form the backdrop to several Arena films.

    In Night and Day (1987, directed by Gerry Pomeroy) we watch writer Jeffrey Bernard at home and visiting his favourite Soho haunts. Bernard talks about his life as a…

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  • Arena at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas: Notes from a Passer-by

    From flâneur to badaud. Notes taken between 12pm Friday 23 October 2015 – 12pm Saturday 24 October 2015 whilst in Cambridge during Arena - Night and Day.

    These notes were taken by Will Finch, a postgraduate music student living and working in Cambridge. @WillLFinch

    12pm Sits at desk in Christ’s College wondering if it is appropriate to watch the beginning at work. Decides it is. Line-manager decides it isn’t. Catches views of bells as Arena begins.

    12.55pm Walks from lunch to John Lewis to buy an SD card in anticipation of evening. Walks straight past “Our thinnest ever 4K TV” playing Night…

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  • Asif Kapadia's 'Amy' and 'The Day She Came to Dingle'

    In December 2006, Amy Winehouse performed for Other Voices, an acclaimed Irish TV series filmed in Dingle every winter. For the 2012 programme ‘Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came to Dingle’, Arena joined forces with Other Voices and caught up with some of the people that Amy met on that day, including taxi driver Paddy Kennedy, her bass player Dale Davis and Rev Máirt Hanley of the Other Voices church. In this blog post, we take a look at the connections between Asif Kapadia’s award-winning film ‘Amy’, released on DVD today, and ‘…The Day She Came to Dingle’.

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  • Remembering Orson Welles

    Orson Welles – actor, director, writer and producer would have been 100 this year. To mark the occasion, a number of events have taken place around the world. The BFI, for instance, held a 2-month celebration throughout the summer, whilst the Venice Film Festival paid tribute to Welles with screenings and an exhibition named ‘Shakespeare & Cigars’ featuring cigar boxes on which Welles had painted his favourite Shakespearean characters.

    Arena met Orson Welles in 1982. The Orson Welles Story, a 3-hour film, is built around an 8-hour interview with the man himself, conducted by director Leslie…

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