Arena (TV series)

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Arena
Genre Documentary
Created by Humphrey Burton
Written by Various
Directed by Various
Opening theme "Another Green World" by Brian Eno
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of episodes over 600
Editor(s) Anthony Wall (1995-present)
Anthony Wall and Nigel Finch (1985-1995)
Alan Yentob (1979-1985)
Leslie Megahey (1977-1978)
Various (1975-1977)
Production company(s) BBC
Broadcast
Original channel BBC Two (1975-2011)
BBC Four (2003-present)
External links
BBC Four - Arena

Arena is a British television documentary series, made and broadcast by the BBC. Voted by leading TV executives in Broadcast magazine as one of the top 50 most influential programmes of all time, it has run since 1 October 1975 with over six hundred episodes made, directed by the likes of Martin Scorsese, Anthony Wall, Nigel Finch, Jana Boková, Alan Yentob, Leslie Megahey, Leslie Woodward, Adam Low, James Marsh, Julian Temple, Mary Harron, Volker Schlondorff and Vikram Jayanti. Arena's subjects are a roll-call of the world's best known cultural figures from the 20th and 21st centuries, from singers Bob Dylan and Amy Winehouse to academics Edward Said and Eric Hobsbawm, from writers Jean Genet and V S Naipaul to artists Francis Bacon and Louise Bourgeois. The current series editor is Anthony Wall, who has edited Arena since 1985.

History[edit]

The arts strand Arena was initially created in 1975[1] by the BBC Head of Music & Arts at that time, Humphrey Burton, when he founded a magazine named Arena exploring art, design, filmmaking, and theatre. In 1977, under producer and director Leslie Megahey, the stand divided into Arena Theatre and Arena Art and Design, and Arena became less of a magazine and more a home for short, distinctive and stylish films about mainly British theatre and visual arts. In 1978 Megahey became editor of Omnibus and Alan Yentob, who had been supervising Arena Theatre, took over and the two themes were merged. The series, relaunched in January 1979 and renamed simply Arena, began to adopt a format of single subject essays. It achieved great critical acclaim for its enthusiasm for the popular as well as the high arts. During Yentob's time as editor, Arena had six BAFTA nominations and three BAFTA awards.

A group of radical directors, notably Nigel Finch and Anthony Wall, gathered around Yentob and Arena, including Nigel Williams and Mary Dickinson. Hits from 1977 included Who Is Poly Styrene?, La Dame Aux Gladiolas, a portrait of Edna Everage, and most notably the groundbreaking My Way, an examination of the appeal of the song, by Nigel Finch and Anthony Wall. It was the first of their collaborations, which developed a new kind of arts film, taking an unlikely subject and building a poetic meditation on its various aspects - further examples include The Chelsea Hotel (1981), The Private Life of the Ford Cortina (1982), Desert Island Discs (1982). Other successes included Leslie Megahey's legendary portrait of Orson Welles (1982), Nigel Williams' definitive study of George Orwell (1982), and Yentob's portrait of Mel Brooks (1981).

On Yentob’s move to become Head of Music & Arts in 1985, Finch and Wall took over as joint editor of Arena until of Finch’s death in 1995. Following a period of uncertainty concerning the future of the arts strand, series editor Wall protected the series in a reshuffle of the BBC. Since then Arena has been transmitted outside the conventional weekly broadcast strand on BBC Two and BBC Four, and latterly on BBC Four.

Under Wall and Finch, Arena developed the idea of the themed evening, beginning with Blues Night (1985), followed by Caribbean Nights (1986), Animal Night (1989), Food Night (1990), Texas Saturday Night (1991) and Stories My Country Told Me (1995), a three and a half hour presentation on Nations and Nationalism. Since then Arena has won numerous awards with regular screenings at the BFI Southbank and has continued to cover the arts and culture at the highest level, with films on Bob Dylan, Harold Pinter, The National Theatre and Spitting Image, to name but a few.

Most recently Arena has developed a substantial online presence featuring the Arena Hotel, a site that turns the 600-film Arena archive into a resource to build an online hotel for the stars. The Arena Hotel was nominated for a Focal International Award in 2013. The Hotel was commissioned for The Space,and will continue to expand.

Werner Herzog has praised the series as "the oasis in the sea of insanity that is television".

Branding[edit]

The programme's theme music is taken from the title track of the 1975 album Another Green World by Brian Eno, himself the subject of a 2010 Arena film subtitled Another Green World.[2]

The Arena opening titles were voted among the 'Top 5 Most Influential Opening Titles in the History of Television' by Broadcast magazine in 2004.

Series editors[edit]

Anthony Wall has been the Editor of Arena since 1985. He joined the series in 1978 and became one of its leading directors.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Arena has won a Primetime and International Emmys, [3] a Grammy,[4] nine BAFTAs,[5] six Royal Television Society Awards, a Peabody and the Prix Italia. Arena also won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Paris is Burning, and the Best Performance Award for Lili Taylor's role in I Shot Andy Warhol at the Sundance Film Festival.

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Films Director
2014

The 50 Year Argument: The New York Review of Books

Martin Scorsese

David Tedeschi

2014

Whatever Happened to Spitting Image?

Anthony Wall
2013

The National Theatre

Adam Low
2013

AKA Norman Parkinson

Nicola Roberts
2012

Sister Wendy and the Art of the Gospels

Randall Wright
2012

Screen Goddesses

David Thompson
2012

The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour Revisited

Frank Hanly
2012

Amy Winehouse: The Day She Came to Dingle

Maurice Linnane
2012

Jonathan Miller

David Thompson
2012

The Dreams of William Golding

Adam Low
2012

Sonny Rollins: This is Who I Am

Dick Fontaine
2012

Dickens On Film

Anthony Wall
2011

George Harrison: Living in the Material World

Martin Scorsese
2011

Produced By George Martin

Frank Hanly
2010

Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way

Bruce Ricker
2010

Harold: A Celebration

Anthony Wall
2010

Brian Eno: Another Green World

Nicola Roberts
2009

T. S. Eliot

Adam Low
2008

Phil Spector

Vikram Jayanti
2008

V.S. Naipaul: The Strange Luck Of...

Adam Low
2007

Bergman and the Cinema

Marie Nyrerod
2007

Encountering Bergman

David Thompson
2007

Bob Marley's Exodus '77

Anthony Wall
2007

Underground

Zimena Percival
2006

Pete Doherty

Ashtar Alkhirsan
2005

The Princess and Panorama

Samantha Peters
2005

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan

Martin Scorsese
2005

Bacon's Arena

Adam Low
2005

Calling Hedy Lamarr

Georg Misch
2004

Painting the Clouds: A Portrait of Dennis Potter

Martin Rosenbaum

Nigel Williams

2004

Shadowing the Third Man

Frederick Baker
2004

Pavarotti: The Last Tenor

Frank Hanly
2003

Dylan Thomas: Grave to Cradle

Anthony Wall
2003

Imagine Imagine

Frederick Baker
2002

Harold Pinter Season at the BBC

Anthony Wall

Nigel Williams

Martin Rosenbaum

2002

Kurosawa

Adam Low
2001

Salgado: Spectre of Hope

P. Carlin
2000

Clint Eastwood

Anthony Wall

B. Ricker

1999

Looking for the Iron Curtain

Anthony Wall
1999

Salman Rushdie

M. Dickinson
1999

Cuba Night

P. Esterson

J. Shinner

1997

The Football Men

F. Hanly
1996

I Shot Andy Warhol

M. Harron
1996

Eqbal Ahmad on the Grand Trunk Road

H. O. Hazareth
1996

Desmond Tutu and the Rainbow Nation

T. May
1996

Eric Hobsbawn on the Pressburger Bahn

F. Baker
1996

Stories My Country Told Me

Anthony Wall
1995

Stonewall

Nigel Finch
1995

Punk and the Pistols

P. Tickell
1994

Marvin Gaye

J. Marsh
1994

Kalashnikov

P. Lee
1993

The Last Soviet Citizen

L. Wooodhead
1993

Edward Said

F Hanly

T. May

1991

Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon

Nigel Finch
1991

Miller Meets Mandela

B. Marcus

Nigel Finch

1990

Paris is Burning

J. Livingston

Nigel Finch

1989

The Other Graham Greene

Nigel Finch
1988

Kapuściński

Adam Low
1987

Stop Making Sense

Jonathan Demme
1987

Evelyn Waugh Trilogy

Adam Low
1987

The Confessions of Robert Crumb

M. Dickinson
1986

C. L. R. James' First Cricket XI

C. Pattinson
1985

Saint Genet

Nigel Williams

C. Chabot

1985

Old Kent Road

M. Dickinson
1983

Borges and I

D. Wheatley
1983

Burroughs

H. Brookner
1982

The Orson Welles Story

Alan Yentob

L. Megahey

1981

Brixton to Barbados

Anthony Wall
1981

Chelsea Hotel

Nigel Finch
1980

Making The Shining

Vivian Kubrick
1979

My Way

Nigel Finch

Sources[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tise Vahimagi. (2003-12) "Burton, Humphrey (1931-) ". BFI Screen Online". Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  2. ^ Nigel Smith (22 February 2010). "Brian Eno and the Arena Bottle". BBC Music Blog. BBC. Retrieved 6 April 2012. 
  3. ^ International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. (2013) “International Emmy Awards – Previous Winners 'Arts Programme'”. The International Emmy Awards. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  4. ^ The Recording Academy. (2013) "GRAMMY.COM Past Winners Search – ‘No Direction Home’". GRAMMY.COM. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  5. ^ British Academy of Film and Television Arts. (2013) "BAFTA Awards Search – ‘Arena’". BAFTA. Retrieved 19 June 2013.

External links[edit]