Curtis at the 2005 San Francisco Film Festival.
|Born||Kevin Adam Curtis
26 May 1955
Dartford, Kent, England
Kevin Adam Curtis (born 26 May 1955), better known as Adam Curtis, is an English documentary filmmaker. Curtis says that his favourite theme is "power and how it works in society", and his works explore areas of sociology, philosophy and political history. He describes his work as journalism that happens to be expounded upon through the medium of film. His films have won three BAFTAs. He has been closely associated with the BBC throughout his career.
Curtis was born in Dartford, Kent. His father was Martin Curtis (10 August 1917 – January 2002), a cinematographer from Sevenoaks who worked with Humphrey Jennings. His family had a left wing background. Curtis attended the Sevenoaks School on a county scholarship. He completed a Bachelor of Arts in human sciences at Mansfield College, Oxford, which included courses in genetics, evolutionary biology, psychology, politics, anthropology and statistics. He started a PhD, during which he tutored in politics, but he became disillusioned with academia.
Curtis applied to the BBC and was hired to make a film for one of its training courses, comparing designer clothes in music videos to the design of weapons. He subsequently obtained a post on That's Life!, a programme that often placed serious and humorous content in close juxtaposition.
Of his general political outlook Curtis has said:
|“||People often accuse me of being a lefty. That's complete rubbish. If you look at The Century of the Self, what I'm arguing is something very close to a neoconservative position because I'm saying that, with the rise of individualism, you tend to get the corrosion of the other idea of social bonds and communal networks, because everyone is on their own. Well, that's what the neoconservatives argue, domestically. ... If you ask me what my politics are, I'm very much a creature of my time. I don't really have any. I change my mind over different issues, but I am much more fond of a libertarian view. I have a more libertarian tendency ...||”|
|“||You can trace back everything I do to that novel [sic] because it's all about grand history, individual experience, their relationship. And also collages, quotes from newsreels, cinema, newspapers. And it's about collage of history as well. That's where I get it all from.||”|
Curtis makes extensive use of archive footage in his documentaries. He has acknowledged the influence of recordings made by Erik Durschmied and is "constantly using his stuff in my films". According to a profile of Curtis by Tim Adams, published in Observer,
|“||Curtis has a remarkable feel for the serendipity of such moments, and an obsessive skill in locating them. "That kind of footage shows just how dull I can be," he admits, a little glumly. "The BBC has an archive of all these tapes where they have just dumped all the news items they have ever shown. One tape for every three months. So what you get is this odd collage, an accidental treasure trove. You sit in a darkened room, watch all these little news moments and look for connections."||”|
Adams adds: "if there has been a theme in Curtis's work since, it has been to look at how different elites have tried to impose an ideology on their times, and the tragicomic consequences of those attempts".
Curtis received the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2005. In 2006 he was given the Alan Clarke Award for Outstanding Contribution to Television at the British Academy Television Awards. In 2009 Sheffield Doc/Fest awarded Curtis the inaugural Sheffield Inspiration Award for his inspiration to other documentary-makers and to audiences.
Since 2004 Curtis has hosted a blog on the BBC website. He has tentative plans to expand the offering.
|1983||Just Another Day: Walton on the Naze||Various longstanding British institutions.|
|1983||The Tuesday Documentary: Trumpets and Typewriters||The history of war correspondents.|
|1984||Inquiry: The Great British Housing Disaster.||The system-built housing of the 1960s.|
|1984||Italians: Mayor of Montemilone||The politics of a small Italian town and its Communist Mayor, Dino Labriola.||1|
|1984||The Cost of Treachery||The Albanian Subversion, in which the CIA and MI6 attempted to overthrow the Albanian government and to weaken the Soviet Union in 1949, and the role of Kim Philby.|
|1987||40 Minutes: Bombay Hotel||The luxurious Taj Mahal Palace & Tower in Mumbai, contrasted with the poverty of the slums of the city.|
|1988||An Ocean Apart, Episode One: "Hats Off to Mr Wilson"||The process by which the United States became involved in the First World War.|
|1989||40 Minutes: The Kingdom of Fun||Documentary about the Metro Centre in Gateshead, developed by the entrepreneur John Hall. The programme compares John Hall's plans to regenerate the Northeast of England with those of T. Dan Smith.|
|1989||Inside Story: The Road To Terror||How the Iranian Revolution turned from idealism to terror. Draws parallels with the French Revolution two hundred years earlier.|
|1992||Pandora's Box||The dangers of technocratic and political rationality.||6||BAFTA: Best Factual Series [dead link]|
|1995||The Living Dead||The ways in which history and memory (both national and individual) have been used by politicians and others.||3|
|1996||25 Million Pounds||Nick Leeson and the collapse of Barings Bank.||San Francisco International Film Festival, 1998: Best Science and Nature Documentary|
|1997||Modern Times: The Way of All Flesh||The story, dating back to the 1950s, of the search for a cure to cancer and the impact of Henrietta Lacks, the "woman who will never die" because her cells have never stopped reproducing.||Golden Gate Award, 1997|
|1999||The Mayfair Set||How buccaneer capitalists were allowed to shape the climate of the Thatcher years, focusing on the rise of Colonel David Stirling, Jim Slater, James Goldsmith and Tiny Rowland, all members of The Clermont Club in the 1960s.||4||BAFTA, 2000: Best Factual Series or Strand|
|2002||The Century of the Self||How Freud's theories concerning the unconscious led to the development of public relations by his relative Edward Bernays; the use of desire over need; and self-actualisation as a means of achieving economic growth and the political control of populations.||4||BBC Four, art house cinemas in the US||Broadcast Award: Best Documentary Series; Longman/History Today Awards: Historical Film of the Year; Entertainment Weekly, 2005: fourth best movie|
|2004||The Power of Nightmares||Suggested a parallel between the rise of Islamism in the Arab world and neoconservatism in the United States, in that both, according to Curtis, needed to inflate a myth of a dangerous enemy to draw people to support them.||3||BBC Two||BAFTA, 2004: Best Factual Series|
|2007||The Trap – What Happened to our Dream of Freedom||The modern concept of freedom. Archived December 23, 2007 at the Wayback Machine||3||BBC Two|
|2007||—||Television news reporters.||1||Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe, third episode of the fourth series|
|2009||—||The rise of "Oh Dear"-ism.||1||Charlie Brooker's Newswipe, third episode of the first series|
|2009||It Felt Like a Kiss||Mixed media. Broadcast 2 July.||1||Manchester International Festival|
|2010||—||Paranoia and moral panics.||1||Charlie Brooker's Newswipe, fourth episode of the second series|
|2011||All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace||The computer as a model of the world around us (the title is taken from a poem by Richard Brautigan).||3||BBC Two|
|2011||Every Day is Like Sunday||The rise and fall of the newspaper tycoon Cecil King, and the changing relationship between the public, politics and the media.||1||The Medium and the Message, his personal blog. This is not an officially released documentary but "a rough cut".|
|2013||Everything is Going According to Plan (Massive Attack V Adam Curtis)||Collaboration with Massive Attack, mixed media. Themed around technocrats and global corporations establishing an ultraconservative norm, with the internet providing a "fake, enchanting world, which has become a kind of prison".||1||Performed as part of the Manchester International Festival|
|2014||—||"Oh dear"-ism II - Non-Linear War||1||Charlie Brooker's 2014 Wipe, 30 December 2014|
|2015||Bitter Lake||How Western politicians' simplistic "good" vs. "evil" narratives failed the complexities of the post-war era, using several experiences in Afghanistan and beyond as example.||1||BBC iPlayer-only, 137 mins (2h 16m 44s), 25 January 2015|
- Interview: Adam Curtis by Chris Darke on 15 September 2011, Film Society of Lincoln Center, published 17 July. 2012
- Search birth records 1837–2006 | Fully indexed birth records | Findmypast.co.uk
- In Conversation with Adam Curtis, Part I | e-flux
- The Telegraph Interview
- "Hans Ulrich Obrist in Conversation with Adam Curtis". e-flux. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
- BBC – Adam Curtis Blog: GOODIES AND BADDIES
- Adams, Tim (24 October 2004). "The Exorcist". London: The Observer. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
- Adam Curtis, San Francisco International Film Festival
- "The Great British Housing Disaster (1984)". British Film Institute. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
- "San Francisco Film Society". Retrieved 6 July 2009.
- "BAFTA: Winners 2000". Archived from the original on 19 October 2004. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
- "Past Winners and Nominees (2004)". BAFTA. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
- "Adam Curtis". BBC. Archived from the original on 24 June 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2009.
- Appleyard, Bryan (28 June 2009). "Adam Curtis: TV's great documentary maker". The Times (London). Retrieved 6 July 2009.
- "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace – Adam Curtis blog". BBC. 10 May 2011.
- "TV review: All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace". The Guardian"date=23 May 2011.
- "Every Day is like Sunday". BBC. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
- Adams, Tim (7 July 2013). "Massive Attack v Adam Curtis – review". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- Dave Simpson (5 July 2013). "Massive Attack v Adam Curtis – review". The Guardian (London).
- "Adam Curtis: 'I try to make the complexity and chaos intelligible'". The Guardian. 24 January 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
- "Adam Curtis - Bitter Lake". BBC iPlayer. BBC. 25 January 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2015.
- Adam Curtis blog at the BBC
- Adam Curtis at the Internet Movie Database
- Adam Curtis: The Desperate Edge of Now, exhibition at a gallery including audio of an interview
- The Power of Auteurs and the Last Man Standing: Adam Curtis' Documentary Nightmares – Bright Lights Film Journal