Nick Broomfield in 2005
|Born||January 30, 1948 (age 69)
London, England, United Kingdom
|Education||Sidcot School, Somerset
University of Essex
|Alma mater||National Film and Television School|
Nicholas "Nick" Broomfield (born January 30, 1948) is an English documentary film director. His self-reflexive style has been highly influential, and was adapted by many later filmmakers. In the early 21st century, he began to use non-actors in scripted works, which he calls "Direct Cinema". His output ranges from studies of entertainers to political works such as examinations of South Africa before and after the end of apartheid and the rise of the black-majority government of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress party.
Broomfield generally works with a minimal crew, recording sound himself and using one or two camera operators. He is often seen in the finished film, usually holding the sound boom and wearing the Nagra tape recorder.
Early life and education
Nicholas Broomfield was born in 1948. He is the son of photographer Maurice Broomfield and Sonja Lagusova. From 1959 to 1965, Broomfield was educated at Sidcot School, a Quaker boarding independent school for boys (now co-educational), near the village of Winscombe in Somerset in south west England. He gained higher-level education at University College Cardiff (which became Cardiff University in 1999), where he studied law, and the University of Essex, where he studied political science. Subsequently, he studied film at the National Film and Television School in London. Broomfield's early style was conventional cinéma vérité: the juxtaposition of observed scenes, with little use of voice-over or text.
Career in documentaries
After more than a decade of working as a filmmaker, Broomfield altered his film style, appearing on-screen for the first time in Driving Me Crazy (1988). After several arguments regarding the budget and nature of the film, he decided that he would make the documentary only if he could experiment by filming the very process of making the film—the arguments, the failed interviews and the dead-ends.
This shift in film-making style was strongly influenced by Broomfield's struggles in trying to gain distribution for his earlier documentary, Lily Tomlin, which chronicled the American comedian's one-woman show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. Tomlin claimed the film was a spoiler for her show and filed suit for $7 million in damages. The documentary was shown on public television but not widely released. Eventually Broomfield's documentary was incorporated into the video release of the one-woman show.
Broomfield became known for this self-reflective film-making style: making films that were also about the making itself as well as the ostensible subject. His influence on documentary could be seen by the work of younger filmmakers in the first decade of the 21st century: according to The Guardian, Michael Moore, Louis Theroux and Morgan Spurlock each demonstrated similar styles in their recent box-office hits. Such filmmakers have been classified as Les Nouvelles Egotistes; others have likened Broomfield's work to the Gonzo journalism of American Hunter S. Thompson.
Broomfield's best-known work is probably Kurt & Courtney, about American musicians Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, which was selected for the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. Its screening was cancelled by the festival after Love threatened to sue, as the film was released after Cobain's suicide. A previous film, Soldier Girls, which Broomfield co-directed with Joan Churchill, won first prize at Sundance a few years previously.
In 2006, Broomfield changed his style again, adopting techniques of what he calls 'Direct Cinema'; using non-actors to play themselves in dramas with a screenplay. He completed a drama called Ghosts for Channel 4; this was inspired by the 2004 Morecambe Bay cockling disaster, when 23 Chinese immigrant cockle pickers drowned after being cut off by the tides. Ghosts won an award and helped raise nearly £500,000 to help the victims' families.
In Battle for Haditha (2007), Broomfield worked with ex-Marines and Iraqi refugees, as well as known actors. The film was shot sequentially, enabling the cast to build their characters as the story progressed. It also used real locations, and a very small documentary-style film crew. Although working from a detailed script, Broomfield allowed the actors to improvise and add dialogue. Broomfield based his script on research with Marines of Kilo Company who took part in the fighting on that day, the survivors of the massacre, and the six-thousand page NCIS government report. Battle for Haditha won two international awards.
On 30 March 2015 on Russia Today's Going Underground news programme, Nick Broomfield said his and Joan Churchill's film Juvenile Liaison remains banned from broadcast. The chief constable of Birmingham in 1975 had exerted sufficient pressure to have the film banned. It remains only available to screening to specialist audiences at the BFI. Angered by the banning order, Broomfield and Churchill moved to America where "we found funding, and making films easier."
Broomfield told the BBC that he professes irreligion. He said, "I believe that there's a goodness out there, and I think there's goodness in everybody. We should probably all try and have a good dig around and find out where it is."
- British Academy Award (BAFTA)
- Prix Italia
- The Dupont Columbia Award for Outstanding Journalism
- The Peabody
- The Royal Television Society Award
- First Prize, Sundance Film Festival
- John Grierson Award
- Robert Flaherty Award
- The Hague Peace Prize
- The Chris Award
- The Blue Ribbon
- The California State Bar Award
- First Prize, Chicago Film Festival
- First Prize, US Film Festival
- First Prize, Festival of Mannheim
- First Prize, Festival di Popoli
- Special Jury Award, Melbourne Film Festival
- Inspiration Award, Sheffield Doc/Fest 2011
Broomfield was also given a BAFTA tribute evening on 8 March 2005.
- Who Cares? (1971) – Broomfield's first film, made as a student using a borrowed camera.
- Proud to be British (1973)
- England and Class (1973)
- Behind the Rent Strike (1974)
- Juvenile Liaison (1975)
- Gosling's Travels: Whittingham (1975)
- Gosling's Travels: Fort Augustus (1976)
- Soldier Girls (1981)
- Tattooed Tears (1982)
- Chicken Ranch (1983)
- Lily Tomlin (1986)
- Driving Me Crazy (1988)
- Diamond Skulls (1989) also known as Dark Obsession
- Juvenile Liaison II (1990)
- The Leader, His Driver and the Driver's Wife (1991)
- Too White For Me (1992)
- Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (1992)
- Monster in a Box (1992)
- Tracking Down Maggie (1994)
- Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (1995)
- Fetishes (1996)
- Kurt & Courtney (1998)
- Biggie & Tupac (2002)
- Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003)
- His Big White Self (2006)
- Ghosts (2006)
- Battle for Haditha (2007)
- A Time Comes (2009)
- Sarah Palin: You Betcha! (2011)
- Sex: My British Job (2013)
- Tales of the Grim Sleeper (2014)
- Going Going Gone (2016)
- Whitney: Can I Be Me (2017)
In 1999, Broomfield made a series of five commercials for Volkswagen. Each of these featured Broomfield with his trademark sound boom "investigating" rumours about the soon-to-be released Volkswagen Passat.
- Jon Levy Obituary: Maurice Broomfield, The Guardian, 13 October 2010
- "Alumni of Sidcot School". Sidcot School, Somerset. Archived from the original on 27 June 2011. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
- Barnett, Laura (2007-09-11). "Portrait of the artist: Nick Broomfield, documentary-maker". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
- "University of Essex :: Honorary Graduates :: Honorary Graduates :: Dr Nick Broomfield". www.essex.ac.uk. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
- Hoggart, Paul (21 February 2006). "Following the leader". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
- Byrnes, Paul (13 February 2003). "Review: Biggie And Tupac". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
- "'Kurt and Courtney' now showing despite Love's efforts". CNN.
- "Soldier Girls (1981) – Nick Broomfield,Joan Churchill – Awards – AllMovie". AllMovie.
- "EXCL: Nick Broomfield's Battle for Haditha – ComingSoon.net". 6 May 2008.
- "Battle for Haditha – Interviews – Nick Broomfield discusses Battle for Haditha – Channel 4".
- "'Haditha Massacre' Dramatized in New Film".
- Battle for Haditha (2007) – Awards
- Papamichael, Stella. "Calling the Shots: No.6: Nick Broomfield". Retrieved 23 March 2017.
- Gosling's Travels (Whittingham Hospital), ITN Source, accessed 19 June 2014
- Broomfield, Nick (1948-), BFI Screenonline, accessed 19 June 2014
- Nick Broomfield, British Council Film, accessed 26 June 2014
- Broomfield, Nick (2009-05-31). "A Time Comes: The story of the Kingsnorth Six". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
- "Overlooked by authorities in America, a British filmmaker tackles the Grim Sleeper". Toronto Star, 25 April 2014, WD5.
- "Going Going Gone". IMDb. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
- Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film, ed. Ian Aitken. London: Routledge (2005)
- Jason Wood, Nick Broomfield: Documenting Icons (2005)
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