Imagine returns to the BBC One schedule this autumn with an impressive and surprising line-up of creative talent and strong narratives including two of the world’s leading contemporary artists, Anselm Kiefer and Jeff Koons, the Irish writer Colm Toibin and acclaimed British film director Mike Leigh.
imagine…The Art That Hitler Hated
Presented by Alan Yentob, the return of the BBC One’s flagship arts strand opens with a remarkable two part special, The Art That Hitler Hated. These films, from award-winning director Jill Nicholls, explore the sensational discovery of a hoard of art hidden by a reclusive old man in his Munich flat. The find sheds new light on the fate of many paintings looted by the Nazis and puts the question of restitution back centre stage. This is a story full of coincidences, cover-ups and denial, which has reignited passions that seemed long spent.
With the strange tale of Cornelius Gurlitt’s treasure trove as a springboard, imagine… dives deep into an intriguing past. It uncovers a lost world of Jewish collectors. This was art Hitler thought as sickly and ‘degenerate’ as the Jews themselves; he tried to rid Germany of both. Their pictures were seized, scattered or sold at knockdown prices before the owners fled into exile or were killed. Imagine follows the trail of the old man’s father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, art dealer to the Nazis. It opens a new window onto the history of the Third Reich and its campaign against modern art
Film 2 – The Sins of the Fathers
imagine… tells how the end of the war was only the beginning of another battle. In the art world in Germany, it was ‘business as usual’. Many people continued in jobs in museums which they had held during Nazi times. So people involved in looting art might now be in charge of deciding whether to return it. For families, often living in exile, it was an uphill struggle. For them the discovery of the Gurlitt hoard has raised new hopes – and repeated some old disappointments.
imagine…Bette Midler: The Divine Miss M
Alan Yentob meets The Divine Miss M, Bette Midler, in New York City nearly 50 years after she began her meteoric rise from a nightclub act to Hollywood legend. An outrageous, captivating entertainer, Bette Midler’s talents combine a soulful voice and the raucous wit of Mae West. Aged just 20, in the space of a year she went from working in a pineapple factory in Hawaii to a role in the 1967 Broadway hit Fiddler On The Roof. It was Bette’s instinct and guts that catapulted her from virtual obscurity to the very top of the entertainment business. With her first new album in eight years, Ms Midler is back to entertain us.
imagine… Anselm Kiefer
In 1969 a 24-year-old German art student photographed himself performing the Nazi salute at various sites on a journey through Switzerland, France, and Italy. His inclusion of these images in his degree show and their publication under the title Occupations provoked anxious confusion among his tutors and anger from critics. The artist, Anselm Kiefer, was accused of cynicism, chauvinism and even fascism – with one critic asking ‘Who is this fascist who thinks he’s an antifascist?’
Now, more than 40 years after it was produced, Kiefer’s Occupations series remains one of the most polarising, memorable and urgent artworks to have emerged from post-war Germany, and catapulted him to global fame. For imagine… Alan Yentob joins Kiefer at his studios in France and Germany as he prepares for a retrospective at the Royal Academy. In a series of frank interviews set against the backdrop of his awe-inspiring studios, Kiefer discusses the impact of his most significant pieces, shows a selection of new work, and explains why he is as excited and driven by his practice now, at the age of 69, as he was aged 24.
imagine… Jeff Koons
Gigantic balloon dogs, rows of vacuum cleaners, the colourful, the commonplace, the shiny and ephemeral – American artist Jeff Koons makes 'poor' objects into something rich people desire. As his first retrospective travels from the Whitney Museum in New York to the Pompidou in Paris, imagine… examines the controversial artist. Raised by his furniture-maker father and seamstress mother, and spending his childhood selling wrapping paper and sweets door-to-door for pocket money, Koons took up an apprenticeship at the cutting edge Arts Institute in Chicago and embarked on a career chalking up the highest prices ever recorded for modern art. This film looks at just who Jeff Koons is, and what it is that makes his work so different? Will his balloons float above the art market bubble and hold their place in the history of art?
imagine… Mike Leigh
"I say, come and be in my film. Can't tell you what it's about. I can't tell you what your character is. We'll invent that as part of the process. And you will never know any more than your character knows." Mike Leigh
The only British director to have won the top prize at both Cannes and Venice film festivals, Mike Leigh is one of the greatest living film-makers. Known for low-budget, award-wining films including Abigail’s Party, Nuts In May, Vera Drake, Secrets And Lies and Naked, his latest film Mr Turner is his most lavish film to date. Leigh’s acutely observed tragi-comedies explore the poetry and pathos in the lives of ordinary people, and are borne of an extraordinary working process - there’s no script, no stars and a six month rehearsal period where the actors collaborate with him to devise the film. Despite his collaborative process, every film draws on Leigh’s personal experiences, from growing up in Salford to his troubled relationships with his parents. In this deeply personal and intimate imagine… film Mike Leigh opens up as never before.
imagine…Colm Toibin: A Widow’s Son
In this thoughtful and lyrical film imagine... talks to award-winning Irish writer Colm Toibin about the origin of his widely acclaimed novels. Loud, affable and funny in person, Toibin writes sombre stories of grief and quiet heartbreak, repeatedly returning to the dark narrative triggered by his own childhood and to the complex relationship between mothers and sons. In the year that his bestselling novel ‘Brooklyn’ is being turned into a major feature film and his play ‘The Testament Of Mary’ continues to provoke controversy, Toibin is also publishing a new book. Fourteen years in the making, it is his most poignant and personal yet. At this significant moment of reckoning in Toibin’s career Alan Yentob talks to the writer at his home in Ireland and at his other home in Spain – the two places that have come to stand for his conflicted faces of melancholy and abandon. Interviewees include Fiona Shaw, Anne Enright and Nick Hornby.