Programme Associate Carol Nahra is in conversation with veteran documentary maker Vanessa Engle.
In the first 15 years of her career Vanessa made arts documentaries for the BBC. Since 2005, Vanessa has been making authored social affairs documentaries on a wide range of subjects, many of which explore our fundamental values and belief systems.
In the last thirty-two years Vanessa has made sixty documentaries for the BBC. She has received seven Grierson nominations, more than any other filmmaker. Called “a brilliant and singular film-maker” by the New Statesman, she is one of the best documentary makers working in Britain today.
In the first fifteen years of her career Vanessa made arts documentaries for the BBC. The three-part series Britart, about Britain’s Young British Artists, was commissioned for the launch of BBC4 in 2002 and was followed by another three-part series Art & the 60s (2004), which had a tie-in exhibition at Tate Britain. Vanessa’s film about Charles Saatchi launched the Imagine strand on BBC1 in 2003.
Since 2005, Vanessa has been making authored social affairs documentaries on a wide range of subjects, many of which explore our fundamental values and belief systems.
These films often have a personal starting point and this body of work includes five three-part series for BBC Television: Lefties (2006) about aspects of far Left politics in the 1970s and 80s, Jews (2008) about contemporary Anglo-Jewry, Women (2010) about three generations of feminism, Money (2011) exploring the impact of money on our daily lives and relationships, and Inside Harley Street (2015) about our attitudes to health.
A brilliant and singular film-maker
The New Statesman
She also directed the single films Walking with Dogs (2012), which examined the role dogs play in our emotional lives and Welcome to the World of Weight Loss (2013) about our obsession with what we eat.
Her 2015 film, Love You to Death: A Year of Domestic Violence, chronicled all the women in Britain killed in one calendar year by their male partner or ex-partner. The 2017 film The Cult Next Door told the story of a bizarre Maoist cult, which existed behind closed doors in South London for nearly 40 years.
In 2018, The Funeral Murders revisited one of the most brutal chapters in the history of the conflict in Northern Ireland. In Vanessa’s most recent film, The $50 Million Art Swindle (2019), she tracks down a rogue art dealer, Michel Cohen, who had gone on the run from New York in 2001.