FILMMAKER SPOTLIGHT: VANESSA ENGLE
In our latest DocHouse Conversations Episode, Carol Nahra talks to veteran documentary maker Vanessa Engle.
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. She has made a number of her films available to watch before listening to the podcast - please see below for links.
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.
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.
Visit Vannessa's website here.
THE $50 MILLION ART SWINDLE (2019) - “The film is fabulous; a stonkingly good romp. Papillon meets The Goldfinch meets The Great Train Robbery.” The Guardian
THE FUNERAL MURDERS (2018) - “An unflinching, expertly assembled film that features previously unheard testimony. A grim masterpiece.” The Observer
THE CULT NEXT DOOR (2017) - “Above all, it was confirmation that Vanessa Engle is the most important and original documentary maker working in British television today.” The Daily Telegraph
LOVE YOU TO DEATH: A YEAR OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE (2015) - ““Intimate and unsparing, it deserves to win everything, not least an hour of your time.” The Observer
INSIDE HARLEY STREET: EP 3 MAKE ME WELL (2015) - ““Engle at her very best – and that’s really saying something.” The New Statesman
WALKING WITH DOGS (2012) - “Wonderful – the dogs, their owners, the film, all of it.” The Guardian
MONEY Series - Engle’s gentle probing, her focus on the detail of people’s lives and her refusal to pass judgment is reminiscent of the work of Studs Terkel – and admiration doesn’t come much higher than that” The Times
MONEY: EP 1 WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE? (2011)
MONEY: EP 2 COUPLES (2011)
WOMEN Series - “I loved WOMEN. It’s yet another sensitive, intelligent documentary mini-series from Vanessa (‘Jews’/’Lefties’) Engle, looking at the rise of feminism. It’s thoughtful, revealing and quirky. And it’s funny with it” Time Out
JEWS Series - ““Is there a better documentary filmmaker in the UK at the moment than Vanessa Engle?” The Guardian
LEFTIES Series - “One of this century’s most important documentary series” The Arts Desk
ART & THE 60s Series - “Gloriously wry and informative” The Times