The legendary documentary filmmaker discusses his latest film, which explores his relationship with his father – industrial photographer Maurice Broomfield
Published: Saturday, 20 March 2021 at 7:00 p.m.
Since he started making documentaries in the 1970s, Nick Broomfield has covered some incredibly daring topics in the early 1990s, spending time with South African neo-Nazis in the final days of apartheid, while serving as the infamous serial killer several times in 1992 and 2003 Interviewed Aileen Wuornos for two separate films.He has also made acclaimed documentaries on subjects as diverse as Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain, Sarah Palin, and the Haditha murders during the Iraq War
There is one subject, however, that Broomfield was always too afraid of – so far, his latest film, My Dad and I, is by far his most personal work to date He records his own relationship with his father, the eminent British industrial photographer Maurice Broomfield, and explains how they have valued each other over many years. Nick had a long time coming to make a documentary like this, and he admits that he always has doubts had to do something so personal
“I felt incredibly insecure, to be honest,” he told RadioTimescom of his Los Angeles home, “Because I couldn’t tell if it would mean anything to anyone
“I’ve always admired people who managed to do things for their families, but I thought it might be forgiving”And I think you worry about doing something that is so personal that you may bring up something that is really difficult to deal with”
It was Victoria and Albert who finally convinced Nick that the time was right for the film. The museum had told him that they were planning an exhibition based on Maurice’s works, which after several delays related to The pandemic opens in November this year, and Nick expected a movie to make a good connection, especially given the wealth of material he’d had on “We’re like a bunch of pack rats,” he explains. Photos and the like, and I just thought it was an opportunity to try something that I honestly was a little scared of, but I thought it would be interesting to do””
And so Nick set out to familiarize himself with his father’s work while searching the vaults for old family videos, some of which had to be rescued from a state of disarray
“It was all a bit chaotic,” he recalls. “My dad bought that old water mill in Sussex that was completely shabby and most of his things were there, so we’d go through a mixture of rat and mouse droppings for ages to see what we really had ”
Some of the footage unearthed for the film were things Nick hadn’t seen since childhood – and in some cases he had no memory of even seeing them, he remembers when his father was with his huge projector did a great job showing home videos – but he often struggled to get them to work, which meant some of the footage had never been properly viewed since it was shot.He says the process of sifting through those personal archives was well worth it , and he hopes the film will encourage others to do the same
“You have to make the time for it, of course, but it was very therapeutic because it brings back so many memories and so many things that you have forgotten,” he says. “And you get a much more complete picture of your family and them The way things were and how different the world was. It’s an incredible look back, just in my life, just to see what an incredibly different world it was ”
Maurice Broomfield was born in Derbyshire in 1916 and became one of the most famous industrial photographers of the post-war period He won several awards in the process. His signature style was shaped by a romantic view of the industry, and his work represented an optimistic spirit that, according to Nick, perfectly summed up his father’s own view of the world
“I think what was great about my father was pretty early on in life He just decided that he would enjoy it to the maximum, ”he says.“ It was very much about the simple things in life that gave him joy
“He just had the ability to celebrate things that were good, and I hadn’t noticed that to that extent until I started making the film and saw all the different things he was up to”
Although Nick had a very happy childhood and developed a very strong relationship with Maurice later in life, he and his father did not always agree, especially when it came to each other’s work, while Nick’s documentaries always dealt with spontaneity and the current state of affairs, his father’s art form required a far more careful approach – composing a single photo often took more than three or four hours.Because of these extremely different styles, they didn’t always have kind words to say about each other’s work – and in fact, Maurice criticized some of Nick’s previous films violently What would he have done with this work then?
“Well, I was trying to do what I thought was fair and loving,” Nick says before pausing for a long, thoughtful pause. “I think he’d probably really like it,” he finally adds
“I think it’s about understanding each other and realizing who we are, which I think is often very difficult for father and sons”It is difficult for the father to realize that the son is not a role model for who he is or necessarily has the same attitudes or opinions or actually wants to lead the same kind of life that he leads and only if there is some kind of mutual acceptance there who they are for, you have a really good relationship ”
For Nick and his father, that acceptance came and in the final years of Maurice’s life the two became closer than ever – their relationship was further strengthened with the arrival of Nick’s own son Barney. The film includes some great footage of the three generations that clearly enjoying each other’s company, and Nick says these are some of his warmest memories
“I remember my father and his second wife Suzy had this ability to find something to celebrate every day,” he says. “Suzy had this enormous collection of liquors and you’d have to try all of them until you pretty much got it Legless I found myself in that ridiculous position where the people I was plastered with more than ever, more than anything else, were with my father and Suzy and Barney ”
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In addition to this great footage, the film features some of Maurice’s stunning photographs, but also clips from several of Nick’s earlier plays, including Kurt and Courtney, The Leader, His Driver, and The Driver’s Wife, and Aileen: Life and Death a serial killer – essentially a nice overview of his own career Nick says he doesn’t see his own films often, but he sees them as interesting records of a certain time in his life and there are some films he particularly likes to look back on / p>
“The Leader, His Driver I thought this was a good politico-historical film and a step forward in terms of filmmaking,” he explains. “It was both fun and poignant so I got this one Enjoyed movie Then the Aileen movie, which I didn’t particularly enjoy but was very proud of, and then movies like Battle for Haditha I think you are probably most proud of the movies you took a risk in that you haven’t done that particular thing and the risk works Maybe it opens up your work and encourages you to try other things ”
With that in mind, my dad and I seem like a movie that Nick will be especially proud of, and now that he’s made the move towards more personal filmmaking, he says he’d like to make more documentaries in the same vein
“Making a film that is so personal is very rewarding and I would love to do more of it,” he says. “I would like to do something about growing up in the 60s, I think
“I think this would be both very personal and a very interesting historical time In a way, that was Marianne and Leonard’s film too, and I really enjoyed doing it Maybe I would do that next””
My father and I will be on Saturday the 20th March at 2145pm on BBC Two Looking for something else to watch? Check out our TV guide
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World News – GB – Nick Broomfield on his most personal film to date: “I felt incredibly insecure”