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Arena is the BBC's multi award-winning arts strand. Founded in 1975, Arena continues to produce gold standard documentaries for the BBC and world service.

Genres: History
Station: BBC Two (UK)
Rating: 0/10 from 0 users
Status: Running
Start: 1975-10-01

Arena Season 2022 Air Dates

S2022E01 - The Most Beautiful Boy in the World Air Date: 13 February 2022 21:00 -

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In 1970, film-maker Luchino Visconti travelled throughout Europe looking for the perfect boy to personify absolute beauty as the character of Tadzio in his adaptation for the screen of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. In Stockholm, he discovered Björn Andrésen, a shy 15-year-old teenager whom he brought to international fame overnight and, as a consequence, changed the course of the boy's life. The remainder of Bjorn's youth was turbulent and intense and took him from the Lido in Venice to London, to a welter of attention at the Cannes Film Festival, and to Japan.

Fifty years after the premiere of Death in Venice, Björn takes us on a remarkable journey back through his life in a film composed of personal memories, cinema history, stardust and tragedy - as he makes a late attempt to reconcile with his past and finally get his life back on track.

S2022E02 - River Air Date: 25 July 2022 20:00 -

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Rivers are the wondrous sculptors of the elaborate landscapes found on planet earth. They wear away mighty mountains, scour rock faces, carve deep valleys, create fertile plains, and then decorate them with their meanderings.

‘For eons, running water obeyed only its own laws. To be truly alive, a river must be wild: wilful and unhindered. Yearning for the ocean, its only purpose is to descend.'

In many places, rivers are seen as a source of great hope and something to be worshipped. In others they are where people are healed and blessed, where sins are washed away and the dead purified.

Rivers are the arteries of the planet. Wherever they travel life, forms can emerge, survive and flourish, including human life. The will of rivers determined our early destiny. They were the transport routes that enabled and nourished the spread of human beings, and that created the boundaries between regions and countries. Just as rivers shaped the landscape, they have also shaped human existence.

‘Today, the world's greatest cities all have a river at their heart.'

Rivers are fundamental to human existence but are indifferent to human plans and dreams. In flood, they can wreak havoc, and in drought, they can disappear. And so, extraordinary means have been devised to control them and harness their force.

‘Today, there is scarcely a river unspanned, undammed or undiverted.'

The cost is high in some cases. The greatest dams provide power and prosperity, slake the thirst of millions and allow deserts to bloom all year, but when trapped and static, the water stagnates, and its sediment falls to the dam floor where it is inaccessible to those who depend on the fertility it would otherwise have delivered.

‘For all their might though, rivers are fragile: easily harmed and not so easily mended. Time and again, upstream need and upstream greed have led to downstream disaster.'

The use of poisons and plastics, and the sheer size of the human population, means that many rivers are living precariously or even fighting for survival. With humanity sharing its fate with rivers, the wash-up will determine the destinies of future generations.

‘We must ask ourselves: Are we being good ancestors?'

All is not lost – yet. Rivers are irrepressible, and given the chance, possess miraculous powers of recovery. Also, the cycle of renewal continues. Upon vanishing into oceans, the heat from the sun draws rivers up into the atmosphere, ready to fall back to earth reincarnated.

S2022E03 - James Joyce's Ulysses Air Date: 07 September 2022 20:00 -

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One hundred years after its publication, this reveals the tawdry, shocking, poetic, uplifting and gloriously kaleidoscopic humanity of James Joyce's masterpiece, Ulysses.

Banned in the USA for obscenity in 1920, it was finally printed in Paris in 1922 by an American woman who had never published a book before. The film celebrates the crucial role of women, including Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, a lesbian couple who risked being sent to jail for printing obscene material in America; Sylvia Beach, the American in Paris, who published the first edition from her bookshop Shakespeare and Co; Harriet Shaw Weaver, the English heiress who gave Joyce over one million pounds; and Nora Barnacle, Joyce's wife, muse, and the model for his character Molly Bloom.

Ulysses is an encyclopaedia of Irish history, barroom banter, low comedy, newsroom talk, advertising copy and song. Its central character is Leopold Bloom, who wanders around the city observing its everyday life.

Set during the course of single day in Dublin in 1904, Ulysses was actually written in Trieste, Zurich and Paris during a time of huge historical upheaval by a penniless teacher of English who would never return to his native Ireland. This film takes us into the heart of the three cities that were home to Joyce and his family during the creation of the book.

The film celebrates Joyce's daringly modernist style, spattered with language so scurrilous that it remains shocking to this day, which changed the novel, and writing, forever.

With contributions from: Salman Rushdie, Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright, Howard Jacobson, Eimear McBride, Paul Muldoon, John McCourt, Nuala O'Connor, Vivienne Igoe and many others.

S2022E04 - TS Eliot: Into the Waste Land Air Date: 22 October 2022 20:00 -

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2022 marks the centenary of one of the defining poems of the 20th century, 'The Waste Land'. TS Eliot's groundbreaking work first exploded into the world on 15 October 1922 and has continued to resonate with successive generations. But in 2020, there were dramatic new revelations that demonstrated how, behind Eliot's mask, there was a much more personal story to be found within 'The Waste Land' – which can now at last be explored

S2022E05 - Kanaval: A People's History of Haiti in Six Chapters Air Date: 27 November 2022 21:00 -

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A visually arresting feature documentary, set in the present but which tells the rich story of Haiti's past, that follows a number of carnival performers in the lead-up to, and during, the annual Jacmel Mardi Gras. This is not the carnival of sequins and sound systems found elsewhere in the Caribbean, but a celebration of rebellion and resistance resonating through the centuries.

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