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Posts: 41
Joined: Jan. 13 2012

BBC Flamenco Documentary

Did anyone see this last night? I thought it was dreadful but kinda worth watching. The presenter toured around Andalucia with an agenda which seemed interesting on the face of it- firstly she said she wanted to discover the 'gypsy roots' of Flamenco, then she wanted to find out how it became emblematic of Spain and not just Andalucia, then she wanted to hear the modern performers and see whether it was still happening in today's gypsy communities. The whole framework was much too simplistic and focused on gypsies, but that wasn't the real problem. She simply didn't ask any interesting questions to the people she met, and did not engage with them on a real personal level.

So we had a tokenistic visit to a gyspy goat heard who sang siguiriyas, who said 'la vida es muy duro aqui' (by which he merely meant 'being a farmer is hard work') followed by the conclusion, minus any historical reflection or interrogation of why and in what ways life is tough now and was in the past for others, that flamenco is about suffering. Then we had a cringeworthy section when she visited a blacksmith who hit an anvil whilst a friend sang martinete (admittedly very well), but the whole thing was shot in 'super slow-mo' giving it a voyeuristic and patronising feel. It was declared that there was a long history between blacksmithing and Flamenco, and that cante jondo was a natural result of these people's suffering. It was unclear how they were suffering- they seemed fine, and they weren't asked about their ancestors.

Then there was a visit to some modern day gypsies in a housing estate in Cadiz, who sang a few rumbas some times. They were asked, 'what is life like here, to which they replied 'erm, fine, not much money but we get on alright and like Flamenco'. No discussion of what they did for a living, what the history of Flamenco in their families was...' just that question and some Rumba clips. This was followed by the inevitable conclusion, 'life is clearly incredibly tough here, but Flamenco runs in the blood'.

There were some interspersed clips of interviews with Paco Pena, Tomatito, Vicente Amigo and Estrella Morente, but sadly the opportunity of an exclusive HD filmed interview with these starts was not used to ask any interesting questions. There were 30 second clips of them being asked 'what does Flamenco mean to you', and sadly hardly any performance footage. A couple of seconds of Vicente playing with friends and Paco Pena giving a couple of strums, but that was it. There was one excellent original clip of Estrella Morente singing solo in a house.

Towards the end there was a good section on Camaron, which showed what an important figure he was, and some nice footage of Nino Jero and others performing in Jerez. There was a lovely modern Alegrias de Cadiz performed live at the end.

Sadly, this was a missed opportunity. Interviews were superficial and you didn't feel you got to know any of the characters. Historical points were simplistic and asserted, not developed from evidence or discussion. There was therefore no sense of 'discovery' and the view of Spanish people in general was condescending. No good stories were told, and worst of all there was much too little music. Lara's 'Granada' was the soundtrack to most of the scenes in Granada, and Albeniz's 'Sevilla' get the idea. To be fair it was good that they got interviews with such big stars, but being the BBC with all the clout that brings they should have done much better. Sorry to post such a grim review- the clips on the BBC website are quite good!
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 26 2013 14:31:47


Posts: 1539
Joined: Nov. 21 2010

RE: BBC Flamenco Documentary (in reply to jamh2000

The last BBC Arena documentary "Un Viaje Andaluz" was excellent and remains a reference. Pity if standards have dropped
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 26 2013 15:49:28

Posts: 216
Joined: Oct. 30 2010

RE: BBC Flamenco Documentary (in reply to Morante

It does seem like excellent access wasted. Here is a review

And there are some tasty comments on the BBC page:

It sounds like the assistant producer would have made a better presenter. She at least speaks Spanish.

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 26 2013 15:58:34

Posts: 3067
Joined: Jul. 12 2009
From: Washington, DC

RE: BBC Flamenco Documentary (in reply to jamh2000

Your and Brendan's reviews of the BBC Flamenco Documentary and the presenter's attempt to appear "sage" about Gypsy life and how flamenco "runs in the blood," and probably a hundred other trite comments from someone who hadn't a clue about Andalucia or flamenco before this project, reminds me of a cartoon that ran in the New Yorker magazine years ago. It showed the inside of an African native's kraal thatched hut with the tribal couple therein. Through an open window of the hut one sees a European in a pith helmet and bush jacket coming up the lane. The African man has picked up a stereo unit with speakers and is telling his wife, "Quick, hide the stereo, here comes another anthropologist!".




And the end of the fight is a tombstone white,
With the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph drear, "A fool lies here,
Who tried to hustle the East."

--Rudyard Kipling
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 26 2013 20:38:16

Posts: 570
Joined: Jan. 8 2013

RE: BBC Flamenco Documentary (in reply to jamh2000

She ...the presenter......had great legs though I thought!
Short skirts ,hot weather, flamenco , Spain, hot weather, short skirts........
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 27 2013 22:07:47


Posts: 17
Joined: Jun. 24 2013

RE: BBC Flamenco Documentary (in reply to jamh2000

A very brave woman nevertheless. She has multiple sclerosis I think and still undertook the entire endeavour. Big respect to her.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 28 2013 2:58:10

Posts: 570
Joined: Jan. 8 2013

RE: BBC Flamenco Documentary (in reply to mysticriver

I didn't know that ,as I'm sure few of us did...not that it should sway our opinions in any way.
Still great legs though!!


  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Aug. 28 2013 20:39:22


Posts: 47
Joined: May 9 2013

RE: BBC Flamenco Documentary (in reply to pink


She ...the presenter......had great legs though I thought!
Short skirts ,hot weather, flamenco , Spain, hot weather, short skirts........

I'm a great aficionado of great legs ... but unfortunately didn't notice hers. That to one side, I agree heartily with all the comments above. But I must say this is what I have come to expect from BBC documentaries - usually just sound bites ... incredibly shallow and apparently aiming to provide what my wife calls "BGM" (background music) for people who are tired and want to relax and the end of a tiring day. Dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.

Such a missed opportunity. Of course, it would be challenging to do a complete sketch in one hour, but I agree it could have been improved in a thousand ways ...

Having said that, my wife and 10-year old daughter (who are almost clueless about flamenco) sat down and enjoyed most of it - though my wife was a little annoyed by lack of explanation and detail. So maybe it will stimulate some interest among the ignorant masses and drive them to the internet where they can get much so much more. This is now the fate of traditional broadcasting ... to drive people to the internet where they can dig out what they want.

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 1 2013 8:08:30
Erik van Goch


Posts: 1756
Joined: Jul. 17 2012
From: Netherlands

RE: BBC Flamenco Documentary (in reply to jamh2000

I'm a huge fan of both the BBC and good documentaries and over the years i saw/collected stags of them. I'm afraid this documentary totally failed it's intend and was just an other bad example of what she described herself as "the postcard image" (i don't think she was even aware most of the time she added classical guitar music on top of the in between impression shots). I rather had seen a re run of that beautiful 2 part Arena documentary the BBC broadcast in the 80ties. It had the same setup (traveling from place to place showing flamenco from various angles) but unlike this would-be documentary it was a real treat for both the eyes and the ears. On top it had a couple of unforgettable moments like El Chocolate who answered the question "are you a real gypsy" with "well, i'm certainly not a dog, ain't i". Unfortunately the only 2 fragments i can find on youtube are these shots of Moraito (unlike the original, image and sound do not match in the bulerias).

  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 1 2013 12:11:58


Posts: 437
Joined: Jan. 6 2012

RE: BBC Flamenco Documentary (in reply to Erik van Goch

Thanks for the post Erik.

It seems Moraito's guitar was on fire towards the end of the Bulerias. I'd not seen those videos before, despite the sync problems with the first it was a great thing to see/hear.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 1 2013 21:38:47

Posts: 1829
Joined: Jan. 30 2007
From: London (the South of it), England

RE: BBC Flamenco Documentary (in reply to jamh2000

Arggghh absolutely awful

I havent been on here for ages but ten minutes into that documentary I was so pissed off I had to come see if anyone else had decided to put their reservations to one side and give the doco a chance. Jeeez! the opening music was some phoney pop rumba thing, and was that a zambra that that were playing? sounded more like a tangos to me! I dont think I'll watch the rest. yeah we'll earn more watching random youtube vids. "What does flamenco mean to you?" such a stupid question and theses stars graciously try to answer her. it means a pay cheque and some grub you silly mare!!

just one point in the bbcs defense, while this effort was rather poor some of their docos are first class! any nature doc or science (horizon in particular) are great
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 4 2013 15:37:57


Posts: 225
Joined: Mar. 1 2011

RE: BBC Flamenco Documentary (in reply to jamh2000

Thank God I read those reviews before I watched it.

I'm halfway through and enjoying it; especially the bit where Paco Pena couldn't count and play at the same time. He's a damn fine player. I learned something.

If I had watched cold I would have been boring my wife to death with all of my own sofa production values and kitchen directorial sanity. Indeed, some things kind of jumped right out at you.

But remember what the woman said. She was aiming at people who go to get drunk and sunstroked and wear sombreros like Hollywood Mexicans.

Given that, it was pretty sophisticated with plenty of decent representation, from bum-shaking grannies to the beloved Camaron. She did a good job.

I used to agree about Horizon but the quality is irregular now. Horizon used to play it dead straight. Sometimes hardly even a voiceover. But lately they've been hiring science chicks to ooh and ah and say 'amazing' (that's English for 'awsome' for any Amerikanos reading).

I can't wait to watch the rest. I'm hoping it will include some flamenco.
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 4 2013 16:19:11

Posts: 3782
Joined: Nov. 18 2010

RE: BBC Flamenco Documentary (in reply to jamh2000

Nice thread!
Great from the opener´s well dosed sophisticated post to the following comments. Including that humor from you GB / US fellas that I dig so much.

What the BBC is concerned: That one to me presents the holy grail of documentary ( even if duds may appear like discussed in this thread - Have not seen the film myself). But the most breathtaking wildlife shots and stories that I have come across were from the BBC. Often times leaving you floored and just wondering how they did it.

If I was president of something I could award the makers on a regular basis, like every year all over again. ... And adding some elderly German journalists to the prized, who used to produce incredibly investigative stuff about corruption and nepotism in Germany years ago, before the German TV-landscape vastly morphed into todays plain debility level. sigh

I fear such shallowing to actually be global trend and what´s happening in GB too now.

Anyway, the term of "BBC documentary" certainly rings my bell.


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  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 4 2013 20:21:44


Posts: 5
Joined: Sep. 16 2013

RE: BBC Flamenco Documentary (in reply to jamh2000

Hello all. I found my way here because I recall the two-part Arena documentary directed by Jana Bokova, An Andalucian Journey / Un Viaje Andaluz, and when I saw the recent BBC effort by Elizabeth Kinder (I think that's her name) - who also writes for fRoots magazine - and which was decent by current standards, my thoughts were nonetheless cast back to the brilliance of the earlier film. I know a few people who know Ms Kinder and none of them could to recall the Arena film, and I started to doubt it's existence: BBC Arena seem to know nothing about it too! So I googled my way here - and thank you for restoring my sanity by confirming it existed! The only other reference I found was for a 1991 screening of a vhs tape at an American University, who haven't got the tape ...

So, has anyone got a copy, or the ability to point me to a copy?! It's become a mission ...

Many thanks for any help. If you have any leads, please email me at Simon(at), or post here

Thanks again
  REPORT THIS POST AS INAPPROPRIATE |  Date Sep. 16 2013 22:27:58
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