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BBC Two announces new Arena on Rolf Harris


Following last week’s win of Best Arts Documentary at the 2010 Griersons British Documentary Awards, BBC Two today announced that its flagship arts documentary strand, Arena, has commissioned a new film celebrating the life and career of one of Britain’s best-loved artists and entertainers, Rolf Harris.

Having famously painted the Queen’s portrait, Rolf’s taking on an even more challenging project, painting a series of pictures inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, working with a remarkable series of women: supermodel Lilly Cole, soap starlet Emer Kelly, actress Dervla Kirwan, daughter of rock royalty Lizzy Jagger and his beloved wife Alwen. Now 80, Rolf is starring in a BBC Arena, directed by multi-award-winning director Vikram Jayanti.

The BBC’s Commissioning Editor, Mark Bell, said: “For nearly 60 years Rolf Harris has been sharing his infectious enthusiasm for art and music with us on British television, he is a real national treasure and this Arena promises to be an enlightening and richly entertaining film about a remarkable cultural figure.”

As these daring paintings progress from the sittings through to completion, the film branches off into the many landmarks of Rolf’s long career as a singer and musician, as an artist, and as a public personality beloved in Britain, Australia and Canada.

It’s more than a retrospective celebration of Rolf’s 57 years as a popular entertainer. We see Rolf as he’s never been seen before, in an intimate exploration of the relationship between the showman we all know and the man himself.

The feature-length documentary mines the BBC archives, but the action is today, as the ageless Rolf maintains his unstoppable momentum. We see him mobbed by art fans, rocking the 2010 Glastonbury crowds, and playing a big outdoor concert in Vancouver - all in the last few months.

The result is a wildly entertaining insight into what it takes to become a national treasure, with an extraordinary painting project at its heart, and with five fascinating, thought-provoking relationships between the artist and his models.


Rolf Harris Paints His Dream is the third film Jayanti has made about extraordinary cultural individuals for Arena, each one working with nine-time Bafta winning Arena editor Anthony Wall as co-producer. James Ellroy’s Feast Of Death (2001) and The Agony And The Ecstasy Of Phil Spector (2008) both won RTS Awards for Best Arts Documentary.

Arena is the BBC’s longest-running arts strand and forms part of BBC Commissioning arts editor, Mark Bell’s commitment to commissioning in-depth and innovative arts programmes.


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