Ben Lewis is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, author and art critic, whose films have been shown by the BBC, Channel 4, Arte, PBS, Al-Jazeera, ABC-Australia and other major broadcasters around the world. Over the years he has won various awards including a Peabody, Grierson, US National Headliner and German Grimme Prize, and his films have been shown in exhibitions in public museums in Britain and Germany.
Ben’s latest feature documentaries “Chancers – the Great Gangster Film Fraud” and ‘A Banker’s Guide to Art were shown on the BBC in January 2016. Falciani’s Tax Bomb opened the Barcelona documentary festival in 2015, was one of three films nominated for the German Fernsehpreis, and was broadcast on ARD, Arte and many other European channels. “Google and the World Brain” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013 and was shown on the BBC, Arte, Al-Jazeera-US and at 60 film festivals. My 2012 film “Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty” was also shown on over 70 TV channels.
Some of his feature documentaries and televised series’ have been on highly topical subjects and have provoked public debate and influenced political decision-making. ‘The Great Contemporary Art Bubble’ stimulated an international controversy, still continuing today, about the art market in 2009, while ‘Blowing Up Paradise: French Nuclear Testing in the Pacific” (2004) is credited with influencing the French government’s decision to compensate its soldiers and citizens who suffered illnesses after working on atomic installations in Tahiti.
Ben also writes as a historian and art critic. ‘Hammer and Tickle’, a history of humour under Communism was published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson in Britain in 2008 and in America, Brazil, Poland, Italy, among other countries, in the following years. This year has seen the publication of Ben’s first monograph on an artist, ‘David Hepher: Grain of Concrete’. In the past Ben has written articles published in Die Welt, Prospect Magazine, Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, Financial Times, Liberation, etc.
Workers or Shirkers? Ian Hislop’s Victorian Benefits - Wingspan Productions for BBC2 1x 60’ 2016 documentary about the history of Britain’s benefits systems. “It was an unforeseen coup for Ian Hislop to secure an interview with Iain Duncan Smith. As Duncan Smith welled up, Hislop looked as surprised as us viewers – but not terribly sympathetic. What could have been a dry subject – essentially a potted history of state benefits – came to engaging life.” Daily Telegraph.
A Banker’s Guide to Art - Oxford Films and Television for BBC4, 2016 1 x 90’. Feature documentary about how to turn a profit collecting art. “A hotbed of corruption: insider gives art auctions a hammering” The Times
Chancers: The Great Gangster Film Fraud - a 2016 feature length documentary for BBC, SVT, DR and NRK about London’s notorious film fraudsters and their film “Landscape of Lies”.
Link to Trailer
Falciani’s Tax Bomb - feature length documentary for Arte, SWR Germany, TVE Spain, TVC Spain, DR Denmark, about a Swiss banking whistleblower and his HSBC private bank database. Opened the Barcelona Documentary festival; nominated for Germany’s Deutsche Fernsehpreis and Wirthschaftsdokumentarpreis
Link to Trailer
Poor Us: An Animated History of Poverty - HD 60', 2012, Director and writer Submarine/Steps Productions for the BBC, Arte, PBS and over 50 broadcasters around the world. This film combined interviews, animation and motion graphics. Shown on over 70 TV channels worldwide 2012-13. Premiered at IDFA, A'dam 2012. "A miracle of clarity and compassion" - the Guardian; "Thought-provoking and mind- bending" - The Times. Jointly awarded a Peabody Award as part of the www.whypoverty.net project.
World Brain: The Internet and the Search for Total Knowledge - HD 90', 2012 Director, writer and co-producer, BLTV/Polar Star Films, 2012 for the BBC, Arte, DR, VPRO, Al-Jazeera-US, NHK Japan, etc. The story of Google's project to scan every book in the world and create a giant digital library. Premiered at Sundance January 2013. First Place National Headliner Award for Documentary 2014, USA; Best documentary Rincon Film Festival. Shown in over 60 other film festivals.
What Brits Love - presented, written and produced by Ben Lewis 5 x 45' HD documentary and animated series about Britishness, Films on cars, hats, sandwiches, jokes and homes. BLTV for Arte, DR, Noga-Israel.
The Great Contemporary Art Bubble - HD, 90' feature documentary, 2009. director, producer and presenter For BBC, Arte, ABC- Australia, Channel 8-Israel, VPRO, DR, SVT, NRK, SF and others. A film about – the boom and bust of the contemporary art market. Shown at the Montreal Film Festival, Vancouver Int’l Film Festival, Tel Aviv Art Film Festival, CPH-Dox, Lo Schermo del’Arte, Florence, Palm Springs Film Festival, Garage, Moscow, etc. Over 2000 DVDs sold through museum stores, amazon and BLTV websites.
Hammer and Tickle - The Communist Joke Book - 2006, 90’ Digibeta, DV, super 8, flash animation. Producer/director/writer
The story of Communism through the thousands of jokes told by ordinary people living under the regimes, 90 min documentary for BBC, Arte, CBC, ZDF, etc. Premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival 2006. Winner Best Documentary Zurich Film Festival 2006; nominated for a RTS award. I later wrote a book on the same subject, published by
Weidenfeld and Nicholson in the UK in 2008. It was translated into many languages.
Link to YouTube
Art Safari I and Art Safari II, 2005/6, DVcam for BBC, Arte,
DR, SVT, ABC-Aus, Noga, SF, Ovation. Director, writer,
presenter and producer
Two series of 4 x 30 minute documentaries about
contemporary artists broadcast in over 23 countries. Maurizio
Cattelan, Matthew Barney, Relational Aesthetics, Gregor
Schneider, Santiago Sierra, Takashi Murakami, Wim Delvoye
and Sophie Calle. Winner Grimme Prize NRW Sonderpreis
Kultur, 2007. Bronze medal, NY Television Festival 2007.
Also, 2007, limited edition film “Curating – a Game of Chance” commissioned by the Deutsche Bank for Berlin Guggenheim
Blowing Up Paradise - 2004, 80' feature documentary . Producer/Director
Film about French nuclear testing in the Pacific 1966-96, digibeta for BBC, Arte, ZDF, SBS etc about French nuclear testing “4/5” Financial Times, “fascinating sometimes horrifying” – Sunday Times, “salutary tale” – Time Out; Environmental Award at the Grenoble Nature and Environment Film Festival 2006. Special Jury
Prize,Tahiti Film Festival 2007; Golden Panda, Sichuan TV Festival, China 2007.
Link to YouTube
Baader Meinhof: In Love With Terror Autumn 2002 - 1 x 70 min digibeta documentary, Mentorn for BBC4 & 2;
Premiered at the ICA “25 Years after Stammheim” conference 11.10.02; Hotdocs Festival, Toronto 2003. “I asked myself how would a DJ make documentary?” – quoted in Time Out.
Link 1 to YouTube
Link 2 to YouTube
The King of Communism: The Pomp and Pageantry of Nicolae Ceauceasu - documentary about Ceausescu. Little Bird for BBC/NDR/TV2 Sep 2001 Producer/Director
“The week’s best television programme” – Kathryn Flett, Observer; Grierson Award Best Historical Documentary 2002.