What does Nick Broomfield like in documentaries?

October 22, 2017

He likes them to be, “spontaneous and rough and tumble.” After more than thirty years in the field, he has become an iconic presence—standing in front of the camera with a boom in his hand, wearing earphones, and about to pursue the subject of his latest documentary—whether that be an ex-prime minister (Tracking Down Maggie), a Hollywood madam (Hollywood Madam), or a South African fascist (The Leader, His Driver, and the Driver’s Wife). Whilst his films can be radically different in subject matter, the essence of his approach is an unswerving obsession with exposing that which lies hidden from the public eye.

Very few filmmakers have had as many documentary successes, and controversial subject matters as Nick Broomfield. His self-image as “a rebel, causing as much trouble as possible” makes him fearless in the face of danger.

We are proud to present two of Broomfield’s most exciting films; one revealing documentary, and his second fictional feature. Each film focusses on an aspect of one of the most disturbing issues of our time—modern slavery.  In Ghosts (2006), the cockle pickers are forced to live crowded together, bound to their smugglers as indentured slaves, with no freedom to leave their low paying, dangerous jobs. In Sex My British Job (2013), illegal women from China are bound to their employers as prostitutes or household servants. Our special guest speaker at the festival, Hsaio- Hung Pai, worked undercover as a maid and cook in Chinese brothels, and the resulting documentary, Sex: My British Job, validated her exposés of exploited undocumented immigrants, especially women, who become prisoners of loan sharks and ‘snakeheads’ (smugglers). Broomfield’s feature film, Ghosts, was based on her research into the Morecambe Bay cockle-gatherers tragedy, where twenty-three Chinese- born workers were drowned by the incoming tide on the extensive mud-flats of Morecambe Bay, having received no directions and no supervision before being sent to work in this dangerous location.

Hsiao-Hung Pai, a courageous and determined journalist, has investigated and exposed the widespread human trafficking that led to the deaths at Morecombe Bay, portrayed in Ghosts, and was responsible for highlighting the ‘massage parlor’ scandals documented in Sex: My British Job. She has published a number of books, including Chinese Whispers: The True Story Behind Britain’s Hidden Army of Labour (2008) and Invisible: Britain’s Migrant Sex Workers (2013), which were the source books for Ghosts and Sex: My British Job, respectively.

Q&A with Hsiao-Hung Pai at our screening of GHOSTS on 25th November 13:00 Prince Charles, Leicester Square. GET TICKETS.