Award-winning film director in the Bristol spotlight
Press release issued: 15 February 2012
Michael Winterbottom, one of Britain’s most prolific, provocative and innovative film directors, will collect a top honour from the University of Bristol today [15 February]. He is being awarded with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree in recognition of a career which has produced over 30 films since the late 1980s and includes highly-acclaimed works such as Welcome to Sarajevo, Jude and 24 Hour Party People.
Michael, 50, studied English at Oxford before joining the postgraduate filmmaking course at Bristol University, where he met like-minded film enthusiasts such as director Marc Evans and screenwriter Olivia Hetreed.
He began his career working in television, working on award-winning documentaries before establishing Revolution Films, the company that has produced most of Michael’s films and stands firmly for the virtues of independent production within an international film industry otherwise dominated by major Hollywood studios.
The next few years saw Michael being heralded as one of the most exciting, innovative British feature filmmakers. This reputation was firmly established with several films that deployed stylized traditions of ‘poetic documentary’ with generic non-conformity.
Butterfly Kiss (1995) combined road-movie conventions with an unsettling, dystopian visual look within a narrative that like many of Michael’s other films, did not shrink from violence, both physical and psychological. Jude was released the following year, the first of three films inspired by Thomas Hardy’s novels.
One of Michael’s greatest talents is his versatility, which has been an important marker of many of his films. From drama and documentary, the generic mix has proliferated into comedy, science fiction and thriller.
In This World, a docudrama which follows two Afghan refugees as they leave a refugee camp in Pakistan for a better life in London, won many awards in 2003 and 2004 including a BAFTA and a Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.
The Road to Guantanamo once again combined documentary and drama, telling the story of three British travellers -‘The Tipton Three’ - who had gone to Afghanistan shortly after the start of the war and were imprisoned for two years in the detainment camp at Guantanamo Bay.
The film was controversial for its depiction of torture, and could only find release in the USA through an independent distributor. But it reached a wide audience in the UK and beyond and receiving critical success, winning several awards including the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival and Best British Documentary at the British Independent Film Awards.
Professor Sarah Street, Professor of Film and Foundation Chair of Drama is delivering the oration and said: “Michael continues to delight, surprise and occasionally shock audiences and critics with his films that challenge generic conventions, experiment with technology and often deal with uncompromising subject-matter.
“The record of production achieved over the last 25 years has indeed encouraged us to look more closely at and think more carefully about a range of issues, using approaches and styles that confirm Michael’s place as a contemporary film director working at the top of his game.”