*** DEBUG END ***

TV review: Civilisations, and BBC Panorama: Weinstein: The inside story

09 March 2018


Simon Schama in Petra, Jordan, in Civilisations (BBC2, Thursdays)

Simon Schama in Petra, Jordan, in Civilisations (BBC2, Thursdays)

THERE was a curious BBC conjunction on Thursday of last week. BBC2 launched its cultural blockbuster Civilisations, while BBC1 gave us an hour-long edition of Panorama: Weinstein: The inside story.

There may be some linkage in subject-matter. Harvey Weinstein has been, by any reckoning, one of the most creative film-makers in recent years: his Miramax company produced movies that Hollywood wouldn’t touch — they explored issues and themes previously considered taboo; and, in terms of enlarging the United States’ moral compass, he has been one of the good guys, prepared to go out on a limb for a liberal cause. But, as the programme chronicled, all this virtue appears to have been built on a hollow foundation.

In his business affairs, he has been described as a constant bully: domineering, yelling, and screaming in meetings if thwarted. As one of his associates ruefully admitted, why did it occur to none of them that this same behaviour could characterise his relations with women, too?

The heart of the programme was distressing testimony from woman after woman, who all told the same sordid story that we’ve read in the papers: one of him abusing his position and power to manoeuvre his way into receiving sexual favours. We may have read the stories, but seeing them told by the women themselves and witnessing the level of distress that is still experienced brings home the message that such action wrecks lives. And that includes the lives of those who com­pletely repulsed his advances.

The link I make concerns the relationship between the creative artist and what he makes. Does hearing what we now hear about Mr Weinstein — which, at the moment, is untested accusation, but the cumulative effect is powerful — affect our judgement about the integrity of his films? Does the despicable behaviour alleged undermine the radical liberal stance of what he created?

These are questions that would surely interest Simon Schama, who presents Civilisations (BBC2, Thursdays), which deliberately seeks to place artistic creation in its wider context, not as isolated art objects, but as emblems of their culture and society. It is deliberately a contemporary riposte to Kenneth Clark’s great series all those decades ago, with a far more multi­cultural approach, evinced by the plural title: there is no one normative civilisation.

Schama began with religion-inspired terror: the decapitation of Khaled al-Asaad, chief curator of the ancient glories of Palmyra, by the obscene assassins of Islamic State. So he laid down the two contrasting human impulses: the desire to make and the terrible urge to destroy.

Religious ritual surely lay behind the artistic impulse that we saw in ancient cave painting. How interesting that, just as for Clark, civilisation — how we live in cities — is really about art, which was made for millennia before any city existed.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available


Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)