“David Bowie: The Last Five Years” Film Documentary to Air in January


“David Bowie: The Last Five Years” Film Documentary to Air in January

–Russell Hall

A follow-up to the acclaimed 2013 film documentary, “David Bowie: Five Years,” is set to be broadcast in January 2017. Produced and directed by Francis Whately, who helmed the first “Five Years” film, “David Bowie: The Last Five Years” will premiere on BBC Two. The new documentary focuses on the three major projects undertaken by Bowie during the last half-decade of his life: the 2013 album, The Next Day; the 2016 album, Blackstar; and the acclaimed musical, Lazarus.

As with the original “Five Years” film, “David Bowie: The Last Five Years” features interviews with some of the artist’s closest friends and collaborators, and includes never-before-seen archival footage. Previously unheard audio interviews will also be included. Whateley says his goal, in part, was to examine the continuity that ran through Bowie’s work, from the late ‘60s until the singer’s death in January of this year.

“I always hoped that I would make another film about Bowie as we were only able to scratch the surface in the first film,” he says, “but I just didn’t expect it to be this soon. However, looking at Bowie’s extraordinary creativity during the last five years of his life has allowed me to re-examine his life’s work and move beyond the simplistic view that his career was simply predicated on change — Bowie the chameleon… ‘ch ch ch changes’ etc. Instead, I would like to show how the changes were often superficial, but the core themes in his work were entirely consistent – Alienation, Mortality and Fame.”

Highlights of the film include a reunion of Bowie’s “The Next Day” band with producer Tony Visconti, the latter of whom offers a look at the production process for key moments on the album. Directors and players in some of Bowie’s last videos are interviewed as well. In addition, the writer, the director, and the cast of “Lazarus” discuss the story behind the project, including Bowie’s unwavering devotion to the musical. “BBC Two is thrilled to have commissioned this unique documentary chronicling the most recent achievements of one of the most significant figures in the history of music,” says Adam Barker, Channel Executive for BBC Two and BBC Four.

The new documentary is the most ambitious among a spate of Bowie-related projects slated for January. BBC Four plans to broadcast “Bowie at the BBC,” a compilation of video clips from the BBC archives, including archived interviews with Bowie and classic performances staged for “Top of the Pops” and “The Old Grey Whistle Test.” In addition, BBC Radio 2 plans an in-depth examination of Bowie’s iconic 1971 song, “Life on Mars.” The radio broadcast will include interviews with “Life on Mars” pianist Rick Wakeman, the song’s co-producer Ken Scott, and Bowie himself. Also promised is a first-time airing of Bowie’s original piano-and-voice demo of the classic track.

It’s worth noting that BBC film productions are regularly picked up for stateside airing on PBS. “David Bowie: The Last Five Years” is being distributed internationally by BBC Worldwide.