Rex Bloomstein has used many of his films as a platform for further action and debate. In 1982, following the impact of Strangeways, he was invited to become a trustee of the The Prison Reform Trust – a charity that campaigns for a just and humane prison system in the UK. He remained a trustee for many years and he continues to contribute through further films and radio programs to the debate and discussion surrounding the challenge of reducing Europe’s largest prison population.
In 1984, whilst researching his film Torture, he sought assistance from Amnesty International’s Medical Group. This collaboration led the following year to the creation of an independent organisation, The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. Rex was one of the six founding trustees. In 1986 he became Chariman, a post he held for the next 20 years. From its beginnings in two rooms in the old Temperance Hospital in Euston, London, he oversaw the Foundation’s move to its own purpose-built premises in North London, one of the few specialist treatment centres for survivors of torture in the world. The organisation is now called Freedom From Torture and Rex remains a patron.
Rex Bloomstein has developed a series of lectures using excerpts from his films to illustrate themes that are particularly important to him. They are Crime and the Camera, Confronting the Holocaust and Human Rights, Does Anyone Care.
Since 2006, he has been supported by producer Justin Temple, who played a key role in the feature-length documentaries, An Independent Mind, This Prison Where I Live and A Second Chance.
This Prison Where I Live was shown at over 70 film festival and cinema screenings in 30 different countries. Many were followed by discussions, debates or Q&A sessions with Rex himself. The film was also screened at the European Parliament in Strasbourg and at the UK Foreign Office in London.
An Independent Mind was used as the basis for a debate at London’s South Bank Centre to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December 2008. The film was subsequently shown at over 30 film festival and theatrical screenings in 10 different countries, many followed by discussions or Q&A sessions with Rex.
KZ screened at over 30 film festivals around the world, including IDFA, Sundance, SXSW, Silverdocs and Munich. It won multiple awards and is available to buy on DVD through Amazon.
At his sugestion in 2010 the Imperial War Museum organised a one-day conference on the 20th July plot to assassinate the Fuhrer in 1944 – this was inspired by his 1979 film – Traitors to Hitler.
The creation of human rights appeals on British television through Prisoners of Conscience, Human Rights, Human Wrongs and Urgent Action, which were shown on BBC 2 for 11 years (1988-1999). In collaboration with Amnesty and other NGOs, audiences were specifically asked to write to heads of state, governments and prisons to demand the release and better treatment of prisoners of conscience around the world. It is thought that several of these programmes led directly to prisoner releases.
The creation of The Free Zarganar Campaign (2010-2012) brought together a number of individuals, groups and organisations to call for the release from prison of the great Burmese comedian. Zarganar was freed three years into his 35 year prison sentence.
Rex has developed a series of lectures based on excerpts from his body of work.
Crime and the Camera is the title of a presentation based on a number of his films, which focus on crime and punishment, spanning over 30 years. Films that have helped to pioneer the television prison documentary in an attempt to understand and reveal more about men and women condemned to imprisonment and the institutions that house and contain them. What effect, what light, might they still cast? Excerpts from these films, particularly those made in the 70s, are now pieces of history – in some cases reflecting aspects of prison conditions and criminal justice that no longer exist. In them, and excerpts from more recent films on the subject, we glimpse the ever present themes of drugs, criminal subcultures, the need for work, alcohol abuse, mental illness; the choice to become a criminal or to stop being one.
Rex first presented this lecture in 1999 to the International Centre For Prison Studies at University College, London. Over the following years he developed it with new material for further presentations to the Institutes of Criminology at Oxford, Cambridge, Cardiff, Glasgow and Leicester, where he is now a Visiting Fellow to the Department of Criminology. He has lectured on the subject at the Free University in Brussels, as well to the Criminal Lawyers Association at the Old Bailey, the Institute for Pscho-Analysis, given the annual lecture for The Prison Education Trust, and recently returned to the Department of Criminology at Kings College.
Rex Bloomstein was awarded an Honorary Degree in Letters at Leicester University in the summer of 2012.
Human Rights, Does Anyone Care? As the title suggests, there is a considerable challenge in trying to make the exploration of human rights both interesting and compelling to a television audience. In this lecture Rex shows excerpts from his human rights documentaries and the series Prisoners of Conscience and Human Rights, Human Wrongs, made over the years for the BBC. He given this lecture at several Film Festivals including the Amnesty International Film Festival in Amsterdam, in Glasgow, and at the London Jewish Cultural Centre.
Confronting the Holocaust. This presentation is built around excerpts from a number of films that have explored the ‘Tremendum’ – as one theologian has called the events we know as the Holocaust. These films span almost 25 years – the first in 1982, the most recent in 2005. The excerpts are not shown in chronological order, but rather to illustrate the changing perspective and styles that he has developed and conceived over these years. Rex has given this lecture at The ‘Visa For Life’ event at Goldsmiths Hall, the ‘Director’s Cut’ at the London Jewish Cultural Centre, at Goldsmiths College, the Dark Tourism Conference, The Stanley Burton Centre for Historical Studies at Leicester University, and at the Washington Jewish Film Festival.
Rex has also lectured on ‘Jewish Humour and Identity’ at the US Library of Congress and at the Jewish arts festival, Limmud, held at Warwick University. He is also a guest lecturer at the National Film School in Beaconsfield.