Legendary film maker Adam Curtis: why haven’t we made a history of Afghanistan?

In an exclusive interview with RadioTimes.com the creator of documentary classics The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares bemoans TV's failure to properly explore the history of Afghanistan and reveals details of his three new films


Legendary factual film-maker Adam Curtis has criticised the BBC’s failure to commission a history of Afghanistan despite the fact that we have been at war in the country for the past twelve years.


The celebrated documentary maker renowned for factual masterpieces such as The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares, told RadioTimes.com that he was astonished that the history of the country had not been properly examined by UK television.

“Twelve years we have been in this war and nobody has through to commission a history of the country. It is astonishing that this has not been done, that he BBC has not done it.”

Partly, it seems, in order to remedy this, Curtis is dedicating one of his three iPlayer film commissions for the BBC – all due for release sometime this year – to the subject of Afghanistan.

The film, At the Mountains of Madness, will offer a history of the country as well as presenting one of Curtis’ trademark provocative grand theories.

While The Century of the Self examined how Sigmund Freud’s theories of the unconscious shaped the development of public relations and advertising and The Power of Nightmares explored the way terrorists threats were exaggerated in the West, Curtis’ theory in the case of At the Mountains of Madness is also likely to stir fascination and interest among his large fan base.

His new argument is his belief that that Afghanistan has been the testing ground for the fantasies of outsiders.

“Everyone who goes there tries to find an answer to their dreams,” said Curtis. “They never see the real country ever.

“Islamists impose their weird version of their religion onto the country and we [in the West] try to create our own idealized version of democracy.”

A second project, called Out There will examine, in part, Britain’s failure to prosecute the perpetrators of financial and political scandals. A third will be a film version of his 2013 mixed media collaboration with the band Massive Attack, Everything is Going According to Plan.

Asked why he was now premièring his work on line on the BBC’s Player he said “things have got a bit rigid in factual television – doing this for iPlayer is a good way to experiment.”

All three projects are due to showcase sometimes on iPlayer sometime this year.