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Hazan, Jack (1939-)

Director, Cinematographer

Main image of Hazan, Jack (1939-)

To borrow the title of his debut feature, Jack Hazan caused two of the bigger splashes in 1970s independent British filmmaking. Groundbreaking both technically and conceptually, his portraits of David Hockney (A Bigger Splash, 1974) and The Clash (Rude Boy, co-d. David Mingay, 1980) fused documentary and fictional elements in a way that was highly controversial at the time - not least as far as their often uncooperative subjects were concerned. However, in retrospect they clearly anticipate the post-2000 rise of celebrity driven 'reality' projects, whose content often proved anything but real.

Born in Manchester on 31 March 1939 to Syrian parents attracted to the flourishing textile trade, Hazan moved to California in the late 1950s to study Motion Picture Arts at UCLA. Returning to the UK in the early 1960s, he joined the BBC Film Department as an assistant cameraman, leaving in 1967 to form a partnership of technicians, Solus Enterprises, and worked as cinematographer on television documentaries. By the end of the 60s he had directed two shorts, Grant North (1969), about the nature painter and sculptor Keith Grant, and Especially at My Time of Life (1969), about four artists then working at Camden Studios. In 1970, his partner David Mingay showed him the David Hockney retrospective catalogue and its double portraits revealed to him the possibilities of juxtaposing real life and art. Hazan contacted the artist, showed him his short films and had his proposed collaboration immediately turned down. Nevertheless, for the next four years, Hazan, often working alone, would film Hockney and his entourage with his personal 35mm Cameflex, on-call, using short ends of film donated by friendly assistants and backed up by the in-house Solus partners.

At the same time, to make a living he continued to work as a cinematographer, sometimes for Granada's World in Action (ITV, 1963-98) on dangerous assignments. He also filmed musical subjects, including Jimi Hendrix and The Doors at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, and directed a short documentary, The Films of Robert Bolt (1972). Stints on the acclaimed French TV series Pop Deux gave him invaluable experience of filming stage performances with hand-held camera.

Hazan was then persuaded by Mingay to look to the punk movement for their next film and that this should have a similar semi-fictionalised approach. They followed The Clash's 1978 'Give 'Em Enough Rope' tour, with Hazan filming on-stage with a studio camera, interweaving that footage into the story of a roadie whose obsession with the band's music masks the fact that their leftwing politics don't match his sceptical views. Margaret Thatcher was elected prime minister during the final months of production, and Rude Boy's lasting value, besides capturing The Clash in their prime, lies in its vivid snapshot of the period's social, cultural and political uncertainties.

Despite making two unusually high-profile features for an independent British filmmaker, Hazan's directing career then stalled: his third feature, the little-seen Comic Act, set among London's stand-up comedy underground, would not emerge until 1998. In the meantime, he made pop promos (outstanding examples being Dexys Midnight Runners' 'This Is What She's Like' and 'Knowledge of Beauty' in 1985) while continuing to work as a cinematographer, most notably on commercials in the US. His Isle of Wight footage belatedly appeared in Message to Love (d. Murray Lerner, 1995).

Michael Brooke

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Bigger Splash, A (1974)Bigger Splash, A (1974)

Impressionistic portrait of artist David Hockney during an emotional crisis

Thumbnail image of Rude Boy (1980)Rude Boy (1980)

Controversial drama-documentary about a roadie working for The Clash

Thumbnail image of World in Action (1963-98)World in Action (1963-98)

Granada's long-running and highly respected current affairs strand

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