Prior to his accession, HM Charles III was an active patron of documentaries.
For example, between 2006 and 2008, HRH The Prince of Wales helped fund three films produced by André Singer and West Park Pictures:
- Stairway to Heaven (al Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem).
- The Arch of Enlightenment (Seoul).
- Emperor Qinglong’s Lodge of Retirement (Forbidden City, Beijing)
Each film reveals how contemporary artisans recreated long lost crafts to restore architectural masterpieces, a longtime Charles’ passion.
Branded under the Masterpieces banner, the films were screened by Sky Arts in the UK.
Charles attended royal premieres for the films, and wrote the foreward to the companion books.
He describes the film in a letter to West Park as “humbling and uplifting” and as a “brilliant piece of work.” (See copy below).
Stairway to Heaven
Charles’ selections, particularly Stairway, reveal his expansive passions and commitments.
On 21 August 1969, an Australian Christian Zionist zealot Denis Michael Rohan, set fire to al Aqsa Mosque, destroying the treasured 800 year-old pulpit, known as the Minbar of Saladin.
Charles teamed with the Jordanian royal family and others to fund the research and construction skills that rebuilt the beautifully intricate Minbar, and then to capture the story in West Park’s documentary narrated by Kenneth Branagh.
Al Aqsa is Islam’s third holiest shrine, and while under the custodianship of the Jordanian Hashemite dynasty, it is a powder keg for Western / Islamic relations as radical Zionists assert with increasing violence their claim to the site where they intend to rebuild their Temple.
Charles has rebutted the “clash of civilisations” thesis which maintains that Islam is at war with the West. On the contrary, he argues that Islam, Judaism and Christianity are three great monotheistic religions which have far more in common than is generally appreciated.
His views are also likely shaped by the British monarch’s leadership of the Anglican Church, whose Palestinian communities in the Holy Land expanded during the post–WWI British protectorate of Palestine and Jordan, but have suffered as Israel tightens its control over Jerusalem and the West Bank.
In this context, it is noteworthy that Queen Elizabeth visited around 120 countries during her reign, but not Israel. (Haaretz: Queen Elizabeth II’s Unofficial Boycott.)
Earth Emergency is a recent example of how Charles has used the documentary medium when it aligns with of one his key interests – climate change.
At COP26, Charles hosted Earth Emergency as part of his Terra Carta Action Forum at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.
The Forum aims to showcase and provide a center of gravity for the work of his Sustainable Markets Initiative. The filmmakers were invited to speak to the audience about the importance of climate feedback loops and the need for action.
In attendance were Director and Co-Writer, Susan Gray, Senior Producer and Writer Bonnie Waltch, and UK-based Impact Producer Vijay Mavjee of Plucky Films. (Incidentally, Vijay was a development exec on two of the Masterpieces films,)
Earth Emergency is narrated by Richard Gere and features The Dalai Lama and Greta Thunberg. It was produced by Moving Still Pictures Inc. The film was broadcast on PBS, having been acquired by Bill Gardner, and is being distributed globally by Carl Hall of UK based West One International.
The royal premiere, along with the film’s presentation to the House of Commons with former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP, and the PBS broadcast are all strong selling points for the distributor.
Melanie Wallace is the film’s Global Impact Strategist. She engaged my Documentary Business newsletter to successfully reach key industry figures worldwide. Earth Emergency was created from five short educational videos produced by Northern Light Productions.
Watch the five shorts for free here!