David Ash

London-based film maker David Ash specialises in documentaries about world events and recent history.  Several of them have won national and international awards.  Some have been acquired by university libraries as primary historical sources.  Before becoming a freelance producer, Ash was with Granada Television.  He has also written satire and children’s comedy.  This list is abbreviated.

JAPAN’S ATOMIC BOMB

The physicist who led Japan's secret bomb project

Denied and disbelieved, the fact is that the Japanese were busy developing their own atomic weapon during World War II.  In Tokyo we track down two surviving members of the bomb-making team, now in their 80s, who reveal how close they came to success, and how they were expected to commit ritual suicide when the US beat them to it.  Finally we evaluate persistent reports that the Japanese Navy actually tested their bomb in northern Korea during the final days of the war.

Directed by David Ash

West Park Pictures for The History Channel (USA) and History Television (Canada) (2005)

GRISSOM’S GOLD

Five Thousand Metres Under the Sea

A record of a voyage to the depths of the Bermuda Triangle in search of treasure.  The prize is Spanish silver and Portuguese gold.  But the wreck lies five kilometres below the surface – at the outer limits of what today’s manned submersibles can achieve.  Unexpected partners in the venture: former Soviet scientists contributing powerful technology left over from the space race.

Produced, directed and written by David Ash

Context-TV

RETURN TO THE BISMARCK

Manned dive to the Bismarck

A motley band of explorers, scientists and war veterans set out to make the first ever manned dive to the wreck of the Hitler’s notorious battleship, sunk by the British in 1941 with the loss of 2,000 lives.  Sixty years later, after a tense search of the sea-bed in cramped submersibles almost five kilometres beneath the Atlantic, human eyes once again see the sunken Bismarck at close quarters.  Stunning images shot on state-of-the-art High Definition Television (HDTV).

NB  This is NOT the UK Channel Four film which arrived at the Bismarck site some weeks AFTER our expedition!

Selected for Biarritz Festival, 2002

Directed and written by David Ash

Context-TV for ZDF (2001-2)

ENGAGEMENT

Princess Elizabeth – how the Windsor dynasty was secured

A 50-minute study of how British royalty finds suitable partners and pursues its love affairs at its high but confined social level.  Contains never-before-seen letters written by the Queen, as a teenager, upon meeting the young Prince Philip. Transmitted to a large audience as the opening episode of BBC1’s “Royal Wedding Bells” series marking the Edward-Sophie wedding.  (US transmission August 2000.)

Produced, directed and written by David Ash

RDF Television for BBC1 (1999)

CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

Birmingham Children’s Hospital – human dramas daily

The 1998/9 run of this popular BBC1 series was filmed in Birmingham Children’s Hospital as it coped with moving the entire outfit, intensive care patients included, from its cramped site to new premises across the city.

Nominated Best Factual Series, National Television Awards, 1999

Episodes produced, directed and written by David Ash

For BBC1 (1998-99)

THE FIFTY YEARS WAR – ISRAEL AND THE ARABS

Winner or loser?

This six-part series was the BBC’s major commission to mark the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Israel.  Monarchs, presidents and prime ministers in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, the USA and the former USSR give their detailed and often revelatory first-hand accounts of recent history.  King Hussein, filmed before his final illness, contributes outstandingly.

Nominated Best Documentary Series, Royal Television Society, 1999

Programmes 3 and 6 produced, directed and written by David Ash

For BBC2 by Brian Lapping Associates, co-funded by WGBH Boston and others (1996-98)

THE PICCARDS

His faith in science made him first man in the stratosphere

A 50-minute study of the physicist Auguste Piccard, the first man to enter the stratosphere, and his son Jacques Piccard, who reached the deepest part of the ocean in the vessel known as the bathyscaph.  It concludes with a prophetic interview in a balloon with grandson Bertrand about his ambition to be the first to fly round the world.

“Best Scientific Film”, Jules Verne Film Festival, Paris, 1996

“Prix Spécial”, Festival International du Film d’Aventure, Dijon, 1997

Produced, directed and written by David Ash

By Café Productions for USA transmission on PBS (1996)

THE GETTYS – A TRAGEDY OF RICHES

Just to count his money would have taken a lifetime

Two 50-minute Network First specials on the late J. Paul Getty, “the richest man in the world”, and his heirs as they are today, blessed (or burdened?) with huge personal fortunes.

“Best Documentary” nomination at BBC Indies awards, 1996

Selected, 1996 Pessac Festival International du Film d’Histoire

Directed and written by David Ash

For ITV Network Centre and Meridian TV by Studio Z (1995)

FALL OF THE WALL

Who really brought down the Wall?

Two 50-minute documentaries giving a stage-by-stage account of the power struggles and political manoeuvres behind the sudden collapse of communism in Europe.  The story is told at first hand by the main participants, including Mikhail Gorbachev, Foreign Minister Genscher of West Germany, and leading members of the East German politburo.

“Production Company of the Year” award

Series directed, written and co-produced by David Ash

Brian Lapping Associates for BBC and Discovery Channel (USA) (1994)

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING POLITICIANS

Diminished

A one-hour documentary presenting Martin Jacques’ influential proposition that political leaders and institutions have gradually lost power and relevance in an increasingly diverse and individualistic modern world.  Transmitted as part of the BBC’s “Margaret Thatcher Week”.

Produced and directed by David Ash

BBC2 (1993)

EUROPE EXPRESS

Europe with style

Producer-director and writer with Channel 4’s EUROPE EXPRESS series.  Visually stylish reports from Europe during a heady era of post Cold War change.

Diverse Production/Barraclough-Carey for Channel Four (1993)

GERMANS FOR SALE

How East Germany sold people for hard currency

For Channel 4 DISPATCHES, an investigative documentary uncovering new details of the extensive trade in East Germans that continued until the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Spies and ordinary citizens were sold to Bonn for billions of marks, prompting a post-reunification political scandal.

Produced, directed and written by David Ash

Direct-TV for Channel Four (1992)

THE GARDEN OF FORKING PATHS

Argentina: dilemmas of national identity

For WGBH, Boston: producer-director in Boston on AMERICAS, a large-scale series on Latin-America.  Contributed the opening programme, THE GARDEN OF FORKING PATHS, a 50-minute documentary on Argentina and the difficulties of achieving a national identity.  A British version was shown on Channel 4.

Produced, directed and written by David Ash

WGBH Boston with Central Television Enterprises, UK (1992)

TWENTY-FOUR HOURS IN TUZLA

Loving the enemy

For BBC EVERYMAN: the first full documentary to be made about the war in Yugoslavia.  Two lovers separated by the fighting – he Serbian, she Croatian – cross the bitter war zones to meet briefly in Bosnia (which was then a neutral haven).

Produced, directed and written by David Ash

BBC1 (1991)

THE SECOND RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

Kremlin secrets revealed

Director and writer on THE SECOND RUSSIAN REVOLUTION, a series of six 50-minute documentaries detailing the power struggles of the Gorbachev decade through exceptionally frank personal accounts from the Soviet leaders closest to the events. The series was the first independent production by the much-praised team headed by Brian Lapping and Norma Percy, and with its meticulous research and unprecedented access was credited with opening up a new style of documentary.

Silver Medal, New York Film and TV Festival; several other awards

Episodes directed and written by David Ash, in particular the opening episode

Brian Lapping Associates for BBC2 (1990-91)

THE STASI TAPES

The nation that spied on itself

This 40-minute documentary for Channel 4 DISPATCHES uses files and tapes secured by Direct-TV from Stasi HQ in East Berlin to show the extent and impact of secret surveillance of East Germans.

Produced, directed and written by David Ash

Direct-TV for Channel Four (1990)

EUROPE EXPRESS

Tales from the new Europe

Producer-director and writer on the founding series of Channel 4’s weekly EUROPE EXPRESS, a magazine programme featuring sharp young reporters from various European capitals, novel content and attractive graphic design.

For Channel 4 by Diverse Production and Barraclough-Carey (1989-90)

SCANDAL IN THE FALKLANDS

Falklands – in the money

Report for Channel 4 from the Falkland Islands featuring the Observer’s foreign correspondent Hugh O’Shaughnessy.  The islands are now one of the world’s richest per capita nations and are already facing multi-million-pound financial scandals.

Produced, directed and co-scripted by David Ash

For Channel 4 by Observer Film Company (1989)

REVIEW OF THE YEAR

1988: the Piper Alpha oilrig disaster

Produced the BBC REVIEW OF THE YEAR, with David Dimbleby.  This is the BBC’s main end-of-year review of world events.  Especially memorable because in December, just as the programme was going into its final mix, the Lockerbie airliner crash occurred.

Produced and directed by David Ash, presented by David Dimbleby

BBC1 (1988)

CAMPAIGN!

How TV makes presidents

Director and co-writer, CAMPAIGN! – a two-hour documentary feature for Channel 4 and WETA (USA) chronicling television’s ever-increasing role in creating US presidents.  Fronted by Harold Evans, former editor of “The Times” newspaper.

USA version of CAMPAIGN! received EMMY award nomination

Directed by David Ash, written by David Ash and Harold Evans

Illuminations Television for Channel 4 and WETA Washington (1988)