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George Orwell

One hundred years after George Orwell's birth, The South Bank Show commissioned his latest biographer, DJTaylor, to uncover the real George Orwell.

The result is a compelling and original portrait of Britain's most important 20th Century writer.

If that were not enough DJTaylor has also discovered what he believes to be the first moving footage of Orwell - a holy grail amongst his many biographers.

DJ Taylor's quest into the heart of Orwell's imagination and life uncovers a man who was constantly mythologising his own life from childhood onwards.

The assertion that he hated his time at prep school, Eton and then as a military policeman in Burma are challenged as a distortion of a fairly happy and conventional upbringing.

Similarly DJ Taylor explores the reality behind Orwell's supposedly factual work; Down and Out in Paris and London, The Road to Wigan Pier and Homage to Catalonia.

As witnesses he calls on ordinary people who knew Orwell long before he achieved world-wide fame with Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four, many of whom have never appeared on television or in print.

Perhaps most contentiously DJTaylor examines accusations that at a time when Hitler was persecuting the Jews, Orwell's work was openly anti-Semitic.

The film also explores the continuing impact of Orwell's work on a world still reeling from events that he seems almost to have predicted.

In the wake of 9/11 and the war in Iraq, several leading critics are asked the all important question: 'What would George have thought?'

DJTaylor finds some of the answers to that question in Nighteen Eighty Four and the final years of Orwell's short life.

He travels to the Hebridean island of Jura where it was written and re-traces Orwell's experience of war-time London which provided the paranoid landscape for Big Brother, The Ministry of Truth and the horrors of Room 101.

Contributors include Polly Toynbee, Adam Phillips, Roger Scruton, Peter Davison (editor of The Complete Works of George Orwell) and the delightful Peter Vansittart, who knew and worked with Orwell.

DJTaylor also tracks down Orwell's adopted son, Richard Blair and Dorothy George's who recalls a shy, gauche and love struck young poet once named Eric Blair.

Extracts form Orwell's work are read by Ronald Pickup.

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