Articles - Outside The Court

The Sunday Times, AA Gill (6th Feb 2011)
The best programme of the week was 'Outside the Court,' based on a simple idea: standing outside the magistrates court and asking the people going in and out why they're there and what got them there. What emerges is a provoking, touching, funny, smart and occasionally pitiful series of vignettes that are presented with care, consideration and dignity. It was made by Marc Isaacs, who specializes in direct questions and straitened circumstances. He made a marvelous documentary in a lift many years ago. There was a tweedy movement, a pipe-sucking argument that the real purpose of television should be not to entertain as many people as possible, but to allow the voices and stories of people who rarely get asked or heard to be broadcast to as many people as possible. Television should be the culture of those who have never had a culture made for them or about them. That still sounds fine and worthy, but of course it depended on who got to hold the camera and do the editing; it was all in the mediation. In the case of Outside the Court, that was done scrupulously. There was even a cameraman filming the cameraman: there was never any deception.

The Scotsman, Paul Whitelaw. 2nd Feb 2011
'a rawly emotional documentary… illustrated the truism that every face in the crowd has a story to tell. It's just that some have bigger mountains to climb – or mires to sink into – than others….Isaacs, whose work is renowned for its social conscience, succeeded in putting a forlorn human face to Britain's petty crime statistics, presenting shades of grey behind the binary assumptions that some might make.

The Times, David Chater. (29th Jan, 2011)
Marc Isaacs is one of the most distinctive filmmakers working in British television. Ten years ago he made an extraordinary little documentary called Lift. It involved spending weeks filming people getting in and out of a lift, which he edited into a masterpiece of quiet observation. His latest film adopts a similar approach….Isaacs has an astounding gift for getting people to speak openly; he has the eye of a cinematographer, an ear as sharp as Alan Bennett's and the courage to move at a measured pace. The result is a mesmerizing film, rich in insight and humanity, that warns of the dangers of making snap judgments about anyone.

The Guardian, Stuart Jeffries
Outside the Court (BBC4) could have been exploitative, but was mostly tender, occasionally beautiful and had me crying for an hour.

The Times, Sarah Vine
When it comes to film- making, there is a fine line between voyeurism and legitimate reportage. Shows that simply point and laugh are not worthy of the genre: they are entertainment pure and simple, and a particularly unpleasant form at that. The ones that really make a difference are those that get inside their subjects without altering them or goading them into certain types of behaviour; those that challenge rather than reinforce prejudice. These are an education as well as entertainment, which is what it's all about. On the face of it, BBC Four's Justice: A Citizen's Guide season may not seem like a must-watch. But if this programme was anything to go by, it could turn out to be a shining example of the kind of public service broadcasting that lies at the heart of Auntie's remit. Gripping, relevant, challenging: Marc Isaacs' Outside the Court was all of these things. It was a simple idea, elegantly executed. This may have been a film about the down and outs of London, but in Isaacs' hands it became a rather beautiful thing: all these tragic, invisible lives brought gently into focus by his lens. It was sad, but also in many ways deeply compassionate; an opportunity for the viewer to stop and contemplate the kind of small personal tragedies that all too often go unnoticed. His technique was remarkably simple: a polite approach and a sympathetic ear.