25 user 7 critic

Bitter Lake (2015)

An experimental documentary that explores Saudi Arabia's relationship with the U.S. and the role this has played in the war in Afghanistan.


Adam Curtis


Adam Curtis
1 win. See more awards »


Add Image Add an image

Do you have any images for this title?

Learn more

More Like This 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

Adam Curtis explains how, at a time of confusing and inexplicable world events, politicians and the people they represent have retreated in to a damaging over-simplified version of what is happening.

Director: Adam Curtis
Stars: Adam Curtis, Donald J. Trump, Vladimir Putin
Documentary | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  

A series of three documentaries about the use of fear for political gain.

Stars: Gilles Kepel, Melvin Goodman, Stephen Holmes
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  

A series of films about how humans have been colonized by the machines we have built. Although we don't realize it, the way we see everything in the world today is through the eyes of the computers.

Stars: Adam Curtis, Stewart Brand, Peder Anker
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  

Individual freedom is the dream of our age. It's what our leaders promise to give us, it defines how we think of ourselves and, repeatedly, we have gone to war to impose freedom around the ... See full synopsis »

Stars: Robert Kavesh, Friedrich von Hayek, Philip Mirowski
Pandora's Box (TV Mini-Series 1992)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

The consequences of exploiting technological and political ideas without understanding and concern for the outcome.

Stars: George Ball, Roy Adkin, Abel G. Aganbegyan
Documentary | History | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

The story of America's rise to power starting with 1959; it uses archive footage and American pop music to highlight the consequences to the rest of the world and in the peoples' minds.

Director: Adam Curtis
Stars: H. Rap Brown, Nikita Khrushchev, Richard Nixon
The Mayfair Set (TV Series 1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

The effects on Britains economic and political power brought by unscrupulous, reckless gamblers from the notorious gambling club in the 60s - the Clermont Club.

Stars: James Goldsmith, Tiny Rowland, Jim Slater
The Century of the Self (TV Mini-Series 2002)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.9/10 X  

A documentary about the rise of psychoanalysis as a powerful means of persuasion for both governments and corporations.

Stars: Adam Curtis, Ann Bernays, Robert Reich
Newswipe (2009–2010)
Documentary | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

Hosted and written by Charlie Brooker, this sardonic series follows and critiques both current news stories and the way television portrays them.

Stars: Charlie Brooker, Tim Key, Doug Stanhope
The Living Dead (TV Mini-Series 1995)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

Investigating the way politicians erase, rewrite and interpret the past to their own interest.

Stars: Adam Curtis
Modern Times (1995–2015)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Stars: Duncan Staff, Holly Aird, Warwick Davis
Documentary | Biography | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A film about the noted American linguist/political dissident and his warning about corporate media's role in modern propaganda.

Directors: Mark Achbar, Peter Wintonick
Stars: Noam Chomsky, Mark Achbar, Karin Aguilar-San Juan


Credited cast:
George Bush ... Himself (archive footage)
George W. Bush ... Himself (archive footage)
Joanne Herring ... Herself (archive footage)
Hamid Karzai Hamid Karzai ... Himself (archive footage)
Mike Martin Mike Martin ... Himself - Captain - British Army, Helmand 2008-2009 (as Dr. Mike Martin)
Ronald Reagan ... Himself (archive footage)


Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events. But now there are no big stories and politicians react randomly to every new crisis - leaving us bewildered and disorientated. Bitter Lake is a new, adventurous and epic film by Adam Curtis that explains why the big stories that politicians tell us have become so simplified that we can't really see the world any longer. The narrative goes all over the world, America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia - but the country at the heart of it is Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan is the place that has confronted our politicians with the terrible truth - that they cannot understand what is going on any longer. The film reveals the forces that over the past thirty years rose up and undermined the confidence of politics to understand the world. And it shows the strange, dark role that Saudi Arabia has played in this. But Bitter Lake is also experimental. Curtis has taken the unedited rushes of...

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis





Official Sites:

BBC [United Kingdom]





Release Date:

25 January 2015 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Adam Curtis: Bitter Lake See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs



See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Features Carry On... Up the Khyber (1968) See more »


Yesterday's Entertainment
by Pye Corner Audio
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Slow and somewhat murky, but definitely worthwhile
1 February 2015 | by fung0See all my reviews

Bitter Lake is a complex, intriguing yet at times confused history of UK and US interference in Afghanistan over the past several decades.

The basic premise is that Western errors in the Middle East stem largely from an early accord struck by FDR with Saudi Arabia at the eponymous Bitter Lake on the Suez Canal, just after World War II. This support of Saudi Arabia, Curtis contends, indirectly led to the promotion of fundamentalist factions that have subsequently generated much of the violence in the Middle East, culminating in the ISIS movement today.

It's an interesting point of view, and Curtis supports it with plenty of detail. The pay off comes when he uses this perspective to explain more recent events. For example, he shows why the 9/11 attackers, as well as Osama Bin Laden, all had a Saudi background. It's a connection that's been largely forgotten in Western media, and which I had never seen properly explained.

Curtis succeeds even better at depicting the endless conflicts in Afghanistan as they must appear from the Afghan point of view. He argues convincingly that Western troops have been fighting a shadow war, engaging in the wrong battles, with the wrong foes, based on misguided objectives and a total lack of understanding of the fractured Afghan social structure. "There is something else out there, but we just don't have the apparatus to see it," says Curtis.

Less effective is Curtis' tendency to frame all this in terms of good intentions that have almost certainly never existed at the highest levels of US or UK power. It may be that the troops and functionaries sent in to Afghanistan believed they were "creating democracy," but it's highly implausible that the White House or the Pentagon - or Downing Street - ever believed anything so naive and altruistic.

The film is also weakened structurally by its needlessly slow pace, and by the inclusion of long stretches of video footage with no narration, which add little to our understanding. It's often not clear exactly what we're watching. Some segments - such as several minutes of a soldier playing with a tame bird - serve no purpose whatsoever, and should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Nonetheless, Bitter Lake is well worth seeing, for the alternative, worm's-eye view it gives us of the endless conflict in Afghanistan. It's as if the film had been made by Afghans, to help us understand the unwarranted and wantonly destructive interventions that have been conducted by our governments in this distant and very alien country.

28 of 36 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 25 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial

Recently Viewed