Tracking Down Maggie: Broomfield’s Docu about Lady Thatcher

After making a fool of Eugene Terreblanche, Nick Broomfield, a cult documentarian and agent provocateur makes features that irritate people, did the same for Lady Thatcher.

Broomfield is one of Britain’s most visible and controversial documentarians. Documentarians are usually invisible, and their voices heard only in emergency–but not Broomfield, who does not believe in the “illusion of objectivity.”

A typical Broomfield documentary shows us things that other directors do not and will not, such as the sordid, frustrated attempts to get interviews.

One of the best scenes in Tracking Down Maggie, a quest to find ”the real Margaret Thatcher,'” shows a chance meeting in Chelsea with a dowager who admits she once pinched the former PM’s lavatory from a skip. Only Broomfield would have followed her home for the coup de grace – the toilet displayed in the drawing-room with a ”Mrs Thatcher sat here’ plaque.”

“Scuse me, can we just get a shot of Lady Thatcher?” Broomfield says as he follows her on her U.S. book-signing tour, allegedly trying to secure an interview.

Barred from Lady Thatcher’s speeches, Broomfield peeps at her through cracks in doors like a naughty boy. He captures her creepy hauteur, the fear she inspires. ”She thought we’d play the traditional game,” said Broomfield, ”that if she ignored us we’d just evaporate. I don’t think she expected a guerrilla action to start up.”

It was a stroke of genius to make a comic film about a woman who, as her friends confide, has no sense of humor. The Thatcher film, Broomfield said, was his most difficult to date: six different edited versions.

He said he had never realized that her security would be that strict. Was she more frightening than Terreblanche? ”Absolutely.”

Any regrets? ”Well, leaving out the interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

He said that when he talked to Lady Thatcher about the Bible she was very up on the Old Testament–vengeance, eye for an eye stuff–but didn’t have a clue about the New Testament–learning from the poor, charity, that kind of thing.”

Why did that bit have to go? ”Well, he didn’t fit in with the cast terribly well.”

Meryl Streep would win her third Oscar as Best Actress in 2011 for portraying Maggie Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.”