Documentaries

Documentaries

United Kingdom

The best of BBC World Service documentaries and other factual programmes.

Episodes

Going Green in the Oil State  

Why has a heavily Republican city in Texas, chock full of climate change sceptics, become the first city in the South to be powered entirely by renewable energy? And why, just a few miles away, has a small town consisting of a lone truck stop and a deserted dirt road they call Main Street, become the richest area in the entire United States? As Donald Trump pulls the US out of the Paris Climate Accords, and talks up the use of fossil fuels, we explore the unexpected reality of the energy industry in the “oil state”.

Venezuela - A Week In The Life Of A Country In Chaos  

Venezuela has some of the largest oil reserves in the world but incredibly, around four in five Venezuelans live in poverty. The BBC's South America correspondent, Katy Watson, went to cover the unfolding political and economic crisis in Venezuela and found a country divided. (Photo: Anti-government graffiit. Credit: Katy Watson/BBC)

Romania’s Webcam Boom  

Inside Romania’s live, web-camming world – the engine of the online sex industry… Assignment explores the fastest growing sector of so-called, ‘adult’ entertainment.

Partion Voices: Aftermath  

On the 70th anniversary of the partition of India, Kavita Puri hears remarkable testimonies from people who witnessed the drama first hand - and even took part in it. They speak with remarkable clarity about the tumultuous events, whose legacy endures to this day. Witnesses describe the immediate aftermath of partition itself. As the former British territories were divided into two new dominions of India and Pakistan, millions on both sides of the new border found themselves in the wrong place – and fled. Intercommunal violence spread rapidly among Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, and news of the atrocities sparked revenge attacks. Yet even as this brutality shocked the world, some of those who bore witness to it recall many individual acts of courage and humanity.

Partition Voices: Division  

On its 70th anniversary, Kavita Puri hears the untold stories of those who witnessed India’s partition in 1947. The years leading up to partition was a time in which many Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus recalled living together harmoniously. We hear about the calls for independence; the rising clamour for an independent Pakistan; the dread as communal rioting gripped ever more of the sub-continent; how the movement of people began prior to independence; and how independence day was marked on both sides of the border.

Resistance and Repression in Venezuela  

Who are the people hoping to overthrow President Maduro? For Assignment, Vladimir Hernandez reports from Caracas.

Pakistan, Partition and The Present, Part Two  

Has Pakistan has lived up to the vision of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah - to create a unified national identity for the country with Islam as the great unifying factor? Pakistan was founded as a homeland for the Muslims of the Indian sub-continent, but religion, nationality and gender have caused faultlines in the region. For women, for example, Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to live in and yet it has also spawned a thriving women’s rights movement with thousands of activists such as Tanveer Jahan, “Societal transformation,” she says, “is a very, very long struggle”. (Photo: Presenter Shahzeb Jillani standing outside in front of a mosque, Pakistan)

On the Black Sea: a Land Forgotten  

Ghost states like Abkhazia have the trappings of independence, but are unrecognised by most of the world. On the far north-east shore of the Black Sea, the region is determined to preserve its independence and ancient culture, including a pagan religion based around animal sacrifices, but the price of statehood is deep isolation. Presenter Tim Whewell discovers what life is like in Abkhazia. He begins his journey at the Abkhaz border and continues by horse-drawn wagon - the only available transport. (Photo: Abkhaz veterans of the World War II, Credit: Monica Whitlock)

Pakistan, Partition and the Present - Part One  

The mass migration of 1947 and what that version of events says about the country now. In Pakistan they are racing against time to record the memories of those who witnessed Partition: people like Syed Afzal Haider, now in his late 80s, who recalls, as a 15-year-old, creeping through the deserted streets of Lahore and watching dogs sniffing around the scattered corpses. Hundreds of thousands died in 1947 as Muslims were driven across the partition line into the newly created Pakistan, and Hindus and Sikhs were forced in the opposite direction. Taha Shaheen and Fakhra Hassan are making sure the stories of 1947 are not forgotten. They are collecting the testimonies of people who remember the carnage. Taha’s grandmother was driven out of her village in the Punjab and could only watch as her mother and brother were cut to pieces on the journey to Pakistan. Fakhra met a man who helped set fire to Sikh houses in Lahore. He was seven years old at the time. But young Pakistanis learn only a partial version of these events, as Shahzeb discovers at a government school in the walled city of Lahore, a school that once carried the name of a local Sikh ruler. The 14-year-olds in the history class are taught that Muslims were the victims of Partition. There’s no mention of the atrocities committed by Muslim mobs against Sikh and Hindus. Shahzeb is disappointed by what he hears. How, he asks, can Pakistanis learn to be tolerant of people of different faiths, if history is distorted in this way? One answer may be the Partition Museum, which will open soon in Lahore, and which will put the stories of Partition on public display. Aaliyah Tayyebi of the Citizens Archive of Pakistan believes this will encourage a true understanding of why Pakistan was created and how it can learn to live at peace with itself and its neighbours. (Photo: Shahzeb Jillani at Lahore station, Pakistan)

Last Call from Aleppo  

In besieged East Aleppo a terrified mother of three makes one last desperate phone call to BBC reporter Mike Thomson. Silence followed. What happened to Om Modar?

Hadraawi: The Somali Shakespeare  

In Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, everyone knows the nation's most famous living poet - Hadraawi. They call him their Shakespeare. The poetry of Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame 'Hadraawi' holds a mirror up to all aspects of life. Born in 1943 to a nomadic camel-herding family, forged as a poet in Somalia's liberal years pre-1969, jailed in 1973 for 'anti-revolutionary activities' without trial under the military junta, a campaigner for peace, Hadraawi's poetry tells the story of modern Somalia. (Photo: Hadraawi. Credit: BBC)

Being Bisexual  

More and more people are identifying as bisexual yet bi-phobia is rife and the world's media remains guilty of regular bi-erasure. Journalist and writer Nichi Hodgson who is openly bisexual herself, examines what it is like to be bisexual for both men and women in different parts of the world.

Inside Transgender Pakistan  

Pakistan's Hijra, or third gender, community are resisting a new and emerging transgender identity which they believe threatens their long established culture.

The Children of Partiition  

BBC correspondent Mark Tully travels through India from north to south in search of the echoes of Partition among successive generations of Indian. He examines the legacy of the Partition of India, comparing contemporary memories of the traumatic events of August 1947 with the personal and political tensions today on both national and international stages.

Who Decides if Gay is OK?  

Why is it OK to be gay in the UK but not in Zambia? In 1967, a turning point for the gay rights movement in the UK, England and Wales decriminalised sex between men. Fifty years on, four out of five British people say they have no problem with homosexuality. Yet it remains a taboo and a crime in many former British colonies, including Zambia. What brought about the change in the UK and why it has not happened in Zambia, which largely inherited the British legal system?

Yangon Renaissance: Poets, Punks and Painters  

We go inside Yangon's booming counter-cultural art scene to reveal the city as seen through the eyes of the young artists on the front line of change. Until censorship was lifted in 2012, dissident artists, musicians and poets lived with the threat of jail for speaking out against the military regime that had gripped Myanmar, or Burma, since 1962 and turned it into a police state. Now, from modern art to punk rock to poetry, a new vibrant youth culture is flourishing - inconceivable only five years ago, when there was no internet, no mobile phones, no freedom of expression. We meet the emerging artists and performers breaking through and forging a new Myanmar.

Stravinsky in South Africa  

In 1962 Igor Stravinsky, the Russian-born composer and conductor, went to South Africa to conduct the state broadcaster SABC Symphony Orchestra in a series of concerts. It was the height of apartheid – and the regime believed classical music was the domain of white people. But in an extraordinary move Stravinsky insisted on also performing his music for a black audience. The concert took place on 27 May 1962 in a town just outside Johannesburg, Kwa Thema.

Museum of Lost Objects: Delhi's Stolen Seat of Power  

Seventy years ago, India and Pakistan became independent nations - but at a cost. People and lands were partitioned, and a once shared heritage was broken apart. In part one, Kanishk Tharoor stretches back to stories of empire well before British rule, and looks at how narratives of conquest and loss still have a powerful hold over South Asians. There’s the spectacular creation - and destruction - of the famed Peacock Throne of the Mughal emperors. It took seven years to make, and seven elephants to cart it away forever. And the forgotten world of the Kushan empire in Pakistan, ruled over by the magnificent King Kanishka. We explore the mystery of what happened to his little bronze box that was said to hold the remains of the Buddha himself. Part two delves into the histories of artefacts and landmarks linked to two of the greatest figures in modern South Asian history – Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, and Rabindranath Tagore, the celebrated Bengali writer. Ziarat Residency, the beautiful sanatorium where Jinnah spent the last three months of his life. Four years ago, it was fire-bombed and burnt to the ground by Balochi insurgents. And Tagore’s missing Nobel Prize Medal. In 1913, Tagore made history by becoming the first non-westerner to win a Nobel award. But just over 10 years ago, the medal was stolen – and still hasn’t been found. We explore how Tagore inspired revolutionaries and reformers in South Asia, and how his suspicion of all nationalisms makes his work relevant today. Produced by Maryam Maruf Contributors: Yuthika Sharma, University of Edinburgh; Vazira Fazila-Yacoubali Zamindar, Brown University; Nayyar Ali Dada; Saher Baloch; Ayesha Jalal, Tufts University; Pasha Haroon; Arunava Sinha; Rahul Tandon; and Saroj Mukherji With thanks to Sussan Babaie, The Courtauld Institute of Art; Fifi Haroon; Minu Tharoor; CS Mukherji; and Sudeshna Guha Image: Persian ruler Nadir Shah on the Peacock Throne after his victory over the Mughals Credit: Alamy

If You're Going to San Francisco  

Fifty years ago, during a few short weeks in the summer of 1967, thousands of hippies descended on San Francisco. The small suburb of Haight-Ashbury became a Mecca for sexual freedom, freedom to experiment with mind blowing drugs, to debate social and economic utopias and freedom to listen to loud rock music. Marco Werman looks back at those hedonistic times through the music and recollections of people who were there 50 years ago.

Reclaiming Karachi  

Razia wants to win Pakistan’s first Olympic gold medal for women’s boxing; student teacher Iqra is a guide on Karachi’s first tourist bus tour; top boy scout Rizwaan started Pakistan’s Youth Parliament and young lawyer Faiza has created Asia’s first female troupe of improvisational comedians. They are just some of the young people determined to put their home city on the map for good reasons rather than bad. In 2013 Karachi was described as the most dangerous mega-city in the world where political gang warfare, terrorist bomb blasts, targeted killings, kidnapping and extortion were everyday occurrences. But in the past two years the security situation has been brought under control and citizen-led activities to reclaim Karachi’s public spaces are blossoming again, particularly by young people under 30 who make up two thirds of Pakistan’s population. Walls that were once covered with political slogans and hate speech are now painted over with murals celebrating the city’s history and diversity. Nightlife is once again booming with arts and culture back on the stage. This spring’s annual all-night Aalmi Mushaira, held in the Karachi Expo Centre, attracted thousands of Urdu poetry lovers of all ages and backgrounds. And the comedy scene is thriving, drawing new audiences and challenging stereotypes with internationally successful acts such as Saad Haroon. Join Karachi radio journalist Noreen Shams Khan to discover a Pakistan that you do not usually hear about. (Photo: A young pupil at Karachi’s first all-girls boxing club. Credit: Culture Wise Productions)

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