Documentaries

Documentaries

United Kingdom

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

Episodes

Hong Kong: Twenty Years On  

John Simpson visits Hong Kong 20 years after reunification with China to find out how much has changed. On 1 July 1997, after 150 years of British rule, Hong Kong rejoined China under the “one country two systems” formula whereby the territory would continue to enjoy much of its autonomy. Twenty years on, Hong Kong continues to prosper but amid political unrest and a growing sense that Beijing is trying to influence Hong Kong affairs.

Get Out Of Jail Free  

Each year 35,000 New Yorkers end up in jail because they can’t afford bail. Campaigners want to end cash bail to preserve the idea that people are innocent until proven guilty.

Blind Man Roams the Globe: Marrakesh  

When Peter White jets, sails or walks into a new city, it is the sounds, not the sights, which assail him. In this programme Peter explores the twists and turns of Marrakesh. He listens to local radio; he takes in the sounds of restaurants, travel systems and the voices of the locals. He also meets other blind people and uses their experiences of an area to understand it better and to appreciate the aural clues which help guide them.

Germany – Reluctant Giant  

Why is Germany such a reluctant military power? Germany’s grown in international influence. And its potential military role has been hitting the headlines. US President Donald Trump’s criticised Germany in particular for not spending enough on defence. And Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Europe can no longer completely depend on the US - or the UK after Brexit. Germany, she argues, must do more in the military sphere. But Germans themselves are very reluctant to do this. As Chris Bowlby discovers in this documentary, German pacifism has grown since World War Two, when Nazi armies caused such devastation. Today’s German army, the Bundeswehr, was meant to be a model citizen's force. But it’s often poorly funded and treated with suspicion by its own population. Some now say the world of Trump, Putin and Brexit demands major change in German thinking - much more spending, more Bundeswehr deployments abroad, even German nuclear weapons. But most Germans disagree. So could Germany in fact be trying something historically new - becoming a major power without fighting wars?

Hong Kong: Twenty Years On  

ohn Simpson visits Hong Kong 20 years after reunification with China to find out how much has changed. On 1 July 1997, after 150 years of British rule, Hong Kong rejoined China under the “one country two systems” formula whereby the territory would continue to enjoy much of its autonomy. Twenty years on, Hong Kong continues to prosper but amid political unrest and a growing sense that Beijing is trying to influence Hong Kong affairs.

Las Vegas Stripped Bare  

With its reputation for glitz, glamour and gambling, Las Vegas has become one of the world’s foremost tourist destinations, with over 40 million visitors a year. But the bright lights and breathtaking architecture conceal a murky past. After gambling was legalised in Nevada in the 1930s, a raft of hotel-casinos sprang up under the control of gangsters such as Bugsy Siegel and Frank Costello – a state of affairs that continued well into the 1960s.

UK Election: Something Happened, but What?  

British politics has become unpredictable. As voters were going to the polls in the UK general election on 8 June, many were contemplating a landslide for the Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May – nearly all polls predicted it. And of course Theresa May and the Conservative Party did win - but they are the largest party in what is a hung parliament - they no longer have overall control, so what happened? Why did people vote the way they did?

Weapons of Mass Surveillance  

Middle Eastern governments are using high tech mass surveillance tools to monitor their citizens. Western companies, including Britain’s largest weapons manufacturer, BAE, are among those selling surveillance technology to these governments. The trade is attracting criticism from human rights organisations who question whether a British company should be selling such equipment, much of it classified, to repressive regimes in the Arab world. BBC Arabic’s Nawal Al-Maghafi investigates.

What Went Wrong with Brazil?  

During Brazil’s boom years the country's rising economy created a new middle class of gigantic proportions - tens of millions escaping from poverty. Brazil felt confident and even rich enough to bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. But then the economy turned. In the last two years the country has endured its worst recession on record. Where did it all go wrong?

The Death of the Cockfighters  

Carlos Dews was brought up in a poor area of rural east Texas, travelling every weekend to cockfighting tournaments across the southern states. “I remember,” he says, “limp necks and the lifeless swaying heads of beautiful birds as they were carried by their feet to barrels for burning. I was told not to cry, not to remember these things. But we always remember what we’re told to forget.”

Return to Aleppo  

Zahed Tajeddin is a sculptor and archaeologist whose family have lived in Aleppo for generations. He owned a beautiful medieval courtyard house in a neighbourhood called Jdeideh, part of the city's historic centre. But Zahed was forced to abandon his house in 2012, when Jdeideh became a battleground between government forces and rebel fighters. He makes the emotional and dangerous journey to see whether his home survived the conflict.

The Driver and the Dictator  

Dictator Fulgencio Batista knew staging a Grand Prix in Havana in 1958 was risky. Sabotage in Cuban cities and guerrilla wars in the mountains were attracting global headlines. Keen to distract from the turmoil, he offers the world’s greatest F1 driver, Juan Manuel Fangio, a huge fee to drive. But the event ended with the kidnapping of Juan Manuel Fangio and the death of six bystanders.

Recycling Beirut  

Nidale Abou Mrad reports from her native Lebanon on a crisis of stinking household waste and how citizen activists are stepping in to do the authorities’ job in cleaning up.

A Very British Election  

UK Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election in order to win a mandate to negotiate Brexit from the European Union. With the campaign in full swing, Susan Glasser, chief international columnist for Politico in Washington DC, visits the UK to report on the election. She reports on the place populism has during the 2017 UK election.

Syria’s World Cup Dream  

6 years of war and crippling sanctions, yet Syria’s footballers are still dreaming of World Cup glory in Russia. Richard Conway follows the team’s extraordinary story.

The Origins of the American Dream  

The American Dream is back, or at least President Donald Trump says so. Once again every American, regardless of background, race, gender or education, can, through sheer hard work, make it to the very top and become rich. Did the idea of the America Dream, in which nothing is impossible as long as you work hard, evolve with the ‘founding fathers’ of the nation? Is it intrinsic to the country’s identity?

Watching my Father  

Farmers committing suicide in India has been in the news for quite some time and this story is about how it has impacted on the mental health of communities. As too much rain or droughts continue to destroy crops making farmers unable to pay debts, families fear that their breadwinners could be the next to kill themselves. Navin Singh Khadka follows families in Marathwada, the worst hit district in the state that saw more than 400 farmers commit suicide last year.

Remembering Challenger  

On 28 January 1986, people watched in horror as Challenger, one of America's four space shuttles, erupted into a ball of flames just over a minute after lift off, killing everyone on board. Sue MacGregor looks back on one of Nasa's darkest tragedies with Scobee Rodgers, the widow of Challenger space shuttle commander Richard "Dick" Scobee; Steve Nesbitt, Nasa chief commentator; astronaut Norman Thagard; and Allan McDonald, former Morton Thiokol director of the Space Shuttle Rocket Booster Project.

The Sex Slaves of Al-Shabaab  

In an exclusive investigation for the BBC, Anne Soy discovers that Kenyan women are being abducted and trafficked to Somalia to become sex slaves for the militant group al-Shabaab

The Sound of Soweto - Part Two  

Johannesburg-based poet Thabiso Mohare explores the music of Soweto from the 1970s onwards, through the unrest that led to democracy in 1994, and takes a look at the music scene today. Featuring interviews with Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse, Mandla Mlangeni, BCUC and The Soil.

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