Documentaries

Documentaries

United Kingdom

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

Episodes

After Obama Care – Health  under Trump  

What will new President Trump do about healthcare in the United States?

Trump Tweet by Tweet  

What do Donald Trump’s tweets reveal about the man who, on 20 January, will be America’s next president? Will he continue to use what he has called his "beautiful Twitter” account to tell the world what he is thinking - and doing?

The President and the Press  

In 1897, when President McKinley was sworn in, there was no working relationship between the office of the US President and the members of the press. McKinley became the first president to allow press briefings, let the reporters into the Oval office and harness the power of the newspapers to affect public opinion. President Woodrow Wilson treated the press like schoolboys and chatted to them while having his morning shave, but his presidency did establish the principle that journalists could routinely question their country’s leader. The first televised press conference was with JFK in 1961 and now they are a key part of any US president's relationship with the people who voted for him, with President Obama widening the meaning of the “press” to include Reddit, Google Hangouts and evening chat shows. As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to move into The White House, we consider how the presidential relationship with the press will change, given his avowed contempt for aspects of the “Fourth Estate”. Our Washington correspondent Jon Sopel - no stranger to a presidential press conference - looks at the history of the connection between the US president and the press over more than 100 years and speculates on how it is set to change.

Siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery  

One night of terror at Dhaka's Holey Artisan Bakery in July 2016.

The Muhammadan Bean  

Journalist Abdul-Rehman Malik leads us on a journey to Turkey as he investigates the forgotten history of coffee. He discovers that coffee was popularised by Sufi mystics in the Yemen who used the drink as a way of energising themselves during their nocturnal devotions. Originating in Ethiopia, finding its spiritual home in the Yemen, evading zealots and Sultans from Mecca to Constantinople, defying prejudice from Vienna to London – coffee made its mark wherever it went, facilitating radical new forms of social exchange.

Remote Control War  

Vin Ray looks at the challenges facing the drone programme and how drones are fundamentally changing the face of warfare.

Beyond the Pitch  

Dramatic and poignant tales exploring how Africa’s football and politics are bedfellows. As the Africa Cup of Nations celebrates 60 years in January 2017 in Gabon, BBC sport journalist Farayi Mungazi explores the close links between the 'beautiful game' of football and the 'dirty game' of politics.

Poland: Behind the Black Protests  

A hundred thousand women and men took to the streets in Poland recently in protest against attempts to ban all abortions—and the issue seems to have crystallised a growing unease with the country’s move to the right and the power of the Catholic Church. ‘We are not putting our umbrellas away' went one of the slogans as women stood in the pouring rain to voice their concerns. The size of the protest surprised even the participants; organised by the feminist movement, it attracted women and men from many different backgrounds. Where did this surge of activism come from? Some argue that the revolution that began with Solidarnosc in the 1980s ignored the needs and voices of Polish women. Communism may have been defeated, they say, but it’s been replaced by a different kind of repression. Maria Margaronis investigates. Mark Savage producing. (Photo: Polish women take part in a nationwide strike and demonstration to protest against a legislative proposal for a total ban of abortion on October 3, 2016 in Warsaw. Credit to: Getty Images)

City of the Future  

How does Houston, Texas, a massive city, deal with the pressures of immigration, an exploding youth population and a widening divide between rich and poor? The answer could be critical to the future success of the USA. Sociologists who have studied the city for decades believe that many US metropolitan areas could look like Houston in 30 years' time. Since the election of Donald Trump, these issues have become even more critical. Catherine Carr travels to the Texas to see how the city’s authorities and inhabitants are coping with the radical changes to Houston’s demographics and meets the pioneers attempting to intentionally build bridges across city divides. Picture: Houston's buildings, Credit: Getty Images

The Woman who Exposed Russian Doping  

For the past two years, Russian athlete Yuliya Stepanova, her husband Vitaly and their three year old son, Robert have been on the run. They fear for their lives, after they exposed one of the greatest sporting scandals of all time – the systemic Russian state sponsored doping programme. With very little money or support from any sporting authority, a life of solitude and uncertainty is the prize for the whistleblower who brought down Russian sport.

The Hidden Homeless  

There’s a crisis of homelessness for families in Britain

The Year Everything Changed  

This was the year of 'post-truth' politics, fake news and when some of the foundations of how global politics and trade are determined have been questioned. In many ways this has been a year when the silent majority has become vocal, and when old certainties have been questioned. The BBC’s Allan Little examines what really happened in the last 12 months and asks, what next?

A Song for Syria  

Since war broke out in Syria over a million people have sought refuge in Lebanon - a small country of just over 4 million people. The reporter Lina Sinjab left her home in Damascus in 2013 to live in Beirut, and for her, as for so many Syrians, the poignant music of home has become a crucial source of comfort and resilience. As the war drags on, music and songs provide a strong link to the past and hope for the future. Lina joins refugee musicians across Lebanon and hears how their music is one of the few things they were able to bring with them. In the Bekaa Valley, close to the border with Syria, she meets an oud player, a percussionist and a piper who arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs and their precious instruments. And she visits a refugee youth choir who have found new joy and hope by singing with others who have been uprooted from their homes. In Beirut, the Oumi ensemble use music as a counter to religious extremism, taking their inspiration from the peace-loving Sufi poet Mansur Al-Hallaj. The arrival of Syrian musicians has also had a big impact on the cultural scene in Lebanon, and Lina discovers how this has inspired bands and artists in the capital. Image: Ahmad Turkmany who plays the Mizmar, Credit: Just Radio Ltd

Punk Art and Protest in Malaysia  

Street artist Reza captured public dissatisfaction when he caricatured the PM as a clown

Sex Mountain  

Why did Indonesians flock to a remote mountain to have sex with strangers? Gunung Kemukus is a hilltop Islamic shrine in Java where, every 35 days, Muslims from across Indonesia arrive to conduct a ritual that involves adulterous sex. As darkness shrouds the hillside, candles are lit and people sit on mats around the sacred dewadaru trees and the twisting roots of massive fig trees. The single grave here is believed to hold a legendary prince and his stepmother. Legend has it that they ran away together and lived at Gunung Kemukus. It is believed that if you do something even more shameful there, like have adulterous sex, then you will be blessed with good fortune. Rebecca Henschke tells the story of this extraordinary ritual. Open Ear features documentaries from producers across the world being rebroadcast by the BBC World Service. It originally aired as a 360 Documentary on ABC Radio National in Australia. Photo: A flower on water, Credit: Thinkstock

Burn Slush! The Reindeer Grand Prix  

Competitive reindeer-racing is a popular sport across the Arctic Circle. In Finland, the season runs from November to April and good jockeys are local celebrities. They need strong biceps and serious guts: strapped onto cross-country skis they're hauled behind reindeer at up to 60km/hour. Meanwhile, the animals are trained to peak fitness. Owners give their reindeer massages and whisper last minute instructions in their ears. Cathy FitzGerald travels to the snowy north of Finland to find out more about the sport. She visits the little town of Inari, where the cappuccinos come with tiny antlers sketched in the foam and the local bar (PaPaNa, ‘The Reindeer Dropping’) serves pizza topped with bear salami. Each year, the top 24 fastest reindeer compete here to be crowned: The Reindeer King. They fly around a two-kilometre race track carved on the surface of icy Lake Inari to the cheers of hundreds of spectators. There’s a social side to the competition, of course: a winter village grows up around the track, where herders can browse for cow-bells, snow-mobiles and fox-fur hats. And at night, there’s dancing under the northern lights at Hotel Kultahovi, where Eero Magga croons his big hit, ‘Poromiehen Suudelma’ – ‘The Reindeer Herder’s Kiss’ – to an appreciative reindeer-racing crowd. Picture: Competitors and their reindeer set off across the snow, Credit: Kirsten Foster

The Polygon People  

Between 1949 and 1989 the Soviet Union tested 456 nuclear bombs in Semipalatinsk in Kazakhstan. The area the size of Belgium became known as the Polygon and when Kazakhstan became independent – 25 years ago this week - it inherited the world’s fourth biggest nuclear arsenal. The BBC’s Rustam Qobil visits the Polygon to piece together its remarkable story.

The Sunni Traditionalists: Islam, People and Power Boxset  

The anti-government protests that began in the Arab world in 2010 triggered division between the religious scholars of Islam’s largest branch – the traditional Sunnis. Some of the most senior Sunni scholars in the world held fast to the idea that revolution, and even simple protest, was forbidden in Islam. Others decided to back armed groups in Syria, though not the global jihadists of al-Qaeda and ISIS. Presenter Safa Al Ahmad travels to Egypt to meet Dr Abbas Shouman, one of the most senior scholars at Islam’s most famous seat of learning, Al Azhar University. She also tells the story of Sheikh Ramadan al-Bouti, a famous Syrian Islamic scholar whose stance on the uprisings cost him his life. (Photo: Anti-Government protesters in Cairo. Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

The Salafis: Islam, People and Power Boxset  

Wahhabism is the most misunderstood brand of Islam. It is more correctly called Salafism and is a fundamentalist interpretation of the faith, often associated with Saudi Arabia. The Salafis have long been split between jihadists who justify violently overthrowing their rulers and quietists who believe that even oppressive governments should be obeyed. Since the Arab uprisings, two new groups – Salafi democrats and Salafi revolutionaries – have come to the fore too. Presenter Safa Al Ahmad talks to representatives of all positions in the current debate within Salafi Islam about the relationship between religion and politics. (Photo: Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh. Credit: Hassan Ammar/AFP/Getty Images)

The Islamists: Islam, People and Power Boxset  

What should the relationship be between Islam and the state? This is the question which dominates political debate in the Arab world. Many traditional Islamic scholars believe in the separation of religion and politics. For the Muslim Brotherhood though – the Arab world’s foremost social and political movement - the goal is to create an Islamic state. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was elected to power after the Arab uprisings. But its plans quickly ended in failure. After just a year in office, the Brotherhood government faced mass protests before it was deposed by a military coup. As presenter Safa Al Ahmad discovers, these events have caused an unprecedented level of debate between members past and present. She talks to a Brotherhood veteran who believes the Brotherhood should have remained a social movement rather than entering politics and to young members who believe it should be more revolutionary. (Image: Muslim Brotherhood supporter holds a banner with the Arabic slogan 'Islam is the Solution' during a demonstration in Cairo 08 November 2005. Credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

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