The Documentary Podcast

Nov 23 2020 32 mins 152.5k

Download the latest documentaries investigating global developments, issues and affairs.








Martinique: The poisoning of paradise
Nov 19 2020 26 mins  
“First we were enslaved. Then we were poisoned.” That’s how many on Martinique see the history of their French Caribbean island that, to tourists, means sun, rum, and palm-fringed beaches. Slavery was abolished in 1848. But today the islanders are victims again – of a toxic pesticide called chlordecone that’s poisoned the soil and water and been linked by scientists to unusually high rates of prostate cancer. For more than 10 years chlordecone was authorised for use in banana plantations – though its harmful effects were already known. Now, more than 90% of Martinicans have traces of it in their blood. The pollution means many can't grow vegetables in their gardens - and fish caught close to the shore are too dangerous to eat. French President Emmanuel Macron has called it an ‘environmental scandal’ and said the state ‘must take responsibility’. But some activists on the island want to raise wider questions about why the pesticide was used for so long – and on an island divided between a black majority and a small white minority, it’s lost on no-one that the banana farmers who used the toxic chemical and still enjoy considerable economic power are, in many cases, descendants of the slave owners who once ran Martinique. Reporting from the island for Assignment, Tim Whewell asks how much has changed there. Is Martinique really an equal part of France? And is there equality between descendants of slaves and the descendants of their masters, even now? Produced and presented by Tim Whewell Editor, Bridget Harney (Image: Sunset on a beach in Martinique. Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images)
















The British and their fish
Oct 22 2020 26 mins  
By the middle of the 20th century, the English town of Grimsby was the biggest fishing port in the world. When the catch was good “fishermen could live like rock stars”, says Kurt Christensen who first went to sea aged 15. He was instantly addicted to a tough and dangerous life on the waves. But from the 1970s onwards, the industry went into decline. Today it contributes just a tenth of one percent to Britain’s GDP – less than Harrods, London best known department store. So how can such a tiny industry cause so much political havoc and threaten to scupper a post Brexit deal with Europe? Fishing communities have often blamed EU membership - and the foreign boats that have arrived as a result - for a steep fall in catches over the last half century. Many coastal towns voted overwhelmingly for Britain to leave the European Union. Now, Grimsby’s recently-elected Conservative MP – the first non-socialist the town has sent to Westminster in nearly 100 years - has spoken of a modern fleet and fresh opportunities. For Assignment, Lucy Ash travels to Grimsby to hear how fishing towns like this, ignored for decades by London’s political elite, now hope finally to turn a corner. She explores the huge place fishing plays in the British psyche and asks if the cold, stormy seas around Britain really can make coastal communities rich once again. Producer Mike Gallagher (Image: A trader examines a haddock at the daily Grimsby Fish Market auction. Credit: Bethany Clarke/Getty Images)














Portland, prisons and white supremacy - part one
Oct 01 2020 26 mins  
Portland, Oregon, has a reputation as one of the United States’ most liberal and tolerant cities. Since the death of George Floyd, it has been at the forefront of protests and violence as anti-racist demonstrators and far right groups have battled with each other and with the police. Yet these tensions are nothing new. In 2016, the killing of a young black man sparked a national debate about white supremacy. Nineteen year old Larnell Bruce died after a white man called Russell Courtier deliberately drove his car at him. A trial for murder and a hate crime followed, and exposed a culture of white supremacy in Oregon, rooted in the state’s history and thriving today despite its easy-going image. In this two-part documentary for Assignment, Mobeen Azhar follows the trial of Russell Courtier and investigates how the prison system has become a recruitment ground for racist gangs. Part one reveals the disturbing details of what happened to Larnell Bruce when he encountered Russell Courtier outside a convenience store in one of Portland’s most deprived neighbourhoods. Then, as the murder trial gets underway, we learn that Russell Courtier had once joined a white supremacist gang and continued to bear its insignia on his clothes, and tattooed on his body. However, new evidence emerges to suggest that the case might not be as straightforward as it first appeared. (Image: Safely behind bars? Some white prisoners have found themselves targeted by gangs. Image: Prisoner being escorted by guards. Credit: BBC)







The trouble with Dutch cows
Sep 17 2020 26 mins  
The Netherlands - small and overcrowded - is facing fundamental questions about how to use its land, following a historic court judgment forcing the state to take more urgent action to limit nitrogen emissions. Dutch nitrogen emissions - damaging the climate and biodiversity - are the highest in Europe per capita. And though traffic and building are also partly to blame, farmers say the government is principally looking to agriculture to make the necessary reductions. They've staged a series of protests - what they call a farmers' uprising - in response to a suggestion from a leading politician that the number of farm animals in the country should be cut by half. This is meant to bring down levels of ammonia, a nitrogen compound produced by dung and urine. The proposal comes even though their cows, pigs and chickens have helped make the tiny Netherlands into the world's second biggest exporter of food. Farmers think they're being sacrificed so that the construction industry, also responsible for some nitrogen pollution, can have free rein to keep building, as the country's population, boosted by immigration, grows relentlessly. What do the Dutch want most - cows or houses? Will there be any room in the future for the ever-shrinking patches of nature? And in a hungry world, shouldn't the country concentrate on one of the things it's best at - feeding people? Tim Whewell travels through a country that must make big choices, quickly. (image: Dutch dairy farmer Erik Luiten feeds a new calf. Credit: Tim Whewell/BBC)























Milton Nkosi: The apartheid child who changed Africa’s story
Aug 13 2020 26 mins  
As a child of Soweto, apartheid South Africa’s most notorious black township, Milton Nkosi could easily have become an embittered adult; in June 1976 he witnessed the Soweto uprising in which white police brutally suppressed protests by black schoolchildren, leading to many deaths. Yet, as apartheid began to collapse in the early 1990s, Milton found himself drawn into TV journalism; enabling him to question his former tormentors and helping viewers around the world to see the moral case for change. So began a career that took him from translator and fixer to producer and eventually, the head of bureau for the BBC’s news operation in South Africa, where he then sought to diversify coverage of a fast-changing continent. As Milton explains in this conversation with Owen Bennett-Jones, his humble beginnings turned out to be an asset: Among his childhood neighbours in Soweto were anti-apartheid activists including Nelson Mandela’s wife and children, many of whom would become valuable contacts. However, after the transition to democracy in 1994, Milton also had to ask uncomfortable questions of some of them, as claims of corruption emerged within the ANC government. Moral dilemmas such as this defined his working life: Is it even possible to be an impartial reporter when your subject might be a close associate? For Milton, the issues need to be seen in context. As he points out: “Nobody can ever justify apartheid based on the mistakes of the post-apartheid leaders”. Produced by Michael Gallagher Editor Bridget Harney Image: (Milton Nkosi) Christian Parkinson
















The many colours of Raqqa
Jul 23 2020 26 mins  
The untold story of Abood Hamam, perhaps the only photojournalist to have worked under every major force in Syria's war - and lived to tell the tale. At the start of the uprising he was head of photography for the state news agency, SANA, taking official shots of President Assad and his wife Asma by day - and secretly filming opposition attacks by night. Later he defected and returned to his home town, Raqqa, where various rebel groups were competing for control. Other journalists fled when the terrorists of so-called Islamic State (IS) took over, but Abood stayed - and was asked by IS to film its victory parade. He sent pictures of life under IS to agencies all over the world - using a pseudonym. As the bombing campaign by the anti-IS coalition intensified, Abood moved away - but returned later to record the heartbreaking destruction - but also the slow return of life, and colour, to the streets. For months, he roamed through the ruins with his camera, seeing himself as ”the guardian of the city." Raqqa's future is still very uncertain, but Abood now wants everyone to see his pictures, which he posts on Facebook, and know his real name. He hopes the colours he's showing will tempt the thousands of families who've fled Raqqa to return home, and rebuild their lives, and their city. Reporter: Tim Whewell Producer: Mohamad Chreyteh Sound mix: James Beard Production coordinator: Gemma Ashman Editor: Bridget Harney (Image: Children running in Raqqa, 2019. Credit: Abood Hamam)







What the sediment revealed in Lebanon
Jul 16 2020 26 mins  
The discovery of a mysterious delivery of defective, sediment-heavy fuel intended to generate electricity in Lebanon has sparked a huge scandal in the country. More than two dozen people, including senior officials, have been charged with various alleged crimes including bribery, fraud, money-laundering and forging documents. Lebanon has already been in uproar since last autumn, with hundreds of thousands of people involved in street protests demanding the overthrow of the entire political elite – and now the country’s suffering its worst economic crisis in decades. The national currency has collapsed and more than a third of the workforce is unemployed. Electricity shortages – long a problem in Lebanon - have become still more acute, with whole towns plunged into darkness for long periods – and the row over the suspect oil delivery has exacerbated the problem. Now the investigation into the tainted fuel has raised questions about the original deal to import heavy fuel oil – and Lebanese hope it will eventually help explain why they’ve suffered black-outs for so long. Did officials try to cover up the presence of sediment in the shipment? How did the original much-criticised 2005 fuel contract come about? And what do the revelations tell us about the shadowy world of oil trading that the world relies on? Reporters Tim Whewell and Mohamad Chreyteh investigate. (Image: Zouk power station, Lebanon – where the tainted fuel shipment was first discovered. Credit: Joseph Eid/AFP via Getty Images)








































































In search of the quarter-life crisis
Apr 21 2020 50 mins  
We’re told that our twenties are a time when we’re meant to be finding ourselves, having fun, living our best lives and making the most of our freedom before settling down. But are the twenties really like this for millennials around the world? You might have heard of the midlife crisis, said to hit anywhere between a person’s forties and early fifties. But in this programme, we’re trying to find out whether there’s such a thing as a quarter-life crisis. We’ll hear from young people about their experiences of the crisis and the pressures they say led them to it, from finding a fulfilling job, to landing the perfect partner, to fears they’ll never be able to buy a house and start to actually ‘adult’. We’ll hear experiences from Moscow, Cairo, New York, and London to see if this really is a worldwide issue. We’ll speak to experts about the evidence for whether it actually exists, including a pscyhologist who calls the quarter-life crisis a ‘global phenomenon’. Is this true, or are millennials just moaning and trying to find a new label for problems every generation has faced? We’ll dig in to the reasons people are feeling in crisis, and hear words of wisdom from those who have overcome it. This documentary is airing as part of Life Changes, a series of programmes and features across the BBC’s global networks exploring the theme of change - how we change ourselves, our lives, and how we respond to changes in the world around us. Reporting from across the world - from Ethiopia, Korea, Rwanda and Paraguay to Egypt, the US and Russia – it covers everything from sexuality to sustainability, from peace to war, and from neurodiversity to migration. Presented by Katerina Venediktova. Produced by Eleanor Layhe for BBC World Service.













ADHD and me
Apr 08 2020 27 mins  
For many years ADHD was dismissed by sceptics as a dubious condition. Later, when it achieved recognition, if not acceptance, the focus was very much on the negative impact it had on the lives of people it affected and their close ones. As Saeedeh Hashemi - herself diagnosed with ADHD - will show, there is now increasing understanding that living with the condition also brings positives. Saeedeh will meet others who, for all the downsides of the disorder, feel that life without it would be like “living cramped within a frame” and who would not give it up as it has fundamentally shaped their personalities. She will also talk to top medical professionals to hear how they are seeking to recognise the positive potential of ADHD and what innovative ways of treating the condition they’re suggesting. The modern working environment has shifted and employers are finally embracing neuro-diversity as a vital tool in building effective teams. Saeedeh will explore what it actually means, how the thinking about workflow, work space and team work reflects the needs of people with the condition and allows them to grow to the best of their potential and to the benefit of business. The programme, of course, certainly won’t suggest that ADHD is entirely a gift. It will, however, seek to emphasise that alongside negatives come strengths and qualities that can help propel individuals to enormous personal success, and how society and businesses are beginning to see it as an opportunity rather than a disadvantage. This documentary is airing as part of Life Changes, a series of programmes and features across the BBC’s global TV, radio, social and online networks exploring the theme of change - how we change ourselves, our lives, and how we respond to changes in the world around us. Reporting from across the world - from Ethiopia, Korea, Rwanda and Paraguay to Egypt, the US and Russia – the documentaries and digital stories will cover a diverse range of topics, from sexuality to sustainability, from peace to war, and from neurodiversity to migration.




Germany's refugee teachers
Apr 04 2020 50 mins  
Five years on from the refugee crisis of 2015, Germany is now home to over a million refugees. Naomi Scherbel-Ball explores a classroom experiment with a difference: a scheme to retrain refugee teachers and place them in German schools, to help the country with a shortage of 40,000 teachers. Naomi visits a school in Mönchengladbach in Western Germany, where Mustafa Hammal teaches English. Mustafa, an English teacher with eight years of experience, fled the civil war in Syria with his family in 2015. Arriving in Germany, he discovered a teacher retraining programme designed to harness the skills that refugee teachers bring with them. Miriam Vock, an educational psychologist at Potsdam University, transports us back to the summer of 2015. Amidst the chaos of the refugee crisis, she wondered if there might be some teachers among the refugees arriving in Germany. A year later, the first refugee teacher retraining course was launched - an idea that inspired a number of other pilot courses across Germany. Retraining as a teacher in a system with rigid set qualifications is particularly challenging, however, and graduates are finding it difficult to find work. The success of the far-right Alternative for Germany, now the country’s main opposition party, has raised the stakes for refugees trying to integrate. As Germany struggles with an ageing population and a severe labour shortage, Naomi asks if refugees can fill the gap. This documentary is airing as part of Life Changes, a series of programmes and features across the BBC’s global TV, radio, social and online networks exploring the theme of change - how we change ourselves, our lives, and how we respond to changes in the world around us. Reporting from across the world - from Ethiopia, Korea, Rwanda and Paraguay to Egypt, the US and Russia – the documentaries and digital stories will cover a diverse range of topics, from sexuality to sustainability, from peace to war, and from neurodiversity to migration.













































































Russian women fight back
Nov 21 2019 26 mins  
Domestic abuse in Russia is endemic with thousands of women dying at the hands of their partners every year. Despite this a controversial law was passed in 2017, which scrapped prison sentences for first-time abusers. Beatings that do not cause broken bones or concussion are now treated as administrative offences rather than crimes. As one activist puts it: “the punishment for beating your wife now feels like paying a parking ticket.” But Russian society is waking up to the crisis. The case of three girls - the Khachaturyan sisters - who face long prison sentences for murdering their tyrannical father, has sparked mass protests. More than 300,000 people have signed an online petition urging prosecutors to drop the murder charges. The girls’ mother tells reporter Lucy Ash that her daughters were acting in self-defence against a man who had abused them physically, emotionally and sexually for years. Lucy also meets the mother of a woman stabbed to death by her husband who was discovered in her blood soaked bed by her seven year old son. In all three cases, the frightened women had appealed to the police but to no avail. These tragedies might have been averted if only the authorities had taken earlier warnings seriously. In Moscow, Lucy talks to activists who are fighting back by supporting victims, pushing for legal reforms and drawing attention to the cause through art, video games and social media. And she meets a lone feminist MP in the Russian Duma who is trying to bring in restraining orders for violent husbands, boyfriends and family members. Today Russia has no such laws and domestic violence is not a standalone offence in either the criminal or the civil code. (Image: Woman holding sign saying “What is it for? Stop violence!” at a rally in support of the Khachaturyan sisters. Credit: Sergei Konkov\TASS via Getty Images)












Being black in Italy
Oct 24 2019 26 mins  
Dickens Olewe meets Italy’s first and only black senator, Tony Iwobi, and hears how a new generation of black Italians are fighting to claim their place in a society that’s still very white. Born and raised in Nigeria, Senator Iwobi moved to Italy as a young man and carved out a successful career in business. Now he’s immigration spokesperson for the right-wing Lega party and wants to stop the illegal flow of migrants coming to Italy from Africa. BBC Africa journalist Dickens Olewe follows Iwobi in the Senate in Rome and finds out what it’s like to be black in a party that’s widely perceived as racist. At a festival on the bank of the River Tiber, Dickens meets aspiring politician Paolo Diop from the Far-Right Brothers of Italy. Diop moved to Italy from Senegal as a baby and describes himself as “an Italian nationalist and an African nationalist” who wants to “make Africa great” by sending migrants home. We also meet the young black activists coming of age in the midst of the migrant crisis and the rise of the political right. Born and bred in Italy, they feel deeply Italian but are not always recognised as such - among them the rapper Tommy Kuti whose work explores his Afro-Italian identity, the founder of Milan’s Afro Fashion Week Michelle Francine Ngonmo and the writer Igiaba Scego, whose parents grew up in one of Italy’s African colonies. Producer: Helen Grady (Image: Afro-Italian rapper and musician Tommy Kuti in Milan. Credit: Helen Grady/BBC)
































Museum of Lost Objects: The fire that scorched Brazil’s history
Sep 01 2019 59 mins  
It’s been a year since Brazil’s National Museum burned down in a fire. Not only was its collection one of the most extraordinary in the world, but Brazil’s entire history ran through the museum. On the second floor you could meet the prehistoric skeleton that was the ‘mother’ of all Brazilians; on the third, listen to Amazonian folklore about exploding jaguars; and downstairs, slide into the slippers of a slave king. Now, the only intact artefact on site is a huge iron rock from outer space – the Bendego meteorite. The National Museum and its precious archive of Brazil’s past may be in ruins, but amongst the ashes there’s a battle to revive it. Presenter: Kanishk Tharoor Producer: Maryam Maruf With thanks to Roberta Fortuna Contributors: Cahe Rodrigues, carnival director; Dom João, photographer and descendent of Brazil’s last emperor; Laurentino Gomes, journalist and author; Monica Lima, historian; Mariza Carvalho Soares, historian and museum curator; Aparecida Vilaça, anthropologist and author of Paletó and Me; Bernabau Tikuna, linguist; Tonico Benetiz, anthropologist; Murilo Bastos, bio-archaeologist; Luciana Carvalho, paleontologist and deputy director of rescue Museu Nacional; Sergio Azevedo, paleontologist and director of Museu Nacional’s 3D printing lab Voice over performances by: Fernando Duarte, Marco Silva, Silvia Salek; Thomas Pappon Picture: Brazil’s National Museum – or Museu Nacional – on fire September, 2018 Credit: Getty Images



























Germany’s climate change frontline
Jul 11 2019 26 mins  
The beautiful Hambacher Forest is disappearing. Over the past four decades, it has been slowly devoured by a voracious coalmine in the German Rhineland. The forest has become a powerful symbol of climate change resistance. Protesters have been staging a last stand to protect the trees. But they have arrived too late to prevent the demolition of two villages that also stand in the way of the mine’s relentless progress. Manheim has become a ghost village. Most of the 1600 residents have now moved out. Many of the houses have already been pulled down. But a few people still live there against a backdrop of diggers pulling their village apart. Some are sad that the kart track where local boy Michael Schumacher learned to drive is likely to fall victim to the excavators. And many felt threatened last year by the protesters, in hoodies and face masks, when they moved into to occupy empty houses. Yet the protesters seem to have the German government on their side. It recently commissioned a report, which recommended Germany stop burning coal by 2038 in order to meet emissions targets. That’s a problem for RWE, the company that owns the mine and nearby power stations. It’s going to keep digging for as long as it can. Tim Mansel joins the protesters for their monthly gathering on the forest edge; meets the villagers who simply want a quiet life, away from the front line; and asks RWE if it will ever stop mining. (Photo: Protesters defending the Hambacher Forest. Credit: Tim Mansel/BBC)















3.8 • 5 Ratings

jennruth Sep 04 2020
Excellent podcast






sensorship Aug 19 2020
👍

Nomadenv Aug 11 2020
Really interesting. Thank you

edgy games May 28 2020
Terrible reporting, hideously biased. The BBC simply don't give voice to anyone criticizing the current lockdown.

ecm May 27 2020
A variable podcast but when a brilliant story hits the feed, it's going to be something you won't hear anywhere else. A treasure of global storytelling