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The Documentary Podcast

Author: BBC World Service

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A window into our world, through in-depth storytelling from the BBC. Investigating, reporting and uncovering true stories from everywhere. Award-winning journalism, unheard voices, amazing culture and global issues.

From far-right voters in Europe, to the last Christians of Gaza, to the rise of the Myanmar resistance, to the Three Million mini-series on the Bengal Famine, The Documentary investigates major global stories.

We delve into social media, take you into the minds of the world’s most creative people and explore personal approaches to spirituality. Every week, we also bring together people from around the globe to discuss how news stories are affecting their lives.

A new episode most days, all year round. From our BBC World Service teams at: Assignment, Heart and Soul, In the Studio, OS Conversations, The Fifth Floor and Trending.

2243 Episodes
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Writer Alvin Hall returns to the world he grew up in, to shed light on the political present and share a haunting portrait of a disappearing way of life. This is Wakulla County, Florida and it is an America most people do not know. It has long been deeply rural, a place of unspoilt wilderness and incredible natural beauty. But it has also been a place with a violent history of racial segregation and oppression. The security Alvin experienced as a child growing up in one of the county's self-sufficient Black “village” communities contrasts with horrific racial violence he has only gained knowledge of as an adult. But change is coming. Since Alvin’s last visit almost 10 years ago unprecedented development has swept the county and it seems as if decades of racial division might really be starting to wear away. Is this really the beginning of the end?
10 years ago, IS proclaimed the creation of an Islamic State or Caliphate in Iraq and Syria. They went on to dominate headlines for years, committing terrible attacks and atrocities in the Middle East and beyond. Despite losing territory in 2019, the group still exists and is active in many countries around the world. Jihadist media specialist Mina Al-Lami analyses IS' most recent activities and the threats posed by them and other militant groups.Produced by Caroline Ferguson and Alice Gioia.(Photo: Faranak Amidi. Credit: Tricia Yourkevich)
The war in Ukraine has contributed to a heightened awareness of security in parts of Europe, and in some countries, the reintroduction of different forms of national service has become a debate once again. In the UK, the ruling Conservative party has promised a system of national service if re-elected. In Italy too, deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini has introduced a controversial bill to bring back mandatory military service. In Germany, the defence minister has presented a proposal for selective military service focused on volunteers to boost its depleted armed forces. Our conversations in this edition bring people together who have completed national service in some form.
This special programme is dedicated to the team of scientists and support staff isolated at British research stations in the Antarctic midwinter. For the staff living at three British Antarctic Survey research stations (Rothera, Bird Island and South Georgia), and at other national bases across the frozen continent, midwinter is a special time. With no sunlight, Antarctica is at its coldest and those stationed on the frozen continent face months of total isolation. Midwinter celebrations at the British research stations include a feast, exchange of presents, watching the 1982 horror film The Thing (where an alien monster terrorises an Antarctic base) and listening - on short wave - to the BBC’s Midwinter Broadcast. Presenter Cerys Matthews features messages from family and friends at home, as well as music requests from Antarctica.
Ukraine to Korea

Ukraine to Korea

2024-06-2028:40

Over 800 ethnically-Korean refugees fled Ukraine for Koryo Village in South Korea’s Gwangju province following Russia’s invasion. Many Koryoin are women and children who escaped Ukraine when male family members were drafted. Some have secured legal status and jobs, while others await document processing. They are descendants of Koreans who fled to the Soviet Union during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Journalist So Jeong Lee visits the village, observing new arrivals and a school where children learn Korean. But recent elections have led to new government policies which will impact the Koryoin.
Fighters from dissident armed groups in Colombia are using TikTok to glorify their lives as guerrillas and recruit youngsters. These armed groups did not like the terms of a peace treaty negotiated between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the government in 2016, and they kept fighting against the Colombian government. Videos glorifying life inside the guerrilla: money, cars, guns, women, community and purpose, have struck a chord with teens, particularly in rural areas like the Cauca region in west Colombia. So how popular are these TikToks and what does it mean for Colombia?
Is Russia Europe’s last empire? Is its invasion of Ukraine a “colonial war”? Is “decolonising” the country the only way of ensuring it stops being a threat to its neighbours and world peace?Since last year, “decolonising Russia” has become a buzz-phrase in Ukraine and other former members of the soviet union, among many Western strategists and politicians, Russian studies experts – and Russia’s own liberal opposition and ethnic minorities.And that’s triggered a vigorous debate about whether the term “decolonisation” is really relevant to Russia – and what it means. Is it about challenging the “imperial mindset” of its rulers – and perhaps of every ordinary Russian? Or perhaps it means dismembering the country itself?In “Assignment: Decolonising Russia” Tim Whewell dissects a new and vital controversy with the help of historians, policy makers and activists in the former Soviet Union, the West and the Global South.
For artist Nazanin Moradi, who was brought up in Iran where women are “second-class citizens in every sense,” reversing the “unfair” gender roles is paramount. In her new project, the multidisciplinary artist challenges male domination and toxic masculinity, within a fragmented historical context where fantasy meets rebellion. She does this by changing the narrative of ancient Mesopotamian mythology, fixating on the legendary battle where the supremely powerful dragon goddess of oceans Tiamat, was killed by the storm god Marduk. Sahar Zand spends time with Nazanin as she embarks on the ambitious project.
Eighty years ago at least three million Indians, who were British subjects, died in the Bengal Famine. But today different generations in Britain are coming to terms with this difficult past. Kavita Puri meets Susannah Herbert the granddaughter of Sir John Herbert, the governor of Bengal, who is only just learning about her grandfather's role in the famine. Initially she feels shame, but discoveries in her family archive change her perspective. A 97 year-old British man makes a surprising revelation about his role in the Bengal famine. And three generations on, British Bengalis mark the famine in Britain, in an unexpected way. To hear the other episodes in the mini-series Three Million, scroll down to 23 February 2024.
Would you turn to AI to create your perfect partner? Wanqing Zhang from the BBC Global China Unit has been looking into an AI dating trend that is going viral in China. Plus, Daria Taradai from BBC Ukraine tells us what it's like to live and work with power cuts in Kyiv. Produced by Caroline Ferguson and Alice Gioia. (Photo: Faranak Amidi. Credit: Tricia Yourkevich)
Politics in Europe took a shift to the right following the recent European parliamentary elections, with far-right parties making gains in several countries, most notably France. The size of victory for the opposition National Rally Party led President Macron to call a snap national election. We bring together two men who support Marine Le Pen’s far-right party to discuss what’s informing their views. A major concern, they say, is fear about crime and security, which causes some people to carry knives.
Losing Attar

Losing Attar

2024-06-1428:271

Attar is the essential oil that is produced when aromatics like jasmine and sandalwood are pressed and distilled. It has been a feature of life in India, as well as many other parts of the world, for over 5,000 years, and it has been the defining industry of the Indian city of Kannauj for over a thousand. But whereas once this ancient discipline employed nearly all the city’s residents, it’s now suffering severely from the impact of climate change and the rise of synthetic perfumes. Journalist Jigyasa Mishra meets the farmers, flower pickers and traditional perfumers of Kannauj to better understand the way of life attar sustains and to ask: can anything be done to reverse the trend?Producers: Jigyasa Mishra and Artemis IrvineA Whistledown Production for BBC World Service
George Antone is a member of the only Roman Catholic Church in Gaza, part of a dwindling Christian community whose roots in this area, go back to the 4th Century. When war broke out in October 2023, he is convinced that staying in Gaza City is the right option - for safety and to continue bearing witness to Jesus in this part of the world. His is the first family to move into the compound of the Holy Family Church and he helps lead the parish through the next months as they suffer deaths of loved ones, near starvation and destruction of their homes. Throughout it all, he keeps in contact with BBC Producer Catherine Murray sending her WhatsApp messages from a warzone.
Jusper Machogu is a farmer from south-western Kenya who describes himself as a “climate sceptic”. He wrongly claims that climate change is a “scam” or a “hoax” designed to hold Africa back. On social media, he has also become known as a staunch defender of fossil fuel exploration in Africa. His views have caught the eye of those in the West who, like him, deny the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming. They have helped him grow his following and spread his message globally. But, in doing so, has Mr Machogu unwittingly become a tool for the fossil fuel industry? How dangerous is the message of social media influencers like him?
Greystones made global headlines a year ago when, concerned by rising anxiety levels among their pupils, the headteachers from all the primary schools in the town invited parents to sign a voluntary pact or code; not to buy their child a smartphone before they moved up to secondary school. In Ireland that’s usually at age 12. Beth McLeod talks to teachers, pupils and parents about their reaction to the initiative. Has there been any backlash? At one of the town’s secondary schools she meets an assistant headteacher who is passionately demanding a culture change around phone use for older students too, warning parents that although they think they are giving their children access to the internet, they are really giving the internet access to their children. She speaks to teenagers about their views on what is the right age to be on social media and asks the Irish Health Minister what the government is doing to hold tech companies to account.
Released in 2017, the video game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice saw players take control of dark-age warrior Senua as she battled to rescue the soul of her dead lover from the Norse underworld. The action-adventure game from British studio Ninja Theory won awards for its gameplay, acting and storytelling, as well as plaudits for its nuanced and well-researched depiction of psychosis. German actor Melina Juergens was awarded a Bafta for her performance as the titular character. Now studio head Dominic Matthews and his team are working on the sequel, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II. Nathan Jones joins Dominic, Melina and the rest of the team in Cambridge as they tell this next chapter of their story.
Greening the Hajj

Greening the Hajj

2024-06-0928:59

The Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, attracted no fewer than two million pilgrims in 2023. But this pilgrim boom has an environmental downside: climate scientists are warning that the five-day Hajj alone, with its bargain flights, hotels, catering and local transport, produces over 1.8 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, roughly the amount New York City emits every two weeks. Yet the Saudi government has plans to go much bigger still: by 2030, they want 30 million pilgrims a year to take part in the Hajj and Umrah. Zubeida Malik asks what the Saudi authorities, local groups and campaigners, religious scholars and the pilgrims themselves can do to reduce the environmental footprint of one of the largest religious gatherings on the planet.
For the hundreds of people who live in a cluster of villages between India and Pakistan, a map drawn up long ago still causes daily struggles. Punjab - the land of the five rivers - was carved up to create Pakistan during The Partition of 1947 when India gained its independence. Two rivers went to Pakistan, two stayed with India and one, the Ravi, crosses both countries. For 72 years, communities who live by the Ravi on the Indian side have been asking for a permanent bridge, so they can access hospitals, schools, shops, banks. What they have is a makeshift pontoon bridge, which has to be dismantled for the monsoon season. Journalist Chhavi Sachdev travels to the western part of India to meet the Indian people whose lives are shaped by the Ravi river.
The election of Mexico's President Claudia Sheinbaum is a moment of history. For the first time, a woman is in charge of the country. Host James Reynolds travels around the country hearing about the challenges facing the new president through the lives and concerns and hopes of the people he spoke to. Many live in fear of criminal cartels and armed gangs, and women feel unsafe on the streets. Ricardo, whose brother was abducted and sister was murdered, is afraid to go out with his daughters. In a migration camp in Tijuana, a couple with two young daughters describe how they left their hometown after receiving death threats from a cartel and Ana, who wants to be a doctor, hopes a woman in power will make a difference.
'Spiritual but not religious’ is the fastest growing faith category amongst Gen Z and Millennials around the world. However, in Nigeria, where most people identify as either Christian or Muslim, questioning doctrine or exploring alternative beliefs is still often seen as taboo. Kamsy and Ore were both raised in evangelical Christian households, but began questioning their faith in their early 20s. Separately, they began reading about other belief systems, such as Judaism, Buddhism and traditional African religions, and posting their thoughts and experiences on social media. Neither were prepared for the backlash they received. When the two of them finally connected, they bonded over how lonely their ‘deconstruction’ journeys had been. So they created a WhatsApp group for others like them. Today, The Table defines itself as a community for the irreligious yet spiritual, and aims to provide a space for connection and discussion free from the dogma.
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Comments (267)

Sven Janssen

Israel's genocide campaign in Gaza is estimated to have generated between 420,265 and 652,552 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) so far - equivalent to burning more than 1.5 million barrels of oi

Jun 9th
Reply

Sven Janssen

I wonder if the BBC still does actual journalism, or if you just jump through hoops for your Zionist puppeteers

Jun 9th
Reply

Sven Janssen

never forget to say Free Palestine ✌🏻🍉

Apr 17th
Reply

Jason L

Informative but did not enjoy. Felt it is noisy. Unable to connect with the presenters in the early part of the podcast.

Mar 24th
Reply

Sven Janssen

Terrible that we are still creating millions of refugees daily. And never forget to say free Palestine

Mar 5th
Reply

Clarence The Potato

.

Feb 21st
Reply

Sven Janssen

Free Palestine 🇵🇸🍉 and shame on the BBC for your biased reporting

Feb 12th
Reply

Afra Tanzeem

💚WATCH>>ᗪOᗯᑎᒪOᗩᗪ>>LINK>👉https://co.fastmovies.org

Jan 29th
Reply

Sven Janssen

it's not just a humanitarian crisis, it's a genocide. FTFY BBC

Jan 27th
Reply

Sven Janssen

Palestinian blood is on Saudi hands. #FreePalestine #FromTheRiverToTheSea

Jan 1st
Reply

Sven Janssen

don't let the IOF get their bloodstained hands anywhere near it

Dec 8th
Reply

Sven Janssen

good riddance to him

Dec 4th
Reply

Sven Janssen

Israel has now killed more UN workers than it has Hamas fighters. Perhaps a rebrand is in order? "Israel's War Against the UN" seems more accurate

Nov 26th
Reply

Sven Janssen

This is irresponsible reporting. This is not a war between Israel and Hamas. This is an Israeli genocide of the Palestinian people that Zionists are calling a war. I've come to expect this from the national broadcaster of the country that invented racism and concentration camps

Nov 25th
Reply

Sven Janssen

You will soon learn that the atrocities of October 7 were carried out with full knowledge and backing of the IOF and US forces. #FreePalestine #FromTheRiverToTheSea 🇵🇸🍉🇿🇦

Nov 18th
Reply

Sven Janssen

what do you mean "the war"? This doesn't qualify as a war. it's a genocide, please be journalists. I used to respect the BBC

Nov 18th
Reply

Sven Janssen

Free Palestine 🇵🇸 End the Genocide 🍉

Nov 6th
Reply

plant nerd guy

whoa !! i started a small tree planting project in schools in Accra right before covid. how can i get involved in the future planning of re greening accra

Oct 6th
Reply

Sina Ahmadpour

🐵

Sep 29th
Reply

Joan Heelan

x

Aug 19th
Reply