Saturday, May 26, 2007

Saturday, May 12, 2007

First And Last

Two young soldiers died in battle at Mons, Belgium in World War I. In most respects, their lives and deaths were representative of the hundreds of thousands who died in the Great War. But in one respect they are unique.
Private John Parr, aged 20 years old, from Middlesex, England, was the first Allied soldier to die in the Great War. Four years later Private George Price, aged 25, from Nova Scotia in Canada was the last. Privates Parr and Price never met. But the circumstances of their deaths linked their lives for eternity. "Flanders: First and Last" tells their stories and in so doing tells the story of the War itself.
The duration of a conventional war is defined by the start of the first encounter to the end of the last encounter. And in every war, one soldier has the misfortune to be the first to die and another has perhaps the greater misfortune to be the last. First and Last examines one of the most terrible conflicts in modern history, the First World War, from this new viewpoint.
The story starts and ends in the graceful seclusion of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery of St Symphorien in the Mons suburb now known as Hainaut, Belgium. Two marble headstones, just several, orderly rows apart, mark the final resting places of the first and last British and Commonwealth soldiers to have been killed in the First World War. The first was British the last was a Canadian. This coincidence of time and place forms an evocative platform as the film tracks these young men through their last hours on earth before their tragic deaths in action.
Through painstaking original research , the facts of their lives and last days are pieced together from personal letters, diaries, private journals, regimental histories and archive, and new interviews. The circumstances of lives and deaths of the two men are recovered and placed in context against the broad tapestry of war. What emerges are not portraits of two "war heroes" but two ordinary men who were sucked into the vortex of the war only to become by tragic quirks of fate, book ends - the first and last to die.
First and Last combines the stories of two men, separated by four long years of war, but linked forever by setting and significance.

1949: Berlin blockade lifted

On this day, an early battle of the Cold War ends when the USSR lifts its blockade against West Berlin. In June 1948, in an attempt to discourage the Western powers from maintaining the sovereignty of West Berlin, the USSR imposed blockades on routes to Berlin through Soviet occupation zones in East Germany. Although land routes were blocked, the Soviets would not risk shooting down planes, and the West undertook a massive airlift of coal, food, and supplies. Flights were made around the clock, and at the height of the Berlin Airlift, planes were landing in the city every three minutes. The defeated blockade was lifted on May 12, 1949.
British pop star Mick Jagger marries Bianca Oerez Morena de Macias.
Minimum voting age in Britain is lowered from 21 to 18.
Pop Classic release: 'Whiter Shade of Pale' by British group Procul Harem.
Founding of the United States of Congo with Leopoldville its federal capital.
Ending of the Russian blockade of Berlin after 11 months. The Berlin Airlift by the Allies, including Britain & United States, had cost £200m.
World War II: the German commander in North Africa, General von Arnim, surrenders to the Allies.
Coronation of King George VI of England at Westminster Abbey in London.
A self-help group, Alcoholics Anonymous, is launched in Ohio, USA by its founder William Wilson.
The body of Charles A.Lindbergh's kidnapped baby boy is found by a truck driver in a wood just five miles from his home. The 20 month old boy had been missing for 73 days.
TUC call off the General Strike in Britain.
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundson is among a group of three to cross the North Pole in an airship. His companions are Italian Umberto Nobile and American Lincoln Ellsworth.
Josef Pilsudski leads a successful military coup against the government in Poland.
In Berlin, Paul von Hindenburg is sworn in as President.
First performance of Bela Bartok's ballet 'The Wooden Prince' in Budapest.
USA President Wilson demands compensation for Germany sinking the liner the Lusitania - sunk by torpedo off the Irish Coast killing at least 1200 people including women and children..
Reports from Balkans of Serbian atrocities to Albanian Moslems.
King and Queen of Britain open the Festival of Empire at the Crystal Palace in South London.
Halley's Comet causes widespread concern that it is responsible for bad weather.
The pro-British magazine John Bull is published by MP Horatio Bottomley.
Manitoba is bought from the Hudson Bay Company by the Dominion of Canada and made a province.
British commander Sir Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, defeats the French at Oporto - forcing Napoleon to retreat from Portugal.
During the American War of Independence, the British occupy Charles Town (later named Charleston) in South Carolina after a two-month siege.
Spanish Armada sets sail from Lisbon (by order of Philip II of Spain) to invade England. It consists of approx 130 ships and 30,000 men. Less than half the ships finally return to Spain after being defeated at sea.
In England, Sir Francis Weston, Mark Smeaton and several other alleged lovers of Anne Boleyn, wife of King Henry VIII, are tried for treason. All are executed on May 12th

The Moors

In this fascinating documentary, Bettany Hughes explores the world of the mysterious and misunderstood Moors, the Islamic society who ruled in Spain for seven hundred years. In 711 AD an Arab-led Muslim army, composed principally of recently converted North African Beber tribesmen, crossed the straits of Gibraltar and invaded Spain. The conquest brought a decisive end to ‘Visigoth Hispania’; it was part of a much larger series of ‘Arab’ conquests that included Syria, Iraq and Persia.
The Arab-Muslim Empire was based on a dynamic religious creed. Yet Christians and Jews were permitted to keep their faith; the Umayyad rulers of Iberia recognised that religious tolerance and cultural exchange would contribute to enduring success. Al-Andalus – as Muslin Hispania became known – briefly became the strongest state in Europe. The Moors built a rich and powerful society. Its capital, Cordoba was the largest and most civilised city in Europe, with hospitals, libraries and public infrastructure light years ahead of anything in England at the time.
Amongst the many things that the Muslims introduced to Europe at this time were; the concept of romantic love, mathematics and the numbers we use today, advanced astronomy and medical practices, fine dining, paper, deodorant and erection creams as well as a huge body of classical Greek texts which had been lost to the rest of Europe for centuries. This wasn't the rigid, ferocious Islam of our imaginations, but a progressive, sensuous and intellectually curious culture, which has influenced European life in ways that we are only just beginning to understand.

DAYS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: 12th September 1683 - The Siege Of Vienna

The Battle of Vienna was the first large-scale battle of the Habsburg-Ottoman Wars. It had important and far-reaching consequences. This programme assesses how different world history could have been if the Ottoman Empire had emerged victorious.
On 12th September 1683, the Turks were at the gates of Vienna. The Austrian defenders had little hope in the face of superior numbers of Ottoman troops commanded by Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha. The siege had started two months earlier, on 14th July 1683. Reinforcements in the shape of Polish troops under King Jan III Sobieski were worryingly far away.
However, the Austrian forces were eventually saved by the arrival of a united relief army of 70,000 men. The King of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been made Commander in Chief of his own 30,000-man Polish forces and the 40,000 troops of Habsburg and their allies, led by Charles V, Duke of Lorraine. The Polish knights managed to break through the Turkish lines and liberate the city from the stranglehold of the siege.
However, if Vienna had fallen, would it mean that the predominantly Christian Europe that we know today would be deeply influenced by Islam? The battle marked the turning point in the three hundred year struggle between the forces of the Central European kingdoms and the Ottoman Empire.
Over the sixteen years following the battle, the Habsburgs of Austria and their allies gradually occupied and dominated southern Hungary and Transylvania, which had been largely cleared by the Turkish forces. The battle is seen by many historians as marking the beginning of the decline of the Ottoman Empire and marking the historic end of Turkish expansion into south-eastern Europe.

The Final Report: Watergate

We reveal how a bungled burglary, and the accompanying cover-up campaign, led to the demise of Richard Nixon, the American president, in 1974.
On 17th June 1972, police arrested five burglars who were in the process of breaking into Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington. At first, the break-in was no more than a local police blotter story. However, suspicious reporters soon linked the burglars to the CIA, the FBI, the ‘Committee to Re-elect the President’ and even the White House itself.
For a time, the Watergate story all but vanished from the newsstands. Yet Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein continued their investigation, meeting with their confidential source, FBI Associate Director Mark Felt. To most of the Washington Post staff, he was known simply as ‘Deep Throat’. We uncover Felt’s hidden agenda, exploring what drove him to attack Nixon.
In November 1972, Americans re-elected Nixon. He won forty-nine states in a landslide victory over George McGovern of South Dakota. We reveal the extent of the political sabotage that led up to the landmark 1972 election. In the process, we uncover another burglary - one which would prove infinitely more damaging to the White House.
In the spring of 1973, the Senate began televising its hearings on the Watergate scandal. The nation sat transfixed before their televisions as John W. Dean III, the President’s former legal counsel, effectively accused Nixon of being a criminal. In his questioning of Dean, Senator Howard Baker famously asked: "What did the President know and when did he know it?"
Less than a month after Dean's testimony, former White House aide Alexander Butterfield told the Senate Watergate Committee that President Nixon had a secret taping system in the Oval Office. During the programme, Alexander Butterfield reveals the back-story that lead up to this infamous moment. After Butterfield revealed the existence of the White House tapes, Richard Nixon did not destroy them. We interview Leonard Garment, Nixon’s legal counsel, who exposes the real justification behind keeping the evidence that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency.

In 1974, Richard Nixon left the White House for the last time. The programme concludes by looking more broadly at the lasting effect the scandal has had on the presidency.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


The epic war drama from the director of Robocop and Basic Instinct now comes to you to buy on DVD.

It is September 1944 and Rachel Stein, a beautiful yet feisty Jewish chanteuse, has fled Nazi Germany for the relative safety of the Netherlands. Hoping to be reunited with her family, she and many other refugees are ambushed by Nazis. Everyone, including her family, are killed. As sole survivor, Rachel manages to meet up with the Dutch Resistance and turn her into a double agent. She is assigned to seduce the senior officer Munze (Sebastian Koch) in order to infiltrate the enemy's headquarters. However, it soon becomes a dangerous game of double-dealing and betrayal, threatening her true identity and her life.Having been one of the most successful Dutch directors ever, Paul Verhoeven left Holland for Hollywood where he found international acclaim with blockbusters such as Robocop, Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers. Over twenty years later, he returns to his native Netherlands for this epic drama of intrigue and survival, with the dramatic backdrop of Amsterdam at the tail end of the Second World War. The film is sumptuously shot by renowned cinematographer Karl Walter (Independence Day, Rob Roy).

With a growing number of international praise and awards, BLACK BOOK is a masterful film as powerful as Downfall and Hollywood's recent war epics such as Saving Private Ryan and Flags Of Our Fathers. Unforgettable suspense from a director at the peak of his power.

IRELAND'S NAZIS: Ireland's Nazis (Part 1 of 2)

This documentary addresses a controversial and frequently overlooked aspect of Irish history. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the country provided safe haven to a number of Nazi collaborators and war criminals. Protected by church and state, many made their homes in Ireland, or used it as a staging point for escape to America.

Veteran broadcaster Cathal O’Shannon conducts a unique and comprehensive exploration of these uncomfortable issues. O’Shannon has a personal interest in this story. During the Second World War, he was a member of the Royal Air Force. When he returned to Ireland following the defeat of the Axis powers, he became increasingly uneasy regarding the attitude of Irish political decision makers towards former Nazis.

In the first instalment of his two part series, O’Shannon examines the horrendous deeds of Andrija Artukovic, the Nazi Minister of the Interior in Croatia. Responsible for the deaths of over 1,000,000 men, women and children in concentration camps, Artukovic’s time in Ireland is still shrouded in mystery. The Department of Foreign Affairs refuses to release his file, while the Irish public remain unaware that such a man once resided in their country.

O’Shannon also delves into the activities of Celestine Laine, the former leader of Bezen Perrot, a Waffen SS unit responsible for the torture and murder of civilians in occupied Brittany. He also looks at the gruesome actions of Pieter Menten, who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Jews in Poland.

O’Shannon asks why the Irish government was prepared to harbour men such as Artukovic and Laine, while simultaneously refusing asylum to many Jewish refugees. He talks to historians and other experts, uncovers government documents and investigates the thorny issue of anti-Semitism in twentieth century Ireland.


A thrilling spy film that takes us from coldest World War II Russia to the height of the Cold War in London’s swinging sixties, JOY DIVISION is a sensational directorial debut from British director Reg Traviss, featuring a top notch cast headed by Ed Stoppard (The Pianist), Bernard Hill (The Lord of the Rings, Titanic) and Michelle Gayle (from Eastenders to pop stardom).

In the last days of World War II, teenager Thomas is forced into battle against the advancing Red Army. A time of pillage and unspeakable savagery amidst the shattered towns of the Third Reich, it is during one particular savage onslaught that he loses sight of Melanie, his first love and meets Astrid, a determined survivor. Together they join the vast exodus of refugees fleeing westwards. However, by a cruel twist, he is captured by the Russians and disappears behind the Iron Curtain which falls across Europe.
17 years later, and a graduate from an elite Soviet school, Thomas is recruited by the KGB and sent to London to infiltrate a Soviet spy ring which is at the centre of suspicion at the height of the Cold War.

Whilst leading a double life he meets and falls for Yvonne, a young artist who reawakens his suppressed passion for life. Forging a close allegiance with Dennis, his contact, he is moved by the older man’s growing disillusionment and the deadly threat it poses. As he is hunted by the British Secret Police, he slips further into the world of early 60’s London and develops a taste for freedom. But like he had as a youth, Thomas must again try to run.

As engrossing as it is fast-paced, JOY DIVISION is a story about memory, youth, identity and love amidst a backdrop of war. Recounted in a series of flashbacks, the film contains superb photography and a screenplay that draws you in from the first frame. With the addition of superb acting and deft directing, JOY DIVISION is a film you can’t afford to miss.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Engineering an Empire: Alexander the Great

The fifth century was a remarkable period in the history of Ancient Greece. During the golden ‘Age of Pericles’, a prolonged and incredibly productive burst of intellectual and architectural activity occurred.

Led by the city state of Athens, the world's first democracy, the Greeks charged to new and dazzling heights of accomplishment. Art and form combined with engineering to create some of the most incredible structures ever seen.

In Athens, Pericles masterminded the most costly and ambitious construction campaign which had ever been undertaken in the western world, creating a model city of temples, houses, market places, civic buildings and a highly innovative sanitation system. In 438 BC, the Parthenon was completed; it still stands today as an enduring symbol of Athenian democracy and innovation.

As Pericles strove to forge an Athenian empire, mistrust of his ambitions contributed to the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, which ended this ‘golden age’ and destroyed the political power of Athens. Sparta then became the leading Greek power until it was overthrown by Thebes between 378 BC and 371BC. The sporadic civil war raging within Greece allowed Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, to conquer the country.
With his insatiable appetite for territorial conquest and domination, Alexander the Great created a military empire that reached as far as India. As the Athenian experiment with democracy was brought to a bloody and decisive end, his armies carried Greek culture and values far abroad; his empire became known as the ‘Hellenistic’ world.
Greece's amazing engineering achievements and ideas are still with us today. Without the violent and controversial contribution which Alexander made to Greek history, it is perfectly possible that the country’s ‘golden era’ would have been little more than a footnote in history.

Barbarians: The Saxons

In this captivating instalment of ‘Barbarians’, we tell the sensational story of the Saxons – the Germanic tribe who once inhabited the Danish peninsula and northern Germany. In the early Middle Ages, the Saxons migrated from their homelands under pressure from the Franks. They settled in various parts of Europe; they originally came to Britain at the invitation of the British chieftain Vortigern, who asked them to help defend his country against Pictish and Irish invaders.

This episode outlines the piracy undertaken by the savage Saxons in the North Sea and the English Channel. We reveal how they ravaged the coast of Britain, destroying Roman defences, and occupying land. We look at the weaponry they deployed in order to secure their territorial conquests. The name ‘Saxon’ is said to be derived from their national weapon, the seax, a short thrusting sword, in the same way that the Franks, the spearmen, took their name from the Old English franca, a javelin.

According to the English historian Bede, the Saxons arrived in Britain in 449. With a formidable arsenal of weaponry, these pagan forces swept across the country, facing the Christians in battle; and squaring up to their barbarian brothers in a bloody rivalry for power and land. In around 450, their piratical raids ended, and they established their first settlements in southern England.

We examine the blood-soaked story of Edwin, a Saxon prince who fled across Britain after witnessing the ruthless slaughter of his entire family. He gathered his forces, and waited until he was strong enough to enter a battle with his arch-enemy, Aethelfrith. His triumphant victory made him one of the greatest kings of his tribe.

Edwin’s power and fame stood unparalleled and unchallenged until Alfred appeared on the scene. The young, brilliant king defended his people against the merciless Viking invaders, uniting his land, and laying the foundations of English nationhood.

The British Empire in Colour: Legacy

This documentary makes extensive use of remarkable colour footage of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The event appeared to signal the beginnings of a new era for the Commonwealth of Nations.

During this period, emigrants fled from the hardship, rationing, inflation and unemployment of post-war Britain, tempted by the promise of Australian and Canadian riches. Simultaneously, West Indian immigrants flooded into Britain. We reveal the racism and bigotry which this influx provoked within British society.

We examine Britain’s attempts to adjust to its burgeoning multi-cultural society, revealing how the country’s former ‘White Dominions’ - Australia and Canada - sought rapprochement with their repressed and disenfranchised indigenous populations. We look at the process of decolonisation in Rhodesia, where different nationalist factional clashed in a bid to gain control of the former colony.

This colourful documentary reveals how the people of the Empire begin to face the legacy of their imperial past in a rapidly changing international climate.

The British Empire In Colour: The Wind Of Change

In this gripping instalment of ‘The British Empire in Colour’, we relive the often bloody drama of Britain’s post-war decolonisation. At its height, the British Empire covered one quarter of the globe. India was the ‘jewel’ in Britain’s imperial crown; a few thousand officials ruled an area of 350 million people.

In 1931, Parliament had assented to the independence, within the British Commonwealth, of the ‘White Dominions’, which included Australia, Canada and New Zealand. By the end of World War Two, the floodgates of decolonisation had clearly opened. In India, the National Congress’s ‘Quit India’ campaign gathered pace, while a broad Muslim movement called for partition. Two states, India and Pakistan, were granted independence on 15 August 1947.

Despite pressure from a powerful American ally with extreme misgivings regarding the empire, Attlee’s post-war Labour government vainly attempted to stem the tide of colonial independence. Socialistic on domestic issues, the government’s foreign policy was masterminded by Ernest Bevin, a ‘working class imperialist’ intent upon avoiding a domestic outcry over the loss of empire.

In the face of this anachronistic reasoning, armed movements increasingly fought for liberation. In Burma, British rule was violently rejected; the country became independent in 1948. In Malaya, a long and bloody counter-insurgency war defeated the colony’s communist faction; moderate nationalist elements were brought to independent power in 1957.
The disastrous Suez crisis of 1956 ended the British military presence in Egypt. It displayed the vainglorious nature of Britain’s imperial dream, and would be the political undoing of Anthony Eden, the Conservative Prime Minister. In the rest of Africa, violence repeatedly forced Britain’s hand, most notably in Kenya. The bloody Mau Mau uprising, which resulted in independence for the country in 1964, was mirrored by a fierce independence struggle in Sudan.

By the end of the 1960s, Britain's empire had shrunk to a tiny fraction of its 1945 size; Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) was the only large colony still in British hands. This documentary tells a colourful and disturbing story of violence, humiliation and dying imperial dreams.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

We use previously lost or hidden evidence to recount the incredible story of the Ardennes offensive. Known to the German military as ‘Unternehmen: Wacht am Rhein’, and to the American and British public as the ‘Battle of the Bulge’, it occurred in the Ardennes Forest on the German-Belgian border, and was one of the fiercest and most desperately fought battles of the Second World War.

The offensive, launched by Marshal von Rundstedt on 16th December 1944, was a last attempt by German forces to break through the Allied front in the west. They hoped to capture the seaport of Antwerp, thus cutting off supplies to the British and American armies preparing to invade Germany. They sought to encircle and destroy the Allied armies, forcing them to abandon Franklin D. Roosevelt’s much-lauded dogma of ‘unconditional surrender’, instead negotiating a peace treaty in Germany’s favour.

We reveal how the attack took Allied forces completely by surprise. It was planned secretly, in almost total radio silence, and went undetected by Allied intelligence. German forces were able to break through the thinly held American front in the Belgian Ardennes sector. They penetrated deep into Belgium, pushing towards Antwerp and creating an enormous eighty-five mile long ‘bulge’ in the Allied lines.

The battle took place in extreme conditions. Not only could von Rundstedt’s forces take advantage of the foggy weather, soldiers also endured the coldest European winter on record. Temperatures plummeted to minus twenty degrees Fahrenheit; men suffered extreme wind chill and frostbite as the foxholes intended to shelter them became frozen tombs. On both sides, casualties resulting from exposure to extreme cold were soon as large as the losses from actual fighting.
The tactics and course of the Allied counter-offensive, which was launched on 3rd January 1945, are afforded a comprehensive examination. General Eisenhower appointed Field Marshal Montgomery to temporary command of the First and Ninth armies, who attacked the German salient from the north. Simultaneously, the American third army attacked it from the south, and by 16 January, the German forces had been comprehensively routed.

1954: French defeated at Dien Bien Phu

On this day, Dien Bien Phu, a major French stronghold in northwest Vietnam, falls to the Vietnamese Communists after 57 days of siege. In 1949, Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh launched a guerrilla war against the French, who were struggling to retain their colonial interest in the country. In 1953, the French, weary of jungle warfare, occupied Dien Bien Phu, hoping to draw the Viet Minh out into the open. The Viet Minh attacked the fortified French position, and by March of 1954, roughly 50,000 communist troops had encircled Dien Bien Phu. On May 7, the French positions collapsed. Although the defeat brought an end to French colonial efforts in Indochina, the United States soon stepped up to fill the vacuum, increasing military aid to South Vietnam and sending the first U.S. military advisers to the country in 1959.
Scottish football team Glasgow Rangers win their 9th successive Scottish League title - to equal the record held by their closest rivals,Glasgow Celtic.
American newspaper The Washington Post wins the Pulitzer Prize for the work of its reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in exposing the Watergate scandal during the Presidency of Richard M.Nixon.
The city of Dien Bien Phu falls to the Communist Vietnamese.
World War II: The German High Command agrees to an unconditional surrender bringing an end to the war in Europe.
The qualifying age for women voters in Britain is lowered from 30 to 21.
World War I: the Cunard liner Lusitania is torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Ireland with the loss of almost 1,200 lives.
American George Eastman patents the Kodak box camera with a name he feels will be easy to remember.
Greece becomes an independent kingdom.
HMS Victory, the ship which becomes the flagship of British Admiral Horatio Nelson, is launched at Chatham. The ship is now preserved at Portsmouth, England.
Opening of the first Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, London.


Before Iraq, before the Bush Administration, before the Dixie Chicks, Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam … there was John Lennon, the celebrated musician who used his fame and his fortune to protest against the Vietnam War and advocate for world peace. The U.S government were so worried about the popularity and influence of this anti-war activist and inspirational icon, that they initiated a campaign to silence him.

Using fascinating archive footage and insightful interviews with those who knew him well, THE U.S VS. JOHN LENNON tells the story of that campaign. Celebrating the wonderful music that Lennon made throughout this time, and up until his tragic murder in 1980, David Leaf and John Scheinfeld’s rivetting hit film THE U.S VS. JOHN LENNON will be available to buy on DVD for the first time from 2 April.

Focusing primarily on the decade from 1966 – 1976, THE U.S VS. JOHN LENNON begins with Lennon's arrival in the States post-Beatles, when he immediately rattled the authorities by successfully campaigning for the release of a prisoner on cannabis charges. His subsequent association with the Black Panthers and self-proclaimed revolutionaries ensured that his case eventually landed on the desk of Richard Nixon himself. Nixon's reaction was swift and harsh: to refute Lennon's visa and throw him out of the country.

But it is John Lennon’s spirit, like his music, which shines through THE U.S VS. JOHN LENNON. With unprecedented access to the Lennon-Ono archives, enabling them to draw upon never-before seen or heard footage, the film makers have captured a side of Lennon that will be new to many - a loving family man who was witty, irreverent, charming, playful and outspoken. And in a series of in-depth interviews, Yoko Ono shares her personal memories, evoking as no one else can the realities of the couple’s daily lives; their hopes and happiness; and their long ordeal at the hands of the U.S. government.

With a host of extras, including ‘Then and Now’, in which notable figures from the era make alarming comparisons between Nixon’s goverenment and the current Bush administration, and ‘Letter to the Parole Board’, a moving letter from Yoko Ono to the Parole Board, THE U.S VS. JOHN LENNON is fascinating viewing for music lovers, as well as anyone who is interested in an extraordinary period in U.S history.


This documentary presents, for the very first time, an ensemble of colour images filmed in France during the course of the Second World War.
From German occupation and the harsh reality of civilian daily life during this greatly troubled period, to army exercises in North Africa and Great Britain as the Allies prepared for the liberation, this film documents the streets, the cafes and the daily life of ordinary civilians.
Covering the joyous scenes of liberation - where soldiers, GI's, civilians, and even some celebrities celebrate the Allied victory - from Hemingway to Clark Gable, passing by Edward G Robinson.
Also included are the horrors of the war and the bodies discovered at Daschau: shocking images that are revealed for the first time.
Enriched with memories from some of the last remaining witnesses of the Liberation, these fragments uncovered from the 1940's finally give us the chance to view the war as millions of people had to live it - in colour.


Operation Desert Storm, and the 1991 Persian Gulf War, have been treated fairly kindly by historians. Many have seen the operation as extremely successful. Indeed, after just a month of air strikes and only a hundred hours of ground war, President Bush declared a ceasefire.

Yet many Americans have no clear understanding of the intricacies of the strategy pursued by the Bush Administration during the war. We explore Hussein’ s belligerent invasion of Kuwait, the reasons behind George H. Bush’s decision to defend the small, oil-rich State of Kuwait and finally, the decision not to march on to Baghdad.

The decision to halt the fighting allowed Saddam Hussein to remain in power, yet the factors that influenced the choice are rarely examined. In this episode of Final Report we explore the full story and the effect the first Persian Gulf War had upon the balance of power in the Arab region.

On 17th January 1991, the United States of America and an allied coalition of twenty-eight nations attacked Baghdad. The invasion was launched in retaliation for the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein. It was the first time American troops faced Hussein. It was also the first instance in American history when a conflict was broadcast live into the public’s living rooms.

US led allied forces launched an overwhelming air strike against Iraq, employing innovative new weaponry such as the F-117 Stealth Bomber and the Patriot missile. With precision arms and intelligence, US military strategists were able to conduct a massive air strike with fewer casualties than previously thought possible.

President George H. Bush and advisors such as Colin Powell were determined not to draw the country into a conflict which would result in vast Vietnam War-style collateral damage. Yet the war was still bloody and brutal. On 13th February, five hundred Iraqi civilians were killed when US forces bombed an air-raid shelter. Two weeks later, the US military fired on retreating Iraqi forces along a roadway that became labelled the ‘Highway of Death’.

The conflict escalated into an extremely asymmetric war. After a month of air strikes and only one hundred hours of ground war, President Bush declared a ceasefire. Many assumed that Saddam Hussein would not survive politically in the wake his country’s defeat. Yet he remained the undisputed leader of Iraq until 2003.

Engineering an Empire: Greece

Over 2,500 years ago, ancient Greek civilisation flourished on the shores of the Ionian and Aegean Seas. Although the combined population of ancient Greece never exceeded more than two million people, the civilisation had an immeasurable impact upon the philosophy, science, politics, architecture and art of the world we inhabit today.
In this marvellously Mediterranean instalment of ‘Engineering an Empire’, we explain that the architecture of ancient Greece provides the basis for virtually all the architectural developments of Europe. The Greeks invented the entablature, an innovation which first allowed roofs to be built in an inverted ‘V’ shape. They also perfected the design of arcades with support columns.
We also examine the great thinkers of ancient Greece. The famous triumvirate of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle laid the philosophical foundations of western civilisation between them. The roots of western democracy also lie in ancient Greece; we look at the life of Pericles, outlining the Athenian democracy which the ‘first citizen of Athens’ presided over.
The statesman was responsible for masterminding the most costly and ambitious construction campaign which had ever been undertaken in the western world, as he created a model city of temples, houses, market places, civic buildings and a highly innovative sanitation system.
We also look at the art of warfare, journeying through Greece’s majestic ruins to explain how a strong and charismatic people strategically harnessed the materials and people around them to achieve astoundingly advanced technological feats. Using cinematic recreations and cutting-edge CGI, our journey takes us to Pergamon, a city that stands as testament to the farsightedness of Greek city planning and engineering. We visit to theatres with acoustics that were so advanced in their time, they confound modern sound engineers.

Nostradamus: 500 years Later

The life story of Nostradamus unfolds in medieval Europe at the time of the Great Plague and the Inquisition.
Michel de Nostredame (1503-66), later known as Nostradamus, was one of the leading figures of the late French Renaissance.
As a physician (although his qualifications are dubious) he specialised in the Plague and was thought to be one of the foremost experts. He was also famed as an 'astrologer', although he preferred to call himself a 'star-lover'.
In around 1550 he turned to writing, concentrating on astrology and prophecy. This brought him into great public prominence, and he became particularly influential at the French court.
He published a collection of prophecies in 1555. Each of the four-line verses (called quatrains) is said to foretell a world event at some time in the future.
People have claimed that his works have foretold just about everything from wars, to assassinations and disasters, some people believe he predicted the rise of Hitler and September 11th. His cryptic journals continue to inspire controversy just as they did in the 16th century.
He lived in an age of superstition and magic and believed that he could foretell the future, for this he was labeled both a prophet and a heretic.
In this 2-hour examination into his life, we visit his birthplace in France and trace his career as doctor, astrologer, father, and seer.

Hitler, Churchill and the Paratroopers

In this gripping documentary, we revisit the costly yet successful German operation to capture the island of Crete from the Allies in May 1941. Crete was the site of the first entirely airborne invasion in history. We place the fiercely fought struggle in its wider historical and military context, revealing the radically different conclusions that Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill drew from the event.
After the evacuation of Greece, the island held around 32,000 British and Commonwealth troops and about 10,000 Greek infantry. The German forces, who enjoyed complete air superiority, were able to bomb the island at will as a prelude to an airborne attack. On 20th May, German paratroops landed in several areas and severe fighting ensued; an attempt at landing seaborne reinforcements was thwarted by the Royal Navy. The Germans managed to capture Maleme airfield and were then able to reinforce by air. On 28th May, it was decided that the island could no longer be held and evacuation of Allied troops began.
The battle inflicted massive casualties upon both sides. Around 3,600 British and Commonwealth troops were killed and about 12,000 were taken prisoner. Roughly 6,000 Germans were killed or wounded, while 220 aircraft were lost. The German airborne forces were pulverized most severely; they sustained a casualty rate of over fifty percent.
Although the battle was seen as a resounding victory for the Germans, Hitler was so appalled by the astronomical losses sustained that he forbade any further major airborne operations. Churchill, however, became convinced of the potential of airborne tactics. British and American paratroop armies were quickly formed.
Using spectacular archive film – including an astonishing Germans propaganda film which was made to celebrate the victory - this film recaptures the brutality of the conflict and examines the role of paratroopers in modern warfare. Moving testimony from German and British veterans of the battle completes our look at this decisive event in world history.

Barbarians: The Lombards

In this dramatic instalment of ‘Barbarians’, we examine the convictions, combat and conquests of the legendary Lombards. This Germanic tribe - sometimes known as the Langobards - originated in and above Northern Silesia, which is now in the western part of Poland, as part of the Suebi. They migrated south in the sixth century, taking advantage of the gap left on the north bank of the Danube in Hungary by the collapse of the Huns. Tired of being used as the Byzantine Empire’s mercenary army, they planned an attack on northern Italy.

The northern Italian kingdom of the Lombards lasted between 568 and 773. We examine the role played by Albion in forging the kingdom. The brutal, energetic leader ruled between 568 and 573. We explain how he led the Lombards, together with Bavarians, Gepidae, Saxons and Bulgars, across the Julian Alps to invade northern Italy.

His army pushed quickly through the Italian landscape, capturing Milan in the summer of 569. In 572, Pania fell after a lengthy and desperate siege; it became the first capital city of the new Lombard kingdom. In the following years, the Lombards penetrated ever deeper into southern Italy; they conquered Tuscany and established two duchies, Spoleto and Benevento, which would become semi-independent, outlasting the northern kingdom.

Wel also examine the shifting religious convictions of the Lombards. Traditionally Pagan, their primal rites were an intrinsic part of Lombard culture. However, when they entered Italy, some Lombards became Arian Christians. Inevitably, this complicated relations with the Catholic Church. Following a long series of religious and ethnic conflicts, the Lombards gradually adopted Roman titles, names, and traditions, converting partially converted to orthodoxy.

Next, we examine the life of the skilled Lombard king Liutprand, who ruled between 712 and 744. We reveal his attempts to protect the kingdom from both Roman and Frankish attacks, who all vied for supremacy on the crowded peninsula. We examine the new laws he created, outlining the strategy by which he linked bloody barbarian rites with ancient Roman justice, establishing a new culture in the former centre of the fallen Roman Empire that would last for centuries.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

1851. Great Exhibition opens

On May 1, 1851, the Great Exhibition opens to wide acclaim in the Crystal Palace in London. Inside the Crystal Palace, a giant glass-and-iron hall designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, over 10,000 exhibitors set up eight miles of tables. Although technological wonders from around the world were on display, the exposition was clearly dominated by Britain, the premier industrialized nation and workshop of the world. Conceived by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, the Great Exposition was a rousing success, hosting 6 million visitors before it closed in October. The many goods displayed ranged from kitchen appliances to false teeth, silks to farm machinery.

Hidden Children

"One day the teacher asked who was Jewish. I didn’t raise my hand. My friend did, and three days later her whole family was taken away." - Flora Hogman, Hidden Child
This affecting documentary tells the complex and emotional stories of a small number of Jewish children who were saved from persecution by non-Jews during World War II.
By the time Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, a policy of ghettoisation and systematic mass execution of the European Jewry had been implemented by the Nazi leadership. In response to this, several thousand youngsters were ‘hidden’ in France, The Netherlands, Lithuania, Belgium and Poland by men and women of incredible courage and uncommon decency. They risked their own safety to bring Jewish children into their families under false identities, concealing them in cupboards, attics, or hastily-dug bunkers.

All of the children featured in this film were hidden without their parents, but under hugely varying circumstances. Some were stowed away in cupboards or barns, while some lived openly, but had to hide their true identities. While a handful were reunited with their families after the war, most of them would never see their parents again.
The rescuers came from all walks of life. Some were communists; some were European anti-fascists; many were religious Christians who believed it was their duty to save a life. We reveal that they were not always the most upstanding members of society: criminals, prostitutes, and even anti-Semites rescued children. We reunite children and their rescuers in an attempt to uncover the motivations behind these dangerous and courageous actions.

We also outline the psychological toll which this separation took upon the hidden children. These bewildered youngsters were ripped apart from their parents, communities and culture, and deposited amongst well intentioned yet often uncomprehending strangers. The experience deeply effected the development of religious and personal identity in children whose identity formation was tragically interrupted.

‘Secret Lives’ is produced, directed and narrated by Academy Award-winner Aviva Slesin, herself a former ‘hidden child.’ Slesin survived the Holocaust due to the actions of a Lithuanian couple who took her into their home when her Jewish parents were deported. She uses first-hand testimony of hidden children, parents and rescuers to craft a gesture of profound gratitude towards her rescuers. This documentary is harrowing and life-affirming in equal measures, and stands as proof that: "It is the history of our kindnesses that alone makes this world tolerable." (Robert Louis Stevenson)


In this fearsome instalment of ‘Barbarians’, we examine the Franks: a group of Germanic peoples who conquered most of Gaul, Italy and Germany between the third and ninth centuries. The kingdom of the western Franks became France; the kingdom of the eastern Franks became Germany.

Firstly, we examine the ferocious figure of Merovius, the legendary Frankish leader who was rumoured to be ‘half-man, half-monster’. He led the Salian Franks during the fifth century; the Merovingian dynasty was named after him. This legendary leader set the stage for his sons’ enormous territorial conquests. His son, Childeric I, triumphed militarily against the Visigoths, Saxons and Alemanni.

Childeric’s own son, Clovis I, managed to unite most of Gaul under his control when he defeated Syagrius, the Roman ruler of the area. He united the Salians with the Ripuarian (eastern) Franks, and oversaw their conversion to Christianity. Clovis himself relinquished his vociferous paganism; he allegedly believed that the Christian god granted him greater battlefield success. His strategy was apparently quite successful: he won the Battle of Tolbiac against the Alemanni, and subjected the Visigoth kingdom of Toulouse to a crushing and decisive defeat at the Battle of Vouillé.

The agriculture of the Merovingian dynasty was far more advanced than that of the Romans. Their introduction of the ‘three-field system’ was one of many ingenious and modern innovations. Their dynasty lasted until the eighth century when the Carolingian dynasty was founded under Charlemagne. By the ninth century, the kingdom of the western Franks was fused into a single people with the Gallo-Romans; they spoke the modified form of Latin that became modern French.

Clovis’ role was fundamental in leading his people to complete power over the land we now call France, and building the bridge between barbarian and statesman that Charlemagne eventually embodied.

The British Empire In Colour: A Tryst With Destiny

In this visually captivating instalment of ‘The British Empire in Colour’, we evoke the splendour and arrogance of British imperial rule in India. By 1911, educated elites within the country were already agitating for increased political rights and representation, and an end to foreign occupation. Seemingly oblivious to the gathering winds of change, British rulers held the ‘Delhi Durbar’ in order to commemorate the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary as Emperor and Empress of India.

The mass assembly, which was attended by kings, princes and the landed gentry, was one of the first events to be captured using the Kinemacolor process. Filmmaker Charles Urban and a team of cameramen filmed the entire royal visit in colour; the finished product was exhibited at the Scala Theatre in London in February 1912. The show lasted over two hours, during which the stage was transformed into a vast mock-up of the Taj Mahal.

Following the First World War, the Indian independence movement gathered speed and strength. Between 1918 and 1922, a series of non-violent civil disobedience campaigns orchestrated by Nehru and Gandhi’s Indian National Congress, sent shockwaves through the British Raj. Although the Second World War briefly united the Britain’s colonies against the more immediate menace of Nazi expansionism, victory spelt the beginning of the end for the empire.

In the immediate post-war period, British power was eclipsed by the diplomatic and military might of a reinvigorated, and staunchly anti-imperialist, USA. On 15 August 1947, India achieved its independence; Nehru became the country’s first Prime Minister. In a rapidly changing world political climate, the lumbering imperial dinosaur was left bewildered and fearful for its future.

Engineering an Empire: Russia

The first states on the territory of what would evolve into the Russian empire arose in Transcaucasia and Central Asia between the ninth and sixth centuries BC. Constantly threatened by their stronger neighbours, these early states still succeeded in developing distinct cultural and political traditions, providing the foundations for what would be a mighty and enduring empire.

At the height of its power, the empire stretched across fifteen times zones, incorporated over a hundred different ethnicities, and made up a sixth of the world’s landmass. From the outset, Russia’s rulers carefully engineered their sprawling empire, adapting foreign technologies in order to seize power, capture territory, increase trade, and build greater and ever more grandiose symbols of Russia's imperial progress.

Building the infrastructure of this empire came at an enormous price, and Russia's dramatic history is tragically littered with the bodies of the serfs and slaves who built the country’s crowning achievements. As the empire grew ever larger, it consumed upwardly spiralling quantities of resources and human lives.

For Russia's peasants, the construction of a modern empire entailed higher taxes, backbreaking labour and brutal warfare. By the mid nineteenth century, a significant current of opinion within the country was calling for reform and political and social modernisation. Between 1855 and 1881, Alexander II attempted to improve the lot of the peasantry with his ‘Great Reforms’. The ‘Tsar liberator’ emancipated the serfs in 1861, but this grand action did little to improve the lives of the peasants on a practical level.

The comparatively liberal rule of Alexander II was followed by the repressive and reactionary conservatism of Alexander III and Nicholas II. As these rulers continued to push progress at an unsustainable pace, Russia’s disenfranchised population reacted in a revolution that altered global history. Using cinematic recreations and cutting-edge CGI, we investigate the construction of the Moscow Kremlin, the building of St. Petersburg, and the creation of the Trans-Siberian railroad; we provide viewers with a revolutionary look at the architecture and infrastructure that enabled the rise and fall of the Russian Empire.