Documentary Channel's blog

Sundays from March 13th, 8.30pm 

Join Bruce Parry on a breathtaking journey from the Amazon’s source deep in the Peruvian Andes to its vast mouth on Brazil’s Atlantic coast. 

A contemporary portrait of the Amazon Rainforest, river, its landscape and its people and with spectacular visuals and the highest production values, Amazon captures the living reality, the contradictions and ambiguities of this globally important region. 

BBC Knowledge Premiere Sundays from March 6th, 7.30pm 

We live on a planet of stunning natural beauty. From the towering peaks of Nepal, the lush green of the Amazon, from the dry-sculpted crescents of the Sahara to glistening polar icecaps, our world is truly spectacular. 

Using high definition film and with a production budget of unprecedented proportions, no part of our planet is left unexplored. Through stunning time- lapse sequences, witness the evolution of environments over thousands of years. CGI is used sparingly, and to breathtaking effect, to take viewers where a camera cannot Venture – down an erupting volcano and into The Earth’s Core.

BBC Knowledge Premiere Saturdays from March 5th, 7.30pm 

Travel with Ray Mears as he learns more about the important role played by bushcraft in the survival of indigenous people worldwide and puts his own accomplished skills to the test. 

Ra Mears journeys to the Amazon jungle, Tanzania, Canada and America in order to practise his knowledge of bushcraft and compare it with the ways of life of the indigenous people. His ability to adapt swiftly to each environment enables him to truly understand the local surroundings, culture and inhabitants and allows the viewer an intimate view of rarely-seen worlds.

BBC Knowledge Premiere Wednesdays from March 2nd, 7.30pm 

James May is a man on a mission: he wants to get kids out of their bedrooms and away from their video games, he wants to drag parents off their backsides and get them all playing together again. Using some of the world’s best loved toys, James May puts generations of families at the heart of some ludicrously ambitious adventures and extraordinary feats of engineering that fire the imagination and remind us of the joys of doing things together. 

James Builds a Platicine Garden: James and the team cultivate the world’s first Plasticine garden. And then enter it in the Chelsea Flower Show and win a prize. 

James’s Great Scalextric Race: James and his helpers lay nearly 3 miles of Scalextric track along the original route of the famous Brooklands race circuit. The track cuts right through buildings, across a river and several roads and into the record books. 

James Builds a Meccano Bridge: 100,000 pieces of Meccano are painstakingly assembled to make a bridge 22 meters long; big enough to span a Liverpool canal. But one wrong move and all that work, and James, could go for an unexpected swim… 

James’s Spitfire Spectacular: From sanding and painting to the huge task of gluing it all together, James constructs the world’s biggest Airfix kit – a full size spitfire. 

James’s Model Railway Madness: James builds the world’s greatest train set. Ten miles of track are laid along a meandering disused railway line to re- connect two coastal communities. 

James Builds a Lego House: Find a location, have 3.4million Lego bricks delivered and together with 1200 volunteers, build a house. Then live in it.

BBC Worldwide will re-launch New Zealand’s Documentary Channel as BBC Knowledge next year, in a major step forward in the development of its global branded channels business.

BBC Knowledge will join BBC Worldwide’s other channels on the SKY platform – BBC World News and UKTV – to create a bespoke factual content offering geared towards the needs of New Zealand audiences.

BBC Knowledge is an award-winning, entertaining factual destination that is already a successful channel in more than a dozen territories around the world. It has quality content presented by talented and passionate experts such as Louis Theroux, Paul Merton, Bruce Parry, Michael Palin and Ray Mears.

“Creating a tailored factual offering specifically for New Zealand tastes and preferences is at the very core of our content strategy.  BBC Knowledge will have local flavour and local relevance,” said Tony Iffland, BBC Worldwide Australia’s General Manager.

“We look forward to engaging with the local production sector to discuss content acquisition and other opportunities to bring New Zealand content to New Zealand audiences. With three channels now in the market, this is a brilliant opportunity to showcase the diversity and depth of our content.”

 “BBC Knowledge has so much in common with the Documentary Channel  – they are both the homes of challenging, trustworthy content that is as entertaining as it is informative,” said Richard Driver, owner of the Documentary Channel. 

“It’s been a difficult decision to decide to sell the channel that I’ve established and cultivated to its present level of success, but I know that BBC Worldwide will only build on its achievements and audiences.”

“New Zealanders have a strong appetite for quality documentary programming, which has already been demonstrated by the success of the Documentary Channel,” added Karen Bieleski, SKY Television’s Head of General Entertainment and Prime. “We are delighted to be working with BBC Worldwide to re-launch this expanded version of the channel, with even richer content and the solid backing of the BBC’s exceptional programming output.”

This deal demonstrates BBC Worldwide’s commitment to the New Zealand market, based on a strong New Zealand affinity to its content and its long-established presence as a provider of quality channels.

It will build on the success of UKTV, the country’s most popular general entertainment subscription channel, and of BBC World News, the destination of choice for thousands of New Zealanders looking for authoritative and up-to-the-minute global news coverage.

BBC Worldwide’s distribution business continues to work closely with New Zealand networks to provide access to award-winning content across all genres. Its other established businesses in New Zealand extend across digital, live events, magazines and DVD publishing.

DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL – Wednesday 13 October, 8.30pm

Edward VIII is remembered as the British King who in 1936 gave up the throne to marry the woman he loved: American divorcee Wallis Simpson. But recently, FBI files have been declassified. They reveal a more damning legacy. That Edward VII and Wallis Simpson were pro-Nazi. That they maintained contact with Hitler’s Germany throughout the war, giving away secrets to the enemy. That Edward planned to return to England as Hitler’s puppet king. The files also reveal the extent to which the British and American governments saw them as a real threat to national security and went to extraordinary lengths to keep them out of harm’s way.

When the Duke and Duchess of Windsor sailed into Palm Beach, Florida on the SS Berkshire from Nassau on 18th April, 1941, they were looking forward to enjoying three days of relaxation, playing golf, drinking and gossiping with American high society. But unbeknown to this infamous couple, the night before the ship docked, President Roosevelt had instructed FBI chief J Edgar Hoover to launch what was to be an extraordinary covert intelligence exercise that had to fool both the exiled royals and the US secret service agents guarding them. The final FBI report, recently released under the US Freedom of Information Act, running to 227 pages, reveals that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor harboured pro-Nazi sympathies and that Edward was lined up to go back to the throne as a Nazi puppet if Hitler defeated Britain.

There has long been a great deal of speculation about the Windsors and their political views, which has always been vehemently denied by the ex-king, the establishment and Philip Ziegler, the official biographer. But it’s not just this FBI report that is so damning. Recently a number of key documents have been released as well as British military intelligence reports and, crucially, the sensational publication of the diaries of Sir Alan Lascelles, the Duke’s private secretary. Together these prove that Edward VIII was a traitor to his country. Now, for the first time, the full, inside story is told, in which Edward and his wife were warmly welcomed by Hitler in Germany and thereafter Edward passed on top secret Allied information to the enemy. It’s a tale of treachery, corruption and depravity at the heart of the British monarchy – and one which could have changed the course of history.

DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL – Tuesday 12 October, 8.30pm

Type ‘mail order bride’ into any internet search engine and you’ll be given a lot of options. Russian brides, Latin American brides and mostly Phillipino and Thai brides… All just a click away. The whole idea of mail order brides has become something of a joke, conjuring up images of sad, lonely men and their money-grabbing trophy wives. But who are the women behind the glossy photographs? How prepared are they for life in the West? Like many Thai brides, ‘Nook’ came to England expecting to find her Prince Charming. Instead, she found herself married to a violent sex-addict. Her vulnerable immigration status means that she cannot go to the authorities and there is little possibility of her situation improving. ‘Nook’s’ story is not unique. Examines the realities of the mail-order bride business.

Filming in the UK and the slums of Bangkok, hear the stories of the women trafficked and investigate the legal loopholes that are often used by mail-order husbands to dispose of their brides or subjugate them forever. Travel across the UK and Ireland and as far away as South East Asia to hear the stories behind the smiles and the make-up. Is this just another amusing quirk of the internet age? Or is there a darker side to the mail order bride industry?

DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL – Monday 11 October, 9.30pm

When Patrick Stuebing met Susan Karolewski for the first time, there was an instant, mutual attraction. They now have four children. What stops their story from being a straightforward romantic tale is the fact that they are brother and sister. Adopted as a baby, the adult Patrick traced his birth mother, and discovered he had a beautiful younger sibling – Susan. Soon after he joined the family, their mother died. Left to live alone, Patrick and Susan were irresistibly drawn to one another and eventually began a love affair which has scandalized Germany and the world. Patrick has already spent two years in prison for having sex with his sister, and three of their children have been taken into care.

In 2007, they took their fight for the right to a sexual relationship to the country’s highest court. But in a case that could have ramifications across Europe, and which has been presented by liberal sympathisers as a romantic battle against oppression, the pair argue that they are being denied the right to sexual freedom. To most people, this would seem to be an open and shut case. And yet, because Germany’s laws on incest were introduced by the Nazis, they are an easy target for Left-wing groups who can conveniently argue that they are nothing more than an extension of the Third Reich’s Aryan racial hygiene laws.

Such groups argue that the laws should be overturned in favour of freedom of choice and sexual determination. Or, as the couple’s lawyer, Endrik Wilhelm, puts it: “Everyone should be able to do what he wants as long as it doesn’t harm others.” Taking into account her lack of education, it is perhaps not surprising. She left school at 15 with no formal qualifications. A reporter who visited her at her home spoke of her obsessive nail biting and the simple way in which she spoke. The bond appeared to develop out of dependency on Susan’s part and perhaps a need to be respected and in charge on Stuebing’s. He says: “I became head of the family and I had to protect my sister.

She is very sensitive but we helped each other during this very difficult period and eventually that relationship became physical.” Despite already having experienced a normal relationship with a woman, he insists: “We didn’t even know we were doing anything wrong when we started sleeping together. We didn’t think about using a condom. We didn’t know it was illegal to sleep together. With exclusive access to real life couples including Patrick and Susan and a mother-son pair, this sympathetic documentary takes a look at the phenomenon of ‘Genetic Sexual Attraction’ – which can happen when blood relatives grow up apart and meet for the first time as adults and strangers. How do these couples cope with this taboo? How does society – and the law – react?

Brothers And Sisters In Love explores these moral dilemmas as it follows Patrick and Susan over a year as they challenge German’s incest laws through the Supreme Court and wait for the verdict which will seal their family’s fate. Is this straightforward incest or could love between consenting adult relatives be the result of something else?

DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL – Sunday 10 October, 8.30pm

Obama’s America, is a fascinating two-part series marking President Barack Obama’s first year in office. On inauguration day 2009, the new President studied the ‘gathering clouds and raging storms’ that threatened his nation and declared unequivocally, ‘we are in the midst of a crisis.’ A year on as President Obama wrestles with a daunting array of challenges on the world stage and a reeling economy at home, historian Simon Schama looks to American history to understand what is at stake and what the future might hold.

Simon Schama examines the issue that more than any other will determine the fate of his presidency: Afghanistan. It’s a war which Obama inherited but which he has pledged to continue fighting – a conflict that will cost many more American and British lives. As Simon Schama explains, it wasn’t just a political miscalculation which landed the US and its allies in military crisis, but a historical miscalculation – a refusal to learn from the conflicts of the past. By committing America and its allies to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, George Bush and the neocons allowed the battle against the Taliban to slide.

The neocons were obsessed with World War Two, and persuaded themselves that both wars would – like the Second World War – be glorious liberations; decisive military victories. However, as Schama discovers, it’s not to World War II, but to America’s forgotten war in Korea, that US policymakers should have looked if they wanted to understand the thorny reality of America’s twentieth-century conflicts. The president who took America into Korea was Harry Truman. As Simon Schama explains, in Truman’s handling of this bloody war, and in his statesmanship at a time of international crisis, there are profound lessons for Obama today. Schama also asks what has happened to the fabled American Dream – the promise of prosperity for all.

At the start of 2009, Obama took office in the midst of an economic and financial crisis unparalleled since the Great Depression. One of his key election pledges was to make the American money machine work for everyone. To many, the United States is synonymous with freebooting capitalism, but, as Schama discovers, since the birth of the republic there’s been confusion over the role of banks. Are they the creators or the destroyers of the American Dream? President Obama now finds himself confronting what is not just a historical but also a political dilemma. Will he act decisively to rein in Wall Street and end the cycle of boom and bust which has destroyed the lives of ordinary Americans, or is he too timid to tamper with the goose which lays golden eggs?

It’s a question which will determine whether the President is a political radical or a cautious pragmatist, and how he responds will shape America – and the face of capitalism – for years to come. Find out more about Obama’s America with Simon Schama, Sunday 10th October at 8.30pm only on the Documentary Channel.

DOCUMENTARY CHANNEL – Saturday 9 October, 8.30pm

The shocking true story behind the space race – and the ruthless, brilliant scientists who fuelled it! This is one of the greatest stories in human history. It begins in the bloody throes of the Second World War and spans through to the moon landings. Two superpowers were pitched against each other during the Cold War in the race to create the most powerful rocket and dominate the world. It culminated in the 1969 ‘giant leap for mankind’. The most pioneering and high-risk experiments ever undertaken cost untold millions – and scores of lives – with horrific disasters and gruesome deaths.

“To tell the true story behind the scenes of the race to the moon for the very first time is hugely exciting, particularly as it is the first time the BBC has done a co-production with partners in Russia, America and Germany. The fact checking is rigorous, not just important historical moments, but faithful and accurate character portrayal. Each co-producer is taking the series extremely seriously, and is able to shed a unique light in their country’s contribution to the race,” comments Executive Producer, Jill Fullerton Smith.

In an extraordinary co-production partnership, the team behind hugely-acclaimed Seven Wonders of the Industrial World, brings the Russians and Americans together to create a major new docu-drama series. It reveals what really happened behind the scenes during the space race – charting the whole of the shocking but true story including the ruthless and brilliant scientists who fuelled it. The stories of Space Race are set at the heart of the Cold War, when the two superpowers and their ideologies – communism and capitalism – were seen as fundamentally opposed. For a fascinating look into the Space Race check out this fascinating documentary on Saturday 9th October at 8.30pm, only on the Documentary Channel.