Don’t Tell My Mother…

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC – Friday 3 July, 7.30pm

Roadside bombs, kidnappings, Al Qaeda. Iraq has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons this century. Diego Buñuel has to see for himself if there isn’t more to say about a country with a 3,000 year old history. So he sets out on a month-long trek across Iraq. After some 1,200 kilometres, he sees plenty of evidence of communities slowly coming together to rebuild, encouraging the people of Iraq to learn to live again. Get ready to see Iraq like you’ve never imagined it before.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC – Friday 26 June, 7.30pm

Following the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran bunkered down into a cold war with the US. Today, it is the second largest exporter of oil in the Middle East and still strongly anti-American. Which is why Diego Buñuel is so surprised when he uncovers an underground rap show, where the rapper is the son of an Islamic Mullah. As he travels the country Diego finds the younger generation is more interested in the future than in the past, ironically cheering on US basketball players headhunted for the local league. He also discovers the freedoms women enjoy compared to many of their Middle Eastern counterparts – he is even instructed in the different fashions in wearing the hijab. With a backstage pass to the local equivalent of “Quran Idol”, he is regaled with Quranic verses from 30 competing Islamic countries. And despite the President’s official anti-Israel stance, he discovers the Middle East’s second largest Jewish population (behind Israel) is alive and well in Iran.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC – Friday 12 June, 7.30pm

Considered by the Economist as “the world’s most dangerous place” in 2008, host Diego Buñuel ventures to Pakistan to uncover the truth about a country that has the rest of the world on edge. He catches the nightly showdown between Indian soldiers and Pakistani border guards to lower their flags – the vibrant show attracts a crowd whose enthusiasm could rival the most intense football fans. In Karachi, Diego stops by a religious school called a “madrasa” where students’ every move is monitored, before visiting a factory responsible for sewing the latest styles of dominatrix wear and hitting the Karachi party scene where the liquor flows and dancing is in full swing. On set at a popular political show, Diego is surprised to find the nationally televised show is hosted by a cross-dressing man – proof again that there are two very different sides to this Islamic country. In Lahore, Diego meets the owner of Pakistan’s largest set of beauty salons whose stylists are turning their lives around after falling victim to acid burn attacks. Finally, Diego stops by a five-star resort nestled between a Taliban-controlled valley, the Afghan border and Kashmir. Get ready to see Pakistan like you’ve never imagined it before.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC – Friday 5 June, 7.30pm

Oil and socialism are big exports in Venezuela, and Diego Buñuel steps into the heart of both in the capital city of Caracas. He stumbles across a socialist protest where tense relations with the US over politics and oil are top of mind for participants. But while government-enforced low costs have made gas unbelievably cheap for Venezuelans – just a few US cents per litre – regulations have caused massive food shortages. Diego sneaks over the Colombian border to investigate illegal gas smuggling. In the countryside of San Felipe, agrarian reform is putting land back into the hands of the people with former sugar cane workers kicking out their former bosses. With a machete and some VHS tape, workers mark off their land, waiting for it to be recognised by the local mayor’s office. High in the Venezuelan Andes, Diego follows two volunteers who bring a mobile library by mule to help families attending school in the mountains. In the Caracas slum of Antimano, Diego plays pick-up basketball, and visits an area where school is held in the streets.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC – Sunday 10 May, 11.30pm

After five wars and two Intifadas, the morning papers are still filled with stories about acts of violence or suicide attacks. It’s not new either, it’s been going on like this for sixty years. Despite it all, our eternal optimist Diego Buñuel heads out on a behind-the-scenes journey through yet another region with a particularly bad reputation. From the Gaza Strip to Jerusalem, he stops along the way in the occupied territories. The lively cast of characters he encounters include: Rashid, who prints the Martyrs of Gaza; Nadim, a Christian brewer in Muslim lands; Lucy, who rescues Palestinian donkeys; and Hamed and Nazim, Fatah rappers.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC – Sunday 10 May, 10.30pm

Forced to leave behind his mobile phone, GPS and even newspapers before entering the country, Diego Buñuel must pose as an actor to enter North Korea. Every move he makes is constantly monitored, with two watchers ‘escorting’ him wherever he goes. Starting in the capital of Pyongyang, Diego is housed in a bugged hotel built on an island to keep visitors from interacting with locals. Attending a Catholic mass, he finds there are no ordained priests in North Korea; mass is led by party members. Diego also tours a fairground where children have the chance to ‘Kill American Imperialism’ in a shooting game. Invited to the world’s largest stadium, Diego watches 100,000 dancers perform in celebration of 60 years of dictatorship. While this festivity paints an image of happiness and unity, the portrait is not quite as picturesque in the countryside. The effects of poverty, famine and oppression are deeply etched in the faces of its people and the landscape. But along the way, Diego manages to talk with ordinary Koreans about a host of taboo subjects, including sexuality, the one-party system, religion, famine, the visceral hate of Americans and the unconditional worship of Kim Il Sung, the country’s founding father.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC – Sunday 10 May, 7.30pm

Correspondent Diego Buñuel heads into the darkness of Congo’s equatorial jungle to shed some light on this country’s flawed reputation. At the country’s sole nuclear power plant, a single guard and a padlock are all that separate him from the reactor. Diego then retraces boxer Muhammad Ali’s steps to the stadium famous for the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, where he meets female boxers hoping to fight their way out of poverty. In Katanga, Diego meets the province’s first democratically-elected governor whose dedication to the people provides hope. He then flies to Goma – one of the wildest parts of the country – where UN peacekeepers and Congolese soldiers are tasked with protecting mountain gorillas in the first African park listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To save these endangered animals, soldiers must bring helmets and an assault rifle to face the rebels trying to gain international attention by killing the gorillas and the rangers protecting them. Finally, Diego meets a former beauty queen who is now preparing girls for the Miss HIV pageant, created to help raise awareness about the disease. Just don’t tell his mother where he is.