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The Documentary


In-depth investigations and reports reveal a window on the world to help you understand what lies behind the headlines.

In-depth investigations and reports reveal a window on the world to help you understand what lies behind the headlines.
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London, United Kingdom




In-depth investigations and reports reveal a window on the world to help you understand what lies behind the headlines.




Degrees of Deception

An investigation into one of the world’s biggest degree mills, a Pakistani company, that has sold over 200,000 bogus qualifications. IT company Axact has created hundreds of websites purporting to be online universities offering a range of academic qualifications from degrees to doctorates. However while a degree can cost just a few thousand dollars this BBC investigation has discovered customers are also being blackmailed for buying them and some have paid over more than $500,000.

Duration: 00:26:28

Ann West's Patchwork

Cathy FitzGerald invites you to discover new details in old masterpieces, using your phone, tablet or computer. In episode one, stroll along the highstreet of a market town in Regency England – as imagined in a one-of-a-kind patchwork bedcover, held in the collection of the V&A Museum. This needlework masterpiece features tiny applique scenes of everyday life: children flying kites, chimney sweeps heading home from work, a fishwife off to market.

Duration: 00:27:36

The End of Innocence in Venezuela

Through the chilling testimonies of two ex-gang members and one school teacher, Margarita Rodriguez of the BBC World Service explores how criminal gangs in Venezuela use children and teenagers as young as 10 years old to fight their wars. Some kids are attracted by what gangs offer them: security, friendships, respect, motorbikes, women, and guns.

Duration: 00:27:35

Pandemic: The Story of the 1918 Flu

Professor John Oxford, one of the world’s leading virologists, looks at how the 1918-19 flu pandemic affected every corner of the world. Over 50 million people died in the three outbreaks which hit in 1918 and 1919. It is one of the most devastating pandemics in history and to this day scientists are still trying to pin point its origins in the hope of learning lessons for fighting such catastrophic epidemics in the future.

Duration: 00:50:40

Ukraine's Frontline Bakery

Lucy Ash meets the staff and customers of a bakery which is the one bright spot in war-torn east Ukraine. The war there between Russian-backed rebels and the Ukrainian army has dropped out of the headlines and there seems to be little political will to make peace. More than 10,000 people have been killed and as it enters its fourth year, this has become one of the longest conflicts in modern European history. But in the frontline town of Marinka there's one bright spot amidst the gloom -...

Duration: 00:26:28

The Hackers of Siberia

Intellectuals banished to an inhospitable land, settled in Siberia and created a pool of talent from the time of the tsars. Generations of creative people have been perfecting their skills here ever since. These days the reputation of Russian hackers has reached every corner of the world and Siberian hackers are the best. Are these hackers likely to work for the Russian state? Or is Silicon valley a place to aspire to? Are these hackers likely to work for the Russian state? Or is Silicon...

Duration: 00:27:24

Black and Proud in Brazil

How black Brazilians are asserting their rights thanks to a controversial education law

Duration: 00:27:40

Sarah Marquis, Explorer

In a classic Aboriginal walkabout, Swiss explorer Sarah Marquis fished, foraged and gathered food from the wild. She discusses her Australian odyssey with Steve Backshall – himself a world-class adventurer. In 2015, Sarah spent three months walking across the Kimberley region of Western Australia. In the first few weeks she lost 12 kilos, and realised that she had to prioritise eating over anything else. This was until she struggled to find fresh water and her sense of hunger disappeared...

Duration: 00:27:17

Taming the Pilcamayo

A journey up the 'suicidal' Pilcomayo river that separates Paraguay from Argentina... The Pilcomayo is the life-force of one of Latin America's most arid regions. But it is also one of the most heavily silted rivers of the world. As it courses down from the Bolivian Highlands in the months of December and January, half is water, half sand. This means it often causes flooding. Or, it changes course, failing to deliver water to those who depend on it. So in order to benefit communities, this...

Duration: 00:27:56

Leo Houlding, Rock Climber

Leo Houlding is one of the most famous rock-climbers in the world. He tells adventurer Steve Backshall about the most bizarre and unforgettable experience of his life. In 2012, Leo travelled to a remote corner of Venezuela to make an attempt on the unforgiving table-top mountain Cerro Autana. It’s considered sacred by the local Pieroa people on whose land it stands. They were suspicious of Leo’s motives; they couldn’t understand why he would travel so far simply to climb. Leo says they...

Duration: 00:27:39

Mugabe's Last Days

An extraordinary ten days as Robert Mugabe stepped down after four decades as president. When it comes to holding onto power few can match the record of the Zimbabwean politician. He famously said, “I’ll leave the presidency when God calls me.” In the end it was the army, the people and his own party that forced him out. It didn’t go as smoothly as they hoped. Image: Robert Mugabe, Credit: Getty Images

Duration: 00:28:13

Your Life in a Cup of Coffee

An exploration of the mysterious, fragrant world of fortune-telling with Turkish coffee grounds, a practice popular across the Middle East. The BBC's Nooshin Khavarzamin discovers the history, culture, Sufism and the mystic world of coffee fortune tellers. As a young, stylish, modern and educated woman, Sengel might not fit the stereotypical image of a fortune teller but her accurate readings have made her one of the most famous coffee fortune tellers in Istanbul. Her clients include...

Duration: 00:27:26

Russia's Exit Dilemma

Stay or go? That's the choice facing Russia’s brightest and best. As the first generation born under Putin approaches voting age, many of Russia's young people are voting with their feet. Lucy Ash meets émigrés, exiles and staunch remainers in London and Berlin, Moscow and Saint Petersburg to weigh up the prospects for the ambitious in Putin's Russia. The push and pull of Russia's exit dilemma plays out in galleries and start-ups, architecture practices and universities. Pussy Riot's Nadya...

Duration: 00:51:15

Thirty-Three Ways to Dispel a Chinese Mistress

There are 33 ways to dispel a mistress according to one of China's top love detectives. An unusual new industry has taken hold in some of the country's top cities. It is called "mistress-dispelling", and it involves hired operatives doing what it takes to separate cheating husbands from their mistresses. With the surge in super-affluent families in China, there has also been an apparent upsurge in the number of men choosing to keep a concubine. And for wives who see divorce as a...

Duration: 00:26:49

Rite of Passage

No institution defines Israel, inside and out, like the formidable Israeli defence force (IDF). Robert Nicholson explores how military service helps shape Israeli society, and the role the army has to play in Israel’s future. Unlike most modern armies, which tend to be professional armies composed of career soldiers and volunteers, the IDF is comprised mostly of conscripts doing compulsory military service. We hear how the IDF looks to steward their young conscripts – and what happens when...

Duration: 00:27:42

Tanya Streeter: Free-Diver

Tanya Streeter made a remarkable dive – on just one breath of air – to the unimaginable depth of 160 metres. This was a dive that nearly went very badly wrong. As Tanya tells Steve Backshall – himself a world-class adventurer – she blacked-out seconds before she began the dive; she developed nitrogen narcosis – almost like being drunk – and struggled to remember how to release the pin that would return her to the surface. On the way back up she thinks she blacked out for a second time.

Duration: 00:27:37

Who Killed the Circus?

It began in 1871 as P.T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan and Hippodrome. It survived the Depression and two world wars as well as rival entertainment such as film, television and radio. But, in January this year, the world’s most historic circus, Ringling, Barnum and Bailey, announced it was closing, sending hundreds of circus performers looking for jobs. Writer and former circus artiste, Dea Birkett, goes behind the scenes with the performers.

Duration: 00:50:30

Art for the Millions

In the middle of the greatest crisis it had faced since the Civil War, the American government looked to the arts to both help lift the national spirit and spread the message of the New Deal. That collectively the people could renew American democracy and create a better tomorrow. More practically it was an extension of Federal Relief for 40,000 unemployed actors, musicians, writers and artists across the nation. On the government payroll and under the auspices of Federal One, a host of...

Duration: 00:50:41

Daphne and the Two Maltas

A brutal killing and a divided island. Tim Whewell asks what the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia reveals about Malta.

Duration: 00:26:24

Afghanistan Calling

Dr Arian fled the war in Afghanistan at the age of 15 and travelled to London. He won a place at Cambridge University and studied medicine, qualifying as a doctor. Just two years from becoming a consultant in radiology, he chose to take a career break so he could help those back home. He has established a network of around 100 volunteer doctors and consultants in the West, who give free advice to hospitals in war zones, by text, What’s App, Skype and email.

Duration: 00:27:36

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