International highlights on BBC Four

Storyville

The BBC’s international documentary film strand returns to BBC Four for a new season of films, including:

The Real PM, an observational documentary following Peter Mandelson in the run-up to this year’s general election. Hannah Rothschild’s film shows Mandelson at his ministry, masterminding the election campaign and dealing with colleagues such as Gordon Brown and Alastair Campbell. With unprecedented access to key events and conversations, this is a fascinating behind-the-scenes exploration of British politics.

It’s A Kid’s World is a series of films revealing the extraordinary lives of talented children around the planet, ranging from a nine-year-old hip-hop star in New York to the children enrolled in a boxing academy in Havana and a six-year-old girl who sets the contemporary art world alight.

YouTube Hero – The Winnebago Man is a romp through the strange world of internet stardom, as experienced by Jack Rebney, a foul-mouthed salesman in the Eighties whose outtakes became a global phenomenon.

Pablo’s Hippos intriguingly chooses to tell the story of drugs baron Pablo Escobar from the perspective of one of the hippos living in his zoo.

And The Trouble With Pirates takes the viewer deep into the world of Somali piracy, showing the battle for the seas from all perspectives.

Germany Season

This autumn BBC Four dedicates four new series to the art, landscape, culture and history of Germany.

Andrew Graham-Dixon undertakes a historical tour of Germany through its artistic achievements. His three-part series, Art Of Germany, explores the country’s painting and sculpture, considering in particular the dominant themes of landscape, folklore and national identity. Andrew follows a geographical as well as chronological journey, exploring the cultural centres of the Medieval, Renaissance and Romantic eras culminating in the story of Germany’s art in the convulsive and tumultuous 20th century.

In German Wanderlust, Julia Bradbury takes her boots and backpack to explore the landscape of Germany and the cultural movement that made it famous – Romanticism. Julia walks through four very different parts of Germany; the Rhine, the Bavarian Alps, Ruegen and Saxon Switzerland, exploring river valleys, coastlines, mountains and gorges.

Following in the footsteps of Richard Wagner, Caspar David Friedrich and Johannes Brahms as well as British “romantics” like William Turner and Lord Byron, this is Julia’s chance to discover her own sense of “wanderlust”.

In Frederick The Great And The Enigma Of Prussia, author and historian professor Christopher Clark tells the story of the life and afterlife of the Prussian King.

Frederick the Great was one of the most extraordinary figures in European history. This film explores his reputation both as a military genius and warlord and as an enlightened “philosopher king”. From the epic history of his 46-year rule, to his legacy over the past two centuries, this film offers a compelling vision of the evolution of Prussia, through the life, political iconography and cult of Frederick the Great.

Al Murray’s German Adventure sees the award winning comic embark on a journey to discover the real Germany. In a breathtaking odyssey through one of the country’s coldest winters, Al casts aside the classic German stereotypes of sausages, beer and Nazis – and the preconceptions that have fuelled the Pub Landlord’s “Kraut comedy”.

Instead, he unearths two centuries of stunning arts and culture which, undoubtedly, have profoundly influenced the Britain we know today.

 

Greek Myths – Tales Of Travelling Heroes

Pre-eminent classical historian Robin Lane Fox takes viewers on a journey in search of the origins of Greek legend in Greek Myths – Tales Of Travelling Heroes.

Robin believes these fantastical stories lie at the root of western culture, and yet little is known about where the myths of the Greek gods came from and how they developed. After 35 years of travelling, excavation and interpretation, he is now confident he has uncovered answers.

From the ancient lost city of Hattusas in modern Turkey to the smouldering summit of the Sicilian volcano Mount Etna, Greek Myths – Tales Of Travelling Heroes takes viewers on a dazzling voyage through the Mediterranean world of the 8th-century BC, following in the slipstream of an intrepid and mysterious group of merchants and adventurers from the Greek island of Euboea.

Along the way, he brings to life exuberant tales of castration and baby eating, the birth of human sexual love, and the titanic battles with giants and monsters from which the gods of Greek myth were to emerge victorious.

 

Perfume

This new three-part series about the global perfume industry explores the astonishing creativity behind a commodity that uses single molecules to whisper to the subconscious, trigger memories and spark emotions.

From inside this multi-billion dollar business, the series follows the stories of perfumers, scientists, marketing gurus, as well as the celebrities who lend their names to a few ounces of fluid in the hope of striking it rich.

Spending a year with the chemical corporations that rule the mass-market and the ancient houses that produce the famous classics, the series reveals the questions obsessing the industry: How much is too much? Could the plethora of smell-alikes topple scent from its luxury pedestal? And what to do when the average consumer is no longer a well-heeled Western woman, but a cash-rich worker in rural China?

This is truly a fascinating insight into the world surrounding perfume.

 

Foreign Language Film Premieres

There is an exciting and diverse selection of foreign language film premieres on BBC Four this season.

The award-winning Italian film, Gomorrah, directed by Matteo Garrone and based on the best-selling exposé of the Naples Mafia by Roberto Saviano, who is now living under police protection, reveals the hard truth about the Neapolitan crime syndicate known as the Camorra.

The action continues in OSS 117 – Cairo, Nest of Spies where an ill-equipped spy is stationed in Cairo. Hilarity ensues as this witty adventure sends-up the Sixties spy film genre.

Dark Korean thriller The Chaser follows a breathless race against time as a disgraced police detective attempts to catch a psychopathic serial killer responsible for the disappearance of a string of prostitutes.

Another chase follows in The Edge Of Heaven, where a young Turkish man leaves Germany in pursuit of the daughter of his father’s girlfriend.

In a lighter, delightful film, Blame It On Fidel, we see a nine-year-old Parisian girl’s idyllic life in 1970 Paris disrupted when her parents get caught up in the spirit of revolution and embrace communism.

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