Show cover of The Documentary Podcast

The Documentary Podcast

A window into our world – investigating, exploring and telling stories from everywhere. Original BBC documentary storytelling, bringing the globe to your ears. Award-winning journalism, unheard voices, amazing culture and “unputdownable” audio. New episodes every week from our teams: documentaries, Assignment, Heart and Soul, In the Studio and OS Conversations.


Stories from the New Silk Road: Norway
The Norwegian town of Kirkenes set on the coast and inside the Arctic Circle, is on the edge of what the Chinese refer to as the Polar Silk Road. The Northern Sea Route or Northeast Passage is an increasingly valuable shipping route for both Russia and China, hugging the Russian coastline to eastern Siberia. In 2010 a ship departed from Kirkenes bound for China with 41,500 tons of iron ore concentrate, arriving 22 days later. Via the Suez canal, the same journey would have taken over 40 days. It was the first time that a non-Russian ship had been along the Northern Sea Route, showing that this was possible and paving the way for China’s Arctic policy. Anna Holligan shines a light on China’s wider ambitions in the Arctic.
27:43 05/12/2023
Filmmaker Iryna Tsilyk: Animating Ukraine’s War
Iryna Tsilyk is one of Ukraine’s best known young documentary makers. She made her name following the lives of soldiers, female paramedics and families living on the frontline in East Ukraine after the region was taken over by Moscow-backed separatists. However after Russia’s full-scale invasion brought the war to Iryna’s home city of Kyiv, she decided she could no longer stay behind the camera. So, in her current project, The Red Zone, Iryna is turning the lens on herself and her family.Iryna’s husband, Artem Chekh, is a well-known novelist and journalist. He volunteered to join the army and found himself in Bakhmut, scene of some of the bloodiest fighting. For five days Iryna did not know if he was alive or dead. She is focusing on the anguish she felt over this period and using a series of flashbacks to illustrate their past lives in peacetime.Iryna tells Lucy Ash that to give herself more artistic freedom she has decided on a radical new tool for her work: this film will be an animation. Making films in wartime is a challenge and animation is expensive but Iryna has foreign backers and is determined to tell her own story in her own way.
27:21 04/12/2023
Introducing Amazing Sport Stories
Sport but not as you know it. A brand new sports storytelling podcast.Imagine being stranded in the “death zone” on one of the world’s highest mountains. How about running 200 miles in a dark tunnel? We’ve been searching the world for the most amazing sport stories. Other podcasts bring you the scores and team news. This one tells the stories you’ll wish you’d known about and now probably won’t forget. You don’t need to be obsessed with sport to find yourself immersed in our mini-seasons and short stories. Search for Amazing Sport Stories wherever you get your BBC podcasts. Or find it here:
03:23 03/12/2023
Kissinger’s Legacy
Henry Kissinger was one of the most important diplomatic figures of the last 50 years. James Naughtie looks back at his global influence, as he reflects on his own interview with Kissinger, conducted just a year before his death.
27:28 03/12/2023
BBC OS Conversations: Israel and Gaza - securing freedom
A week without war meant that the temporary pause in fighting was replaced by the emotions of family reunions. Before the air strikes resumed on Friday, dozens of the hostages captured by Hamas in the 7 October attacks were released, while Palestinians held in Israeli jails had been allowed to leave.In our conversations host James Reynolds hears a few of those stories of families celebrating seeing loved ones again. “My mum came out of the Earth one day and that was incredible,” Sharone Lifschitz tells us. Her 85-year-old mother, Yocheved, was one of the first hostages to be released but (at the time of recording) her father was still being held. “She told us my father was injured and so we thought that he was gone and now we know that he is there, but we also know so much more about how horrendous the conditions are.”Human rights organisations say the number of Palestinians held without charge in Israeli prisons has increased dramatically since 7 October. There are now thought to be more than 6,000 Palestinians held by Israel, many still awaiting trial. We bring together Marwan whose son, Wisam, was released after six and a half months in prison, and Eman who recently welcomed home her sister in law, Hanan.We also meet two parents living under the Israeli bombardment in Gaza who led their families to safety in Egypt. They tell us about the conditions they endured and how their children are coping.A Boffin Media production in partnership with the BBC OS team.
24:21 02/12/2023
Heart and Soul: Follow God, not the people
Brought up in a devout Catholic family in the suburbs of Kampala, Frank Mugisha knew that something was different about him even as a small boy. He was gay, although in those days he had no words for it. Growing up, he was subjected to conversion therapy, and his family took him to traditional healers to try and change his orientation. When all his prayers for God to “make him like his friends” went unanswered, Frank gradually came out to family and close friends. He started an organisation to help other LGBTQ+ people. Frank tells Mike Wooldridge why, despite the enormous risk, he has to do the right thing and continue his campaign.
27:14 01/12/2023
Few people can claim as much influence over the shape of the modern world as Henry Kissinger. The former US Secretary of State and Nobel Peace laureate is loved, loathed and listened to - for the decisions he took, the attitude he espoused and for his knowledge and analysis of world affairs. In 2022, James Naughtie travelled to Kissinger's home to discuss six great leaders and the lessons they taught, as Kissinger reflected on his own role in creating the modern world.this programe was first published in 2022.
49:16 30/11/2023
Assignment: Poland's forest frontier
The Polish government has built a steel border wall 186km long and 5m high along its eastern frontier. It is meant to stop global migrants from Asia and Africa trying to cross from the Belarusian side. But the wall cuts straight through the Białowieza forest - the largest remaining stretch of primeval forest in Europe and a Unesco world heritage site. Grzegorz Sokol meets environmental scientists, activists and local villagers, such as Kasia Mazurkiewicz-Bylok who treks into the forest with a rucksack of supplies to try to help migrants lost in the dense, trackless forest. And, Kat Nowak, a biologist trying to log the precise effects of the wall, from the plant species brought in with the gravel for the foundation, to the possible effects on wolf behaviour.
27:27 30/11/2023
Gaza diaries
English teacher Farida and Khalid, a medical supplier, document through intimate voice messages their struggle to survive the war in Gaza. They tell a story of immense loss and resilience in a worsening humanitarian crisis.The Gaza diaries was produced by Haya Al Badarneh, Lara Elgebaly, Mamdouh Akbiek Mohammad Shalaby and Mary O’Reilly.The editors were Rebecca Henschke and Simon Cox and it was mixed by Graham Puddifoot.A BBC Arabic investigations production for the BBC World Service.
27:28 29/11/2023
Sweden: Living with guns and gangs
Sweden has become a European hotspot for deadly shootings, rocking its reputation as a safe and peaceful nation. Last year, a record 62 people were killed in gun violence in the Nordic nation, which has a population of just 10 million. Crime researchers say Sweden’s trend for shoot-to-kill murders is unique in Europe. Stockholm-based broadcaster Maddy Savage and Nikoi Djane – an ex-gang member turned criminologist – visit communities impacted by the deadly violence and explore what is being done to tackle the problem.
27:15 28/11/2023
In the Studio: Danny Boyle
Danny Boyle, the visionary behind the 2012 London Olympic opening ceremony and the Oscar-winning director of films like Slumdog Millionaire, Yesterday and Trainspotting, returns to his home town of Manchester, England, to direct a hip-hop dance spectacular to open a breath-taking new venue, Aviva Studios. The show, called Free Your Mind, is based on the Wachowskis’ Matrix franchise and updates the concept of a dystopian future to reflect recent developments in artificial intelligence. We go behind the scenes to eavesdrop on rehearsals and meet Danny and his creative team.
27:29 27/11/2023
The Cultural Frontline: K-drama
Korean drama, or K-drama, is enjoying phenomenal worldwide success. South Korea is now one of the largest content providers in the world. Actress Min-ha Kim, star of Pachinko, explores how K-drama is evolving. She hears from: K-drama critic Joan MacDonald and Korean script writer Hong Eun-mi on how streaming is changing K-drama; Doctor Cha star Uhm Jung-hwa on how women’s roles have changed; Minyoung Alissia Hong on why webtoons - comics made for smartphones – revolutionised K-dramas; screenwriter Melis Veziroglu Yilmaz on adapting K-drama for a Turkish audience. And superfans Deema Abu Naser and Jeanie Chang visit K-drama locations.
28:09 26/11/2023
BBC OS Conversations: Hostages, prisoners and peace
After seven weeks of war between Hamas and Israel, there was a deal for a pause in the fighting. On Friday morning the rockets and gunfire fell silent in Gaza. The agreement also included the release of Palestinians in Israeli prisons and Israeli hostages held in Gaza; plus more aid deliveries to the people of Gaza. After so much trauma and anger, host James Reynolds hears from those who say there has to be another way than war. He talks with two members of Parents for Peace - an organisation consisting of both Israeli and Palestinian parents who have lost children throughout decades of conflict. A Palestinian sniper killed Robi Damelin’s 22-year-old son, David, in 2002. An Israeli soldier killed Bassam Aram’s 10-year-old daughter, Abir, with a rubber bullet, outside her school in 2007. Today, Robi and Bassam are united in using their grief positively for peace and to help others who continue to suffer the consequences of war. “Instead of building more graves, they need to try to move on with this pain, to use it as a motivation,” says Bassam. “To build more bridges for peace for the memory of their beloved one.” We also hear how two Israelis are coping under the strain of not seeing their relatives; knowing they are probably being held hostage in Gaza, but are unlikely to be released as part of the current deal. (Photo: Robi Damelin (l) and Bassam Aram)
24:02 25/11/2023
The Trial of Oscar Pistorius
In 2014 Audrey Brown told the dramatic story of the trial of the athlete Oscar Pistorius After becoming a Paralympics champion, Oscar Pistorius rose to fame as the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics. He became a hero to millions – until the fateful night when he shot dead his girlfriend, the model Reeva Steenkamp. His trial featured high tension and dramatic twists and turns. In often highly emotional testimony, Pistorius tried to convince the court that he shot Reeva Steenkamp by mistake, thinking she was a burglar. Prosecuting barrister Gerrie Nel subjected the athlete to merciless cross-examination as he attempted to prove that Pistorius was a man with a love of guns and an uncontrolled temper. This is the story of a trial which gripped the attention of South Africa and the wider world. Picture: Oscar Pistorius leaves North Gauteng High Court on 12 September, 2014 in Pretoria, South Africa, Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
50:02 24/11/2023
Heart and Soul: Wolves in sheep's clothing
When Kenyan-born nurse Margaret Ruto chanced upon an internet story about an American Christian missionary accused of sexually abusing children in a Kenyan orphanage, she knew she had to act. The orphanage in question was close to where Margaret had grown up. The man accused of the abuse lived 10 minutes away from her current home in Pennsylvania. Mike Wooldridge talks Margaret about her fight to bring Gregory Dow to justice.
27:41 24/11/2023
Florida's political refugees
Americans on both sides of the political spectrum are escaping states they no longer feel comfortable in. They are calling themselves ‘political refugees.’ And the sunshine state of Florida is at the heart of this political sorting. How can one US state be both a safe haven for Americans fleeing their homes in the north and a dangerous threat to liberal families? Lucy Proctor traces the journeys of America’s homegrown refugees, meeting progressives and conservatives making their move. Through their crossing paths, she explores what is behind this new wave of domestic migration, and what it might mean for America’s future.
27:42 23/11/2023
We the people are Barbados
In September 2020, Barbados announced its decision to become a republic, removing the British monarchy as head of state. November 30th, 2021 marked not only the 57th anniversary of the nation’s independence but a new beginning as a republic. Award-winning author Candice Brathwaite, explores Barbados’ transition to a republic two years after the official declaration. Through interviews with poet laureate Esther Phillips, historian Dr Pedro Welch, artist Oneka Small, journalist Krystal-Penny Bowen and socio-economics expert Professor Don Marshall, she gains insights into the Island’s evolving identity. With thanks to Barbados Today and Barbados’ Prime Minister’s Office.
31:30 21/11/2023
In The Studio: Damon Galgut - Adapting The Promise for the stage
Damon Galgut’s 2021 Booker Prize-winning novel, The Promise, chronicles the slow decline of a white family on a farm outside Pretoria, South Africa, and the ripple effects of a deathbed promise – made but not kept – to give the family’s Black housekeeper ownership of the small house in which she lives. Now, the stage adaptation of The Promise, written by Galgut and director Sylvaine Strike, is being readied to premiere at the Star Theatre, at the Homecoming Centre in Cape Town.But how does a text so praised for its formal inventiveness – the narrative voice shifting from third to first person, and inhabiting multiple interior lives, sometimes within a single paragraph – get translated for the theatre and brought to life?Writer Bongani Kona goes behind the curtain to watch the rehearsal process unfold. We trace Galgut’s journey from the play’s conception, and follow the director and cast as they workshop scenes, experiment with sound and action, and navigate the unusual set design – all in the build-up to opening night. The Promise on stage is directed by Sylvaine Strike with stage adaptation by Damon Galgut and Sylvaine Strike. Original music composition by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder.Presenter: Bongani Kona Produced by Catherine Boulle and Bongani Kona A Falling Tree production for the BBC World Service
27:22 20/11/2023
The Debate: Israel Gaza - What happens when the war ends?
The BBC’s Mishal Husain is joined by a panel of guests to discuss what happens when the Israel Gaza war ends. On the panel are Jeremy Bowen, BBC International Editor; Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations; Lord Ricketts, former chair of the UK’s intelligence committee under Tony Blair and former national security adviser to David Cameron, former national security advisor and chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee; Ghada Karmi, Palestinian academic and author and joining from Washington Evelyn Farkas, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for President Obama.
40:43 19/11/2023
BBC OS Conversations: Hate against Jews and Muslims
The war in the Middle East between Hamas and Israel continues to cost many lives. It is also increasing tensions and anger around the world.Hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in protest marches; there are reports of a rise in Islamophobia and antisemitism in some countries; and an increase in hate crimes.We hear from Muslims and Jews living in the United States and Europe. Some of our Jewish guests say they would feel safer in Israel and the war, than in the country where they currently live.“I don’t order anything, not an Uber, not a taxi, in my real name anymore,” says 20-year-old student Deborah Kogan, who lives in Berlin. “Not because I’m a Jewish activist, but also because my name sounds very Jewish, especially in Germany. So I’m afraid to get recognised as Jewish.”Host James Reynolds also hears about the impact of Islamophobia on three Muslims living in Germany and the United States. They talk of how some people perceive them with suspicion, associate them with Hamas and call them a terrorist.“I’m on a campus that an Arab-Muslim student experienced a hit and run and was told ‘F you and your people’, says Arab American University Lecturer Maytha Alhassen in California. “He was wearing a shirt that said in Arabic, Damascus. So that’s terrifying.”A co-production between the BBC OS team and Boffin Media.
24:03 18/11/2023
Heart and Soul: Israel – Gaza: Can interfaith work prevail?
The recent violence between Israel and Hamas threatens the survival of the hundreds of small-scale projects which aim to bring Jews and Palestinians together to work for peace, or at least share understanding. Now the flare up in violence threatens their future. To discuss the way forward and question the future of such projects, Caroline Wyatt brings together people from different faith backgrounds who’ve been working for years to build bridges in this volatile area of the Middle East. Presenter: Caroline Wyatt Producer: Julia Paul / Rajeev Gupta Editor: Helen Grady Production Coordinator: Mica Nepomuceno
27:18 17/11/2023
The mighty Mekong’s last hope
Tens of millions of lives depend on the Mekong river for fishing and farming as it travels through China and South East Asia. But there are increasing signs that this river with one of the richest ecosystems on earth is being strangled. A cascade of dams, intensifying climate change, and sand dredging have scientists worried. Is this region harnessing the river’s power – or are they killing it? Laura Bicker visits communities whose livelihoods rely on the Mekong and meets a new generation trying to breathe life into the dying river.
28:16 16/11/2023
Tanni's Lifetime Road to Disabled Equality
Multi gold medal winning Paralympic wheelchair athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson examines 50 years of changing attitudes to disability around the world.When Tanni was a child in the 1970s in Wales becoming an athlete with spina bifida was far from guaranteed. There was no support for her parents bringing up a disabled child and education for children with disabilities was minimal.Over the years Tanni’s suffered discrimination including when she was pregnant being offered a termination. “This woman said: ‘How did you get pregnant?’ says Tanni.In this programme Tanni reflects on experiences over her lifetime as she meets others who’ve had similar journeys in India, Pakistan, Ghana, Nigeria, Brazil and New Zealand.With Abha Khetarpal in India, Tanni reflects on several shared experiences. They both had scoliosis and use a wheelchair and faced early challenges at school - Abha having to be home schooled.Meanwhile Lois Auta in Nigeria also uses a wheelchair. She was born in 1980 and tells Tanni how she managed to challenge the status quo and stand for parliament. ‘Disability is seen in our country as something that happens through witch craft’. And Lois, who now acts as an advocate for women with disabilities says those prejudices still exist.She meets BBC war correspondent Frank Gardner who tells her how he adapted to becoming disabled after being injured during his work in a war zone in the Middle East.
49:36 15/11/2023
A Man Without Bees
Why are all the bees dying? Simon Mitambo, an expert from Kenya's so-called 'Land of Bees', travels from his own affected community to huge industrial farms in search of answers. It is a journey both planetary and personal: without bees, can Simon's world survive?A Smoke Trail Production.
27:27 14/11/2023
In The Studio: Jenn Lee: Taiwan fashion designer
Taipei based fashion designer Jenn Lee is preparing her Spring Summer 2024 collection for London and Taipei Fashion Weeks. Inspired by the recycled materials she finds in local markets, by British designer Vivienne Westwood and the Punk movement, as well as the joy of her young son, the collection celebrates freedom, happiness and sustainability.Jenn is joined in her Taipei studio by Lucy Collingwood as she reaches the final stages of a collection that’s been many months in the making. Surrounded by sewing machines and a snooker table repurposed into a large fabric cutting table. Jenn shares her influences and attention to detail – from the running order of her catwalk show, finalising the looks on mannequins, to adding handmade accessories made of recycled zips and ribbons and choosing which eye catching creation should kick start the show.Jenn takes us to one of the places that informs her work, the Fu He Bridge Flea Market, where items from used bicycle chains to second hand motorbike jackets can end up as integral parts of her high end garments.For the catwalks of fashion weeks, Jenn is also planning something a little unusual. As well as her striking garments made in bold colours and hand-dyed fabrics, she’s also creating a digital version of her designs and collaborating on a game featuring characters who embody the themes behind her show.We share Jenn’s creative journey from Taipei to backstage at her London Fashion Week catwalk show as the audience reacts as her collection is finally revealed.Producer: Lucy Collingwood Exec Producer: Andrea Kidd(Photo: Jen Lee. Credit: BBC)
27:17 13/11/2023
BBC OS Conversations: Israeli losses
Since the Hamas attacks on Israel on 7 October, thousands of lives have been lost in the war. While rolling news and live updates give us minute by minute coverage, we want to take the opportunity to pause, reflect and hear stories from the families of a few of those killed.Last week we heard from Palestinians. This time, Israeli families share their experiences and memories of those lost. During the surprise raid on Israel, Hamas killed 1400 people and took more than 200 hostages, including children.Keren and her husband Avidor were rescued that day, under gunfire, from the Kibbutz Kfar Azar. But a few days after, the family heard that both Keren’s parents, Cindy and Igal, had been killed. “She was just the biggest soul,” says Keren of her mother. “She was a humanitarian through and through, she was just all heart.”Host James Reynolds also speaks to Magen, a teacher from Israel who lives in London. His parents, Yakov and Bilha, were both killed in the attack. We bring Magen together with Elana, the mother of Yannai who was serving as a trainer in the Israeli Defence Forces. Yannai was killed defending his base, helping to save the lives of dozens of other young men and women. He would have celebrated his 21st birthday on the day before we spoke.BBC OS Conversations is a Boffin Media production in partnership with the OS team.(Photo: Keren with her baby, her sisters and her parents)
24:31 11/11/2023
Heart and Soul: Queerly beloved: Same-sex love and the Synod
The Church of England prohibits same-sex relations. Even so, the debate on this position – in the UK and the worldwide Anglican Communion - continues. Should the Church allow and conduct LGBT blessings, and even marriages? And can the Church ever sanction sexual relations between two people who are not husband and wife, man and woman? These are the questions Anglicans tussle with.Most recently, bishops in England made a proposal that same-sex couples should be welcomed in church for a blessing. Opposition from conservative, Anglican groups has been noisy, including from some same-sex attracted Christians.Ahead of the General Synod, the Church of England’s regular gathering of bishops, and elected clergy and laity, Heart and Soul explores the most divisive and explosive issue facing Anglicans. Linda Pressly meets Christians who both accept, and struggle with, the Church’s teachings on sexuality.Producer/presenter: Linda Pressly Editor: Helen Grady Production co-ordinator: Mica Nepomuceno(Photo: Esther and Victoria were married in September, 2019 in Old Saint Paul’s Church in Edinburgh. The Scottish Episcopal Church is a member of the world-wide Anglican Communion, but it has allowed same-sex marriage since 2017. Credit: Marta Kacala)
28:24 10/11/2023
The Jews and Arabs coexisting in crisis
Just over 20% of Israel’s population are Palestinian - or Israeli Arabs - making them the largest minority in the country. They are distinct from the Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza as most have citizenship and far greater freedoms. However, they complain of discrimination and even in “mixed” cities the Jews and Palestinians tend to coexist rather than interact. Following the attacks on 7 October by Hamas and the subsequent bombing and killing of Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli army, tensions are high. Standing Together, a peace movement comprising of Jews and Palestinians, are trying to jointly diffuse tensions on the streets of their neighbourhoods. Emily Wither talks to Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, about their different experiences of growing up in Israel and their hopes for the future.
28:20 09/11/2023
My Forgotten War
Turkey hosts the largest population of refugees and asylum seekers in the world. These include around 3.6 million Syrians, who fled there during the war in their country. Now many of those Syrian refugees feel forgotten, and again unsafe, and tensions with locals are higher than ever. Seven years ago, the EU handed Turkey 6 billion euros in a deal to stop Syrians heading to Europe. Since then, many Turks say their welcome has worn thin. And now, the Turkish government is deporting Syrians it says are in Turkey illegally, back to the warzone.Karam was 19 when the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, had security forces fire on peaceful protestors and arrest hundreds of citizens. Karam was one of those arrested, and after being released he eventually paid a people smuggler to take him to Turkey. He believes that he’ll be arrested and tortured if he returnsto Syria. But he’s also afraid to stay in Turkey, saying that local Police ask for his papers around five times a day.Hannah Lucinda Smith is in Esenyurt, a predominantly Syrian district around an hour's drive from the centre of Istanbul, speaking to both Syrians and Turks about why tensions have escalated. She's asking what’s next for Syrians living there, and whether or not it will ever be safe enough for them to return home.A Depictar production for the BBC World Service.
28:11 07/11/2023
In The Studio: Carol Morley
Carol Morley is known for films like The Falling, Dreams Of A Life, and her most recent work, Typist Artist Pirate King.Her next movie is an adaptation of her autobiographical novel Seven Miles Out. It’s about a teenage girl coming to terms with her father's suicide, and not one word of the book has made its way into the screenplay. Carol tells Stephen Hughes why she was surprised by how difficult it was to adapt her own work, and how it brought back thoughts and feelings she thought she'd learned to live with. Carol also reveals that selling a script is harder than writing one, as she waits patiently to hear back from film companies that she’d sent the screenplay to.Produced and presented by Stephen Hughes**This programme contains distressing content**During this interview, Carol speaks frankly about the effect of her father’s suicide upon her. If you need support following anything you’ve hear in this episode, there’s information at and help is also available at
27:45 06/11/2023

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