Tag Archives: Documentaries

History: ‘Turkmenistan – Cultural Treasures’

To outsiders, Turkmenistan is one of the world’s least known countries. For the first time in ten years, a film crew has been free to visit spectacular excavation sites and follow international researchers into areas that have long been off-limits. Once considered the poorest part of the Soviet Union, oil and natural gas have brought new wealth to Turkmenistan today.

A little known fact in the West is that 4,000 years ago, the country was home to one of the ancient world’s centers of power. Although it flourished around the same time as the advanced civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, the Margiana empire was later largely forgotten. But recently, archaeologists have discovered palace buildings and magnificent burial treasures at the site of the capital, Gonur Depe, in the Karakum Desert. Incredible aerial photography shows the dimensions of the lost metropolis. An international team of researchers also unearthed monumental fortifications in neighboring Ulug Depe.

The ruined cities of Merv and Kunya-Urgench have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Suddenly, historians and the media are paying much more attention to Central Asia. Why has Turkmenistan seen powerful empires rise and fall since the Bronze Age? DNA analysis shows a highly mobile population, whose contacts reached as far as India, the Urals and the Mediterranean Sea. The Silk Road between China and Europe was the world’s most important trade route for thousands of years, lending Turkmenistan great historical significance. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the country has been slowly opening up to international researchers, and its astounding cultural heritage is coming to light.

Views: Lives Of The Super-Rich In Congo, Africa

Many millionaires live in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the world’s poorest countries. This film depicts some of those who have made fortunes amid the chaos, including musicians, mining bosses, entrepreneurs and preachers. The DRC is rich in raw materials, but only a few profit from its natural resources.

While 60% of Congo’s inhabitants live on less than $1.25 per day, businessmen, artists, former rebel leaders and evangelists are reaping the rewards of economic growth. In the capital, Kinshasa, these new rich live in safe and luxurious enclaves, while children toil in coltan mines in the eastern part of the country. Fally Ipupa has made his money with music.

Others rely on their business acumen, like Patricia Nzolantima, who founded a taxi company and aims to give more opportunities to women. With 3,000 mine workers, Cooperamma is the largest employer in North Kivu, in the east of the DRC. Managing director Robert Seninga says his coltan mines are extremely well-run, yet safety standards are poor. Coltan, a globally coveted mineral, is used in cell phones and other devices. It’s both a blessing and a curse for the Congo. It makes some rich, but for others it means death. The region still suffers from ethnic and factional conflicts, with money from illegal coltan smuggling financing new violence. It’s a vicious cycle.

Travel & Culture: ‘Life In The Torres Strait Islands’

It’s a remote paradise between Australia and Papua New Guinea. Only a few thousand people live on the islands in the Torres Strait. They depend on a supply ship that sails to their isolated archipelago once a week.

There are 274 islands in the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea, their white coral-sand beaches rising from warm, shallow waters. Around 20 of the islands are inhabited, with many several kilometers apart. The main island, Thursday Island, sounds like it could have been lifted from the pages of Robinson Crusoe. Residents who want to visit family or friends must do so by boat, having to deal with unpredictable tidal currents. Cargo ships from the mainland supply the islands with everything from food and medicine to cars and spare parts – and they don’t always arrive on schedule. But Torres Strait Islanders have always used their great ingenuity to cope with the scarcity of resources. They include Ken, who’s currently working on a sculpture for the reopening of a local church, Paula, a midwife, and Sylvia, who reads the weather reports on local radio.

Space Ventures: Asteroids As Source Of Precious Metals & Elements (Video)

Mining on asteroids sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but it could soon become a reality. Nations and powerful corporations already have plans for such ventures and are hard at work staking their claim to resources from space. How can economic growth continue unfettered once all the earth’s resources have been consumed?

Major companies and governments have long been working on plans to exploit the resources to be found in the vastness of space. How far are humans from achieving this? This documentary examines the technological requirements of space mining. It also assesses how great the desire is to find new sources of raw materials. The film touches on scientific and fundamental societal issues – including humanity’s craving for new territories and our degradation of the Earth as we attempt to exploit all our planet has to offer.

Documentary: ‘Fukushima – The Age Of Radioactivity’

The USS Ronald Reagan cruised into a radioactive cloud from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011. Sailors on the aircraft carrier were exposed to radiation. This documentary looks at the event and what came before it. The discovery of the atom and radioactivity are among the most important advances in 20th Century science. This film provides a comprehensive, historical examination of a century of radioactivity. At the same time it remembers the victims – from the Curies to Fukushima.

The film-makers visit Japanese families who sued Tepco, the operator of the Fukushima reactor, after their children developed thyroid cancer following the tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster. Sent to help tsunami victims, sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan give detailed accounts of what happened on board the carrier. Radiation victims on both sides of the Pacific recount their difficulties in getting information. The film also introduces others harmed by industrial and military secrecy over the issue. Among them are fishermen and veterans exposed to radiation during the nuclear bomb tests on Bikini Atoll, Hiroshima survivors and young women who worked with radium in US factories in the 1920s. Radioactivity is invisible and odorless, yet very harmful to life. A Japanese doctor tells viewers how radioactivity affects the human body, why it causes cancer, and what can be done to shield people against it.

Arts & Culture: ‘The Azulejos’ – Portugal’s Colored Tiles (Video)

Anyone who has ever been to Portugal will probably know them: the small, mostly blue square ceramic tiles, the so-called ‘azulejos’. Especially in the capital of Lisbon they decorate many houses. Even today, the decorative tiles are still made by hand. The word azulejos does not come from the Portuguese word “azul” for blue – as one might think. It comes from Arabic and means something like “polished little stone”.

Documentaries: Behind The Scenes Of ‘Hemingway’

Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein give us a behind-the-scenes look at the production of Hemingway. We explore where Ernest Hemingway lived and traveled as the team visits his home in Cuba, learn about his writing process through manuscripts housed at the JFK Library, and the impact of fame on his art. Hemingway from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick premieres April 5, 2021 on PBS.

Architecture: ‘Louis Sullivan – Invention Of The Skyscraper’ In 1897

Louis Sullivan, Bayard-Condict Building, 1897–99 (65 Bleecker Street, NYC), a Seeing America video speakers: Dr. Matthew A. Postal and Dr. Steven Zucker.

Louis Henry Sullivan was an Irish-American architect, and has been called a “father of skyscrapers” and “father of modernism”. He was an influential architect of the Chicago School, a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright, and an inspiration to the Chicago group of architects who have come to be known as the Prairie School.

The Bayard–Condict Building at 65 Bleecker Street between Broadway and Lafayette Street, at the head of Crosby Street in the NoHo neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City is the only work of architect Louis Sullivan in New York City.

Oceans: The Great White Shark Decline Off Cape Town, South Africa (BBC)

For years, one of South Africa’s great tourist attractions has been the opportunity to see great white sharks up close. But barely any great white sharks have been spotted off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa for two years now – where there used to be hundreds.

Video Trailer: ‘Exploring Hemingway’ – A Film By Ken Burns & Lynn Novick (PBS)

Get an inside look at Hemingway and discover why Ken Burns and Lynn Novick chose to explore the complex and iconic writer. Hemingway premieres April 5, 2021 on PBS.