Tag Archives: DW Documentary

Politics & Technology: China’s Surveillance State

China is building a huge digital surveillance system. The state collects massive amounts of data from willing citizens: the benefits are practical, and people who play by the rules are rewarded. Critics call it “the most ambitious Orwellian project in human history.”

China’s digital surveillance system involves massive amounts of data being gathered by the state. In the so-called “brain” of Shanghai, for example, authorities have an eye on everything. On huge screens, they can switch to any of the approximately one million cameras, to find out who’s falling asleep behind the wheel, or littering, or not following Coronavirus regulations. “We want people to feel good here, to feel that the city is very safe,” says Sheng Dandan, who helped design the “brain.” Surveys suggest that most Chinese are inclined to see benefits as opposed to risks: if algorithms can identify every citizen by their face, speech and even the way they walk, those breaking the law or behaving badly will have no chance. It’s incredibly convenient: a smartphone can be used to accomplish just about any task, and playing by the rules leads to online discounts thanks to a social rating system. That’s what makes Big Data so attractive, and not just in China. But where does the required data come from? Who owns it, and who is allowed to use it? The choice facing the Western world is whether to engage with such technology at the expense of social values, or ignore it, allowing others around the world to set the rules.

History: The Legendary Beau-Rivage Hotel In Geneva, Switzerland

With its stunning view of Lake Geneva, the Beau-Rivage, in Geneva has attracted actors from Roger Moore to Angelina Jolie, and played host to political luminaries like Kofi Annan, Charles de Gaulle and the Dalai Lama. Political history has been made here, too: In 1898, the Empress “Sisi” of Austria was stabbed to death by an anarchist at the Beau-Rivage. Nearly a hundred years later, in 1987, the German politician Uwe Barschel was discovered dead here, in a bathtub. Family-run for generations, the hotel is impressive not just for its size, but also for its discretion. Now, director Jacques Mayer uses interviews, archival film and rarely seen photographs to vividly chronicle some of the most fateful years of the Beau-Rivage.

History: The Legendary ‘American Colony Hotel’ – Jerusalem (DW Video)

The elegant “American Colony Hotel” in Jerusalem is an island of tranquility in a troubled city. The grand hotel has lived through all of Jerusalem’s serious crises. Everyone is welcome here, no matter where they come from or what they believe. The name “American Colony Hotel” goes back to a group of 19th Century American pilgrims. In its early days, the grand hotel was located among olive groves outside Jerusalem’s city walls. For over a hundred years, many parties to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have shaken hands, eaten and drunk here together. People mingle here in a way they would never do elsewhere. Behind it all is the fascinating story of Anna and Horatio Spafford, who, after several tragic events, moved from the US to the Holy Land with a community of devout Christians. With diligence, skill, and an insistence on neutrality and tolerance despite political difficulties, they created a hotel in a truly special location. Its atmosphere continues to attract illustrious guests from the worlds of politics, diplomacy, literature, art and entertainment.

Ecology: Scientists Breed Plants With Fast-Growing Roots To Revitalize Land

Humanity faces major challenges. Could roots hold the answers? It’s possible: Research shows that roots have the potential to provide food for the world’s population, stop climate change and help extract resources in an environmentally friendly way. Plants must withstand periods of drought and heat, as well as flooding, and they use their roots to do this. Roots also help them actively search for nutrients in the soil, while warding off dangers such as pathogens and toxins.

Now, scientists at the research institute Forschungszentrum Jülich are investigating root growth using high-tech methods. The goal is to breed stress-resistant seeds for plants with robust roots. They are not alone: In Sweden, Professor Linda Maria Mårtensson is conducting research on a perennial wheat variety that will ensure higher yields while protecting the soil. Along the world’s coasts, too, roots are a lifesaver.

Coastal ecologist Professor Tjeerd Bouma has discovered that if special grasses are planted in front of dikes, they create a salt marsh that acts as a natural breakwater. Meanwhile, geochemist Dr. Oliver Wiche of the Technical University of Freiberg is researching something known as “phytomining.” He wants to know which plants are best suited for mining metals from the soil. Could this root research give rise to a new, environmentally friendly branch of industry?

Review: A German Flood Warning System Failure?

00:00 The death toll from Germany’s devastating flood disaster has risen to more than 160, as emergency workers continue to search for dozens of people still unaccounted for. German authorities insist their flood warnings worked, even though there was massive loss of life. Some experts say Germany’s flood warning system failed and has led to such widespread devastation. They say authorities knew what was coming, but failed to prepare.

02:28 DW reporter Giulia Saudelli is on the ground covering the latest developments. She joins us from the town of Altenahr, in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, which was especially hard hit by the flooding.

05:19 DW reporter Emily Gordine is covering the latest developments in Schönau, in the southern German state of Bavaria. 09:40 Jeff Da Costa, he’s a researcher focusing on flood warning systems at the University of Reading and has been personally affected by events as his family’s home in Luxembourg was flooded.

Tokyo 2021 Olympics: The Rocky Road For Athletes

Postponed by a year. Plagued by existential rumors. The Tokyo Olympics have had a rocky road, thus far. But what’s it like for the athletes? This film looks at how Olympic hopefuls experience Olympic-sized uncertainties, under the already strained circumstances of a global pandemic.

Despite the rampant Coronavirus pandemic, the mythos of the Olympic Games is alive and well. The world’s top athletes dream of participating, though only a fraction of them will make it that far. This film accompanies four athletes over the course of a year, as they try to reach the Olympic Games in Tokyo. For fencer Alexandra Ndolo, high jumper Marie-Laurence Jungfleisch, javelin thrower Thomas Röhler and taekwondo master Madeline Folgmann, the time leading up to the Summer Games constitutes the greatest sporting challenge of their lives.

The postponement of the Games throws a wrench in their intensive training plans. It also forces them to confront some uncomfortable questions. What if all of this intensive preparation goes to waste? Are they working towards a moment in their lives that may never come? These four competitive athletes experience a year full of disruption, hardships, health risks, small successes, and big disappointments.

For one athlete, the pandemic even becomes a stroke of luck – but can she take advantage of it? The challenges that these elite athletes face striving for their dream of competing in the Olympic Games are unique. It is a time that will leave its mark on these athletes, as they embark on a journey with an uncertain outcome.

Conservation: The Marble Quarries Of Carrara, italy

Italy’s Carrara marble quarries are a source of controversy, pitting nature against economic gain. Environmentalists warn of overexploitation, while others defend the jobs these Tuscan quarries provide.

Franco Barratini quarries marble blocks that sell for €4,000 per ton. The amount of marble that was once quarried in a month can now be extracted in just three days, and environmentalists are alarmed at the consequences. Marble dust leaks into groundwater, turns rivers milky-white and hangs in the air. The effects of this are still not completely clear.

Sandro Manfredi is fighting what he sees as severe overexploitation in the marble quarries of Tuscany’s Apuan Alps. In 2018, he filed a complaint against an illegal marble quarry, and afterwards was nearly killed when someone tampered with his car. Carrara has experienced four floods in the last nine years. Environmentalists blame marble quarrying, which has increased dramatically thanks to rapidly evolving extraction techniques, upsetting the region’s hydrogeological balance.

Craft Chocolate: Finding The Best Cacao Beans

Like craft beer, craft chocolate is hip. The more exotic the cocoa, the more popular the end product. Craft chocolatiers comb the jungles of the Peruvian Amazon in search of cacao varieties that have never been used in chocolate production before.

Their prospective buyers belong to a select group of connoisseurs with a taste for exotic cocoa beans. Aside from satisfying people’s craving for luxury, craft chocolate makers are also working to create positive change. They’re helping local cocoa farmers document the widespread impact of illegal deforestation, the drug trade, and large agribusinesses on the lives of the indigenous population in Peru’s Amazonas region. Will craft chocolatiers succeed in getting consumers to shell out more money – enough to ensure cocoa farmers‘ livelihoods? Can they get chocoholics to develop a craving for high quality, organic products that also support environmental sustainability?

Urban Views: Living In China’s Megacities (Video)

More than 60 percent of China’s population of 1.4 billion currently lives in cities. Within a decade, the share of urban dwellers is expected to increase to 75 percent. Construction is booming and competition for residential land is fierce.

But the right to live in a city in China is conditional. Authorities want their modern cities to be peopled with well-educated, highly-qualified or politically well-connected residents. As a result, certain standards have to be met to be eligible for a modern, urban home. Only members of China’s political classes and the financially successful have a hope of qualifying. Yet more than half of the people who live in cities are so-called “migrant workers.” They come from rural communities and have no official rights to settle in cities. They are there to work. With no proper rights, they are merely tolerated while they serve as merchants, servants, waitstaff, cleaners, construction workers and tradespeople.

But while they are indispensible to daily life in the cities, they are unable to afford their exorbitant rents. This documentary looks at how and where these workers live, and asks whether middle and working class Chinese even figure in the official vision of shiny, high-tech cities. The filmmakers also look at what happens to those who oppose official plans, or stand in the way of the building boom.

Climate: Mozambique Builds Green Areas To Curb Cyclone Flooding

In 2019, Cyclone Idai devastated Mozambique’s port city of Beira. Many died and entire neighborhoods were flooded. The city is now setting up large green areas designed to absorb future floodwaters. But entire fishing communities need to relocate.