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Self-Access Centre - English - TV Documentaries


The Art of Spain - The Dark Heart

BBC
Critic and art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon travels from southern to northern Spain to tell the story of some of Europe's most exciting and vital art. He journeys to the country’s scorched centre to explore Spanish art of the 16th and 17th centuries. From the mystical world of El Greco to the tender genius of Velazquez, this was a moment so extraordinary it became known as the Golden Age. But beneath the glittering surface was a dark and savage heart.
Art & Design

The Battle to Beat Polio

BBC
Stephanie Flanders, former BBC economics editor, has a very personal interest in the battle to beat polio. Her father, Michael Flanders, one half of the world-famous singing duo of the 50s and 60s, Flanders and Swann, was paralysed by the infection when he was 21. He used a wheelchair for the rest of his life, and died early at 53 through complications caused by the disease. Stephanie was just six.
Medical Sciences


The Beatles Decade - 01 - Teenage Rebels 1960 - 1961

BBC
The Beatles’ decade began in Liverpool in July 1957 when 16 year old John Lennon and 15 year old Paul McCartney met. This chance encounter produced one of the most important musical partnerships of the 20th Century. They listened to American artists and hung out in the Jacaranda coffee bar. They were part of a new breed of 'teenagers' who benefited from their parents increasing affluence. Fashion was changing too, and Mary Quant designed youthful and colourful dresses. In America, youth was winning too, and Kennedy was elected President.
Music%%%Other

The Beatles Decade - 02 - Sex, Spies and Rock'n'Roll 1962 - 1964

BBC
In Liverpool in 1962 the Beatles caused a sensation at the Cavern Club. They had only one single to their name. But a fateful meeting with Brian Epstein was to help them top the charts. Epstein changed their image from the American biker look and soon realised the sixties was the selling decade. Youth was all the rage and the old Tory Prime Minister Harold McMillan seemed out of step with the times. By the end of 1964 Britain had shifted into a modern age. The Beatles’ success was evidence that a more meritocratic society had arrived and class barriers had fallen.
Music%%%Other

The Beatles Decade - 03 - Swinging Britain 1965 - 1966

BBC
By 1965 the cultural renaissance of Britain was in full swing and the Beatles embodied the feeling of optimism. Having won over the British public the Beatles were ready to take on the world. The new fashion labels like Biba, new faces like Twiggy and hair-dressers like Vidal Sassoon were an important ingredient in the Swinging London explosion. However, the economy was in a terrible state; Harold Wilson had inherited huge debts and done little to stem the problem. And The Beatles’ lives as superstars had turned into a living hell by 1966. Third in series
Music%%%Other

The Beatles Decade - 04 - Street Fighting Years 1967 - 1968

BBC
In April 1967 The Beatles produced the drug fuelled Sgt Peppers, an Album that was to change everything. The Beatles had turned to eastern mysticism and become distant from their mentor, Epstein, who died suddenly. Britain was undergoing a radical transformation from the legalisation of homosexuality and abortion to the relaxation of theatre censorship and introduction of the ‘no contest’ divorce. But soon the social revolution was overtaken by political revolt on the streets against the Vietnam War.
Music%%%Other

The Beatles Decade - 05 - The Party's Over 1969-1970

BBC
As the decade came to an end a more chaotic world was to come. Paul and John’s wives, Linda and Yoko, had one thing in common - they were strong, independent women, but with very different personalities. They typified the changing relationship between men and women which was beginning to emerge in the late sixties. The Beatles split up and Harold Wilson had been gone, the sixties had well and truly ended. By the end of the decade, Britain had genuinely changed. Youth culture had been born. Political protest had taken to the streets; and blind, class deference had gone forever. The Beatles had personified this social revolution - and their split coincided with the return of conservatism.
Music%%%Other



The Beauty of Books - Episode 04: Paperback Writer

BBC
The paperback book democratized reading in the 20th century, and printing directly onto the covers became a way of selling a book in the mass market. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell was a book written in and for this era, emerging as a paperback in 1954. Its changing cover design reflects each decades approach to selling the book to new readers: from its classic 50s Penguin cover to the latest design from Jon Gray, they are signs of our times. As an example of how cover design has become art, the iconic 'cog eye' design by David Pelham of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange has permeated society since the first paperback of 1972. Bringing the story of the book up to the 21st century, the arrival of electronic readers has sent traditional publishing into a tailspin. The paperback and its cover design has been replaced by the concept of mass storage and electronic pages. As this new technology gains new fans the paper book comes under renewed scrutiny. Whether society accommodates both ways of disseminating knowledge in the future depends on our continued devotion to good writing, editing and design.
  • English subtitles
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The Beauty of Diagrams - Episode 02: Copernicus

BBC
When Polish priest and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus developed his extraordinary theory of a sun-centred universe 500 years ago, he was flying in the face of both science and religion. Mankind had believed for thousands of years that the earth was at the centre of the cosmos, and to disagree was to risk derision and accusations of heresy. For decades he was too afraid to publish, but the arrival of a young German scientist gave Copernicus courage, and his book and its extraordinary diagram were published in 1543, when he was on his deathbed. His image of the heliocentric universe changed forever our understanding of the Cosmos, and of our place in it.
Astronomy%%%Physics

The Beauty of Diagrams - Episode 03: Newton's Prism

BBC
In the mid-1660s, Isaac Newton bought a pair of prisms at a fair near Cambridge, which were to be the basis of a series of experiments that would unlock a secret that had occupied scientists for centuries - the nature of light itself. To explain what he had done, Newton created a diagram. It is called The Crucial Experiment and is a pivotal image in scientific history, a graphic moment when the ancient world was overturned by modern science. Newton demonstrated that white light is not pure, but made up of a number of different colours, the colours of the rainbow. Newton's ideas transformed our knowledge of what we see and how we see, and the prism and its refracted colours became a captivating image. From fibre-optics to the cover of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album, Newton's work went on to influence centuries of science and art.
Physics

The Beauty of Diagrams - Episode 05: DNA

Marcus du Sautoy
Series in which mathematician Marcus du Sautoy explores the stories behind some of the world's most familiar and influential scientific diagrams. In the last hundred years, one diagrammatic image stands above all others. It represents a scientific breakthrough that has been voted the most significant in the 20th century, more important than penicillin or the first working computer. The double helix shows us what the structure of our DNA looks like. Francis Crick and James Watson announced their discovery in Nature magazine in April 1953, and their article included a diagram of the structure by Odile Crick. The image she drew has become so well known and loved that we now find it in a whole range of consumer products - there are double helix ties, dogs chews and even a perfume. So has the image of the double helix become so divorced from its original scientific setting that no one knows what it really is or what it stands for?
Biology%%%Medical Sciences

The Beauty of Maps - Episode 01: Medieval Maps - Mapping the Medieval Mind

BBC
Documentary series charting the visual appeal and historical meaning of maps. The Hereford Mappa Mundi is the largest intact Medieval wall map in the world and its ambition is breathtaking - to picture all of human knowledge in a single image. The work of a team of artists, the world it portrays is overflowing with life, featuring Classical and Biblical history, contemporary buildings and events, animals and plants from across the globe, and the infamous 'monstrous races' which were believed to inhabit the remotest corners of the Earth. The Mappa Mundi, meaning 'cloth of the world', has spent most of its long life at Hereford Cathedral, rarely emerging from behind its glass case. The programme represents a rare opportunity to get close to the map and explore its detail, giving a unique insight into the Medieval mind. This is also the first programme to show the map in its original glory, revealing the results of a remarkable year-long project by the Folio Society to restore it using the latest digital technology. The map has a chequered history. Since its glory days in the 1300s it has languished forgotten in storerooms, been dismissed as a curious 'monstrosity', and controversially almost sold. Only in the last 20 years have scholars and artists realised its true depth and meaning, with the map exerting an extraordinary power over those who come into contact with it. The programme meets some of these individuals, from scholars and map lovers to Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry, whose own work, the Map of Nowhere, is inspired by the Mappa Mundi.
Geography%%%History

The Beauty of Maps - Episode 02: City Maps - Order out of Chaos

BBC
The British Library is home to a staggering 4.5 million maps, most of which remain hidden away in its colossal basement, and the programme delves behind the scenes to explore some amazing treasures in more detail. This is the story of three maps, three 'visions' of London over three centuries; visions of beauty that celebrate but also distort the truth. It's the story of how urban maps try to impose order on chaos. On Sunday 2 September 1660, the Great Fire of London began reducing most of the city to ashes, and among the huge losses were many maps of the city itself. The Morgan Map of 1682 was the first to show the whole of the City of London after the fire. Consisting of sixteen separate sheets, measuring eight feet by five feet, it took six years to complete. Morgan's beautiful map symbolised the hoped-for ideal city. In 1746 John Rocque produced what was at the time the most detailed map ever made of London. Like Morgan's, Rocque's map is all neo-Classical beauty and clinical precision, but the London it represented had become the opposite. In engravings of the time, such as Night, the artist William Hogarth shows a city boiling with vice and corruption. Stephen Walter's contemporary image, The Island, plays with notions of cartographic order and respectability. His extraordinary London map looks at first glance to be just as precise and ordered as his hero Rocque's but, looking closer, it includes 21st-century markings, such as 'favourite kebab vans' and sites of 'personal heartbreak'.
Geography%%%History

The Beauty of Maps - Episode 03: Atlas Maps - Thinking Big

BBC
The Dutch Golden Age saw map-making reach a fever pitch of creative and commercial ambition. This was the era of the first ever atlases - elaborate, lavish and beautiful. This was the great age of discovery and marked an unprecedented opportunity for mapmakers, who sought to record and categorise the newly acquired knowledge of the world. Rising above the many mapmakers in this period was Gerard Mercator, inventor of the Mercator projection, who changed mapmaking forever when he published his collection of world maps in 1598 and coined the term 'atlas'. The programme looks at some of the largest and most elaborate maps ever produced, from the vast maps on the floor of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, to the 24-volume atlas covering just the Netherlands, to the largest atlas in the world, The Klencke Atlas. It was made for Charles II to mark his restoration in 1660. But whilst being one of the British Library's most important items, it is also one of its most fragile, so hardly ever opened. This is a unique opportunity to see inside this enormous and lavish work, and see the world through the eyes of a king.
Geography%%%History

The Beauty of Maps - Episode 04: Cartoon Maps - Politics and Satire

BBC
The series concludes by delving into the world of satirical maps. How did maps take on a new form, not as geographical tools, but as devices for humour, satire or storytelling? Graphic artist Fred Rose perfectly captured the public mood in 1880 with his general election maps featuring Gladstone and Disraeli, using the maps to comment upon crucial election issues still familiar to us today. Technology was on the satirist's side, with the advent of high-speed printing allowing for larger runs at lower cost. In 1877, when Rose produced his Serio Comic Map of Europe at War, maps began to take on a new direction and form, reflecting a changing world. Rose's map exploited these possibilities to the full using a combination of creatures and human figures to represent each European nation. The personification of Russia as a grotesque-looking octopus, extending its tentacles around the surrounding nations, perfectly symbolised the threat the country posed to its neighbours.
Geography%%%History



The Blue Planet - 03 - Open Oceans

BBC
2007. An unfortunate shoal of sardines is first attacked by three-metre-long striped marlin with metre-long, needle-sharp javelins on their heads. The commotion attracts juvenile yellowfin tuna and then a 14-metre Sei whale scoops up the remains.
Biology%%%Environmental Studies

The Blue Planet - 04 - Frozen Seas

BBC
2007. In winter the temperature drops to below -50 degrees centigrade and in Antarctica most animals escape the weather. But emperor penguins stay put and huddle together, incubating their eggs and rearing their chicks in the worst weather on the planet. Weddell seals also remain, keeping their breathing holes open by scraping away the ice with their teeth.
Biology%%%Environmental Studies

The Blue Planet - 05 - Coral Seas

BBC
This next instalment is about coral reefs, which are so crowded that they play host to a perpetual battle for space, even among the coral itself. It starts life as a larva that becomes a polyp. Having multiplied, it hardens into a limestone skeleton and grows to form a reef. As the community flourishes, animals develop relationships with one another and such a place can feature a huge variety of ocean life.
Biology%%%Environmental Studies


The Blue Planet - 07 - Tidal Seas

BBC
2007. A huge tidal wave, sweeps 200 miles inland up the River Amazon. It's an event that only happens on key days each month, when the moon and sun combine their gravitational pull to maximum effect. The force of the wave shatters immense rainforest trees.
Biology%%%Environmental Studies

The Blue Planet - 08 - Coasts

BBC
2007. Each year the entire population of green turtles that live off the coast of Brazil undertakes a massive 5,000-mile migration to the tiny seven-mile-wide island of Ascension, lost in the middle of the Atlantic.
Biology%%%Environmental Studies

The Box That Changed Britain

Graeme McAulay
Poet Roger McGough narrates the extraordinary story of how a simple invention - the shipping container - changed the world forever and forced Britain into the modern era of globalisation.
Economics & Finance%%%Geography


The British at Work - Episode 01: We Can Make It 1945-1964

BBC
Kirsty Young looks at British working lives since the Second World War. This programme combines the memories of ordinary working people with vivid archive from documentary, television and film to look at an era in which work was a great mass experience and work places were lively, welcoming communities. Kirsty hears from women who were moving into a male dominated workforce and sees how the optimistic dreams of the post-war years were undermined by poor management and bickering workers.
History%%%Politics & Public Policy

The British at Work - Episode 02: Them and Us 1964 -1980

BBC
n the second of this series on the history of work, Kirsty Young looks at the years in which the post-war baby boom generation joined the workforce, from the buoyant optimism of the 60s to the union versus management conflicts of the 70s. The programme combines first hand recollection from workers with colourful comedy, drama and documentary archive from the period. While work was often divided between them and us, it was also a time when managers were getting sharper, women were given more responsibility and lots of people were making real money.
History%%%Politics & Public Policy