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BBC World Service - Documentary Archive

The Documentary

The best of BBC World Service documentaries and other factual programmes.

The Documentary

  • The Magic of Fireflies
    Fireflies lit up the evenings of Kashif Qamar’s childhood in Karachi. With his friends he’d collect ‘jugnu’ as they are called in Urdu into a large jar which then became a living lamp in the intense darkness. But the fireflies have gone – artificial light means they disappear and Kashif’s young daughters will never see their flickering magic. Kashif sets out to make a present for his daughters - a collection of memories from history, poetry and music all of which have the jugnu or firefly at their centre.

  • India’s Infamous Hospital
    On the night of August 10 2017, India went into mourning. 30 patients lost their lives in 24 hours when the oxygen supply to a hospital in Uttar Pradesh was suddenly cut. Images of the dead children and stories of parents trying to resuscitate their loved ones became emblematic of corruption and mismanagement in the country’s public health system. BRD hospital where the tragedy took place is no stranger to high rates of infant mortality. The hospital’s catchment includes some of India’s poorest and most medically vulnerable citizens. A primary centre for treating encephalitis, it’s common to see up to 400 children dying per month in the peak monsoon season. But the events of August 10th were different. With the state authorities now having made arrests and vowing to punish those responsible for the hospital’s lethal dysfunction, Assignment tracks down those who witnessed the original tragedy, to build an illuminating picture of what happened on one infamous night. Reporter: Krupa Padhy Producer: Mike Gallagher

  • From the Steppes to the Stage
    Internationally-acclaimed opera star Ariunbaatar Ganbaataar was born into a family of nomadic herders on the immense Mongolian steppe. In this hypnotic audio portrait, journalist Kate Molleson visits his family's ger to discover whether Mongolia's unique traditional culture – perhaps even its landscape itself – is the secret of his extraordinary vocal alchemy. Kate is treated to a performance of Mongolian longsong - the nation's traditional classical singing art - as well as joining Ariunbaatar on horseback to hear the songs he sang as a young boy, alone in the vast wilderness.

  • Stephen Hawking's Life and Thought
    A look back at the life and thoughts of one of the greatest theoretical physicists of our age, Professor Stephen Hawking (Photo: British scientist Stephen Hawking attends the launch of The Leverhulme Centre 2016. Credit: Niklas Halle'n/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Grandma, Guyana and Me
    Habula Karamat is 81 years old and lives in Guyana. She has eight children – but none of them live in her home country. All eight emigrated, in search of a better life overseas. They include the mother of BBC reporter Tiffany Sweeney, who was born and brought up in the UK. For the first time as an adult, Tiffany travels to Guyana with her mother. She learns about what impelled her mother to leave and what she gained by the transition - but also what was lost.