In the mass of Historical documentaries, films, web series and Tv shows that i have watched over the years i realised some are quite simply rubbish. Often presented by strange paranoid americans insisting that their discovery is “groundbreaking” and “unique”. well i’ve had enough ! I think nowadays in our multi-media world where stories are more transportable than ever, historic productions should be celebrated as a great resource, full of factual content and relatable topics.
Here is a list of my top 5 favorite TV, Film and WEB shows with historic content.
5) ANDREW MARR’S HISTORY OF BRITAIN
especial studying 1960’s britain for my upcoming exams – the use of documentary evidence in research was refreshing and entertaining. Infact most of the course was based on this series ( being a source based paper). Andrew Marr gives a great account of the events of the 60’s from the profumo affair to the miners strikes whizzing around england in a period car, replaying not only political change but also changes in public attitude (especially youth culture through americanism and new waves of commonwealth immigrants).
Film has become one of the most detailed sources a Historian can use in recent history, whether it is an impartial documentary, political film or simply art each has a detailed account of the period, views and attitudes towards the time. now with a more relaxed censorship, a sense of the ‘swinging 60’s‘ and culturally motivated directors, films became this reflection of society at the time. They highlighted major issues – racism, housing shortages, dissatisfaction, liberation of women etc. if you’re interested in the topic it is well worth watching a few ( carry on films were always my favorite)
4) GENGHIS KHAN
This documentary by BBC1 around 10 years ago has become almost timeless to me. knowing very little about the man except his conquest of an empire even larger than the romans. This show has no modern contraptions and you can become quite lost in it’s rural settings ( in fact the whole documentary was shot in mongolia) the quality of acting is also extremely high and retaining the mongols language heightens the realism. I have compared this to the film version and found that the realistic – non hollywood qualities of the documentary, with its factual content if more deserving of the time BUT the film is also a good, quick paced ( for horses at least) action packed piece for the cinema.
to be honest anything produced by the BBC TO BE HONESY ANYTHING PRODUCED BY THE bbc IS FAIRLY OUT STANDING QUALITY
3) DIGGING FOR THE TRUTH
The personal view of History through factual documentaries can be remarkable, America despite it’s some what overplayed perception does come up with some great series and films. Especially with aid from researchers all over the world, this TV series excels, being perfectly balanced with humour, adventure and factual content. Presented by Josh Bernstein, a rather dreamy real life Indiana Jones (he even has the hat !) in the show “Digging for the truth” is a whirlwind tour around the world looking at both well known stories such as the knights templar and the Holy Grail, and un-known ones like the discovery of giant sloth skin and a mummified stone age man in the alps. These interesting stories with josh’s charismatic witt leads to good watching. ( all the episodes are on youtube I have linked to the very first)
2) THE YOUNG VICTORIA
This iconic British Monarch, embodied by Emily Blunt, is told compassionately in her early life as she strives to find dynastic authority. By focusing on some of her happiest and most challenging decisions through a documentary style , being highly focused on the facts even using her diary extracts and accounts from her friends and advisers to enrich the production. The costume, setting, props and attitudes stay true to the period, covering a part of victoria’s life I haven’t looked into in great detail and Emily Blunt’s portrayal of her shows the young woman in such hostile and politically unstable times. This One of my favorite period films and well worth watching.
1) SCHINDLER’S LIST
need I say more ? anybody who’s watched it will tell you how horrifically true the story it. you would have to be inhuman not to be torn apart by this moving film. A true testament to the amazing mans life and the survival of those few brave souls. A true vision of tragedy.
a few honorable mentions –
- Downton Abbey
- the kings speech
- the lost caves of tibet (any documentary on ancient tibet really)
- any on BBC4 – the normans, the incas, lost kingdoms of central america, timeshift, timewatch ….