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Countdown to the BAFTAs Podcast Transcript: Episode 3, Documentaries

Countdown to the BAFTAs Episode 3: Documentaries

Alex: Hello and welcome again to this celebration of television excellence. I'm Alex Zane, and this is Countdown to the BAFTA’S, where in this series, stars, Industry insiders and Expert voices join forces to discuss the nominees in the running for the 2024 BAFTA TV awards with P&O Cruisers and the BAFTA Television Craft Awards. 

Today we are taking a look at the factual categories as we delve into the best documentaries of the last year.  


Ramita: Actually reminded me of when Jane Goodall was asked, what her favourite animal was and she said “well, everybody always assumed that I will say chimps, but I never say chimps because chimps are so like humans, that they’re all assholes” and not only is it, part succession, part Brazilian soap opera, it is shot so beautifully.  


Alex: So, what does it take to be nominated for a BAFTA? Stay tuned to find out.  

Now, the BAFTA TV Awards are voted for by industry professionals and that voting has now closed, so anything we say and do on this podcast has no influence on the results. 

And crucially, we do not know who has won, but that doesn't stop us championing what has been another stellar year, particularly for factual TV. And who better to run through the nominees with me today than foreign affairs journalist, documentary filmmaker, and author, Ramita Navar and next to a Ramita, it's the Managing director of TV Company, Gold Waller, Faraz Osman. Welcome to both of you. How are you? 

Ramita: Good, thank you. 

Faraz: Hey, Alex. Good to be here. 

Alex: Good to have you here. So let me begin with you Ramit. Just to give us a sense of your incredible and distinguished career, can you tell us a bit about what you went through and what was involved in making your award-winning ITV documentary Afghanistan, no Country for Women? And I guess the experience of actually going undercover on the ground in Afghanistan. 

Ramita: Do you know what, this is one of the moments where I can big up commissioning editor for commissioning this so quickly. Tom Giles, before the Taliban actually took over Afghanistan. So, I pitched this months and months before anyone thought the Taliban was going to take over and thought, that Kabul was going to fall. 

I was really prepared for people to say, oh, we know this. Women in Afghanistan, we've heard it a million times before and of course we know that story, but I'd been tracking what was happening to women as the Taliban was slowly taking over the country. And as these provinces were starting to fall and I thought, this is a great litmus test of what the country will be like once the Taliban takes over and of course then it suddenly became reality.  

Taliban did take over and then, we took a moment, do we still do this? Yes, of course, we still do this, and we waited for the Taliban to fully take over because at first, they were making all the right noises, they were saying all the right things. 

So, it took a few months before we decided to go in. and we spent, about 30 days in the first trip, and about two weeks on the second trip. And yeah, I ended up doing a little bit of undercover filming in a Taliban prison, which is the evidence that we needed to show that at that point the Taliban were basically abducting women from the streets and imprisoning them and there was no record.  

These women were just going missing. There was no record of them in the prison system and it would take their families quite a few weeks until they found out where they were.  

Alex: What is going through your head as you're in that prison? Are you still focused on, “I want to get the best footage, I want to get what I need from this moment” Or are you thinking, “This is bloody dangerous”? 

Ramita: I'm thinking, oh my God, I hope I just turned on the secret filming equipment  


Because I can't remember if it's one flashing lead red light or two flashing red lights. 

I was so nervous. I really didn't know if I was actually filming so that was what I was most scared about. Also, I had to turn on the secret film equipment surrounded by over a dozen armed Talibs. and that was, that, that moment was, yeah, was, pretty scary. My hand was shaking a little. Yeah. 

Alex: You began that by championing a commissioning editor, for us. When it comes to developing an idea for a documentary, what are you looking for? Are there certain things that let you know straight up that this idea will work? 

Faraz: I think we have a real gift in this country because we've got people that, you know, as we've just heard that just want to tell incredible stories and we'll go so above and beyond in any way to make sure those stories get told. 

And as a result, really the expectation, the level that you have to get to, to get a film made requires so much work, background. But also, I kind of really feel like it is bottling lightning. The reality is that we are trying to find those stories that feel stranger than fiction, that's how we get audiences to it. 

You want people to watch your films and go away and say. Wow, I can't believe that the real world is actually like that. That's when you know you've got a hit on your hands. I think that we're just really, really privileged in the UK in particular, to be so good at this, to have so many people that are just willing to be so diligent about finding the best stories to get them into people's homes and have the ability to tell them. 

I mean, exactly as we've heard, there are lots of places around the world that just simply don't get the opportunity to have their stories told but the reality is, that it kind of comes down to three things. I think it's the talent who's telling that film, both in front and behind the camera. 

It's the access that you're getting to make sure that it's an authentic story and it's being told in the right way and then thirdly, it's the moment that you're telling it. You know, there are a lot of films that we've got that we're going to talk about that are told right now and are particularly powerful because the time they're being told, not just the subject matter that they're telling. 

Alex: Well on that wonderful note of championing the British, documentary making industry, let's discover the shows that are being celebrated. This year's BAFTA TV Awards, here are the nominees we're discussing today… 

Alex: Factual Series: 

Dublin Narcos, Blast Films for Sky documentaries. 

 Evacuation Wonder Hood Studios for Channel four. 

 Lockerby Mind House Productions for Sky documentaries.  

Once Upon A Time In Northern Ireland, KEO films, walk on Air films.  

The Open University for BBC Two. 


 Specialist Factual: 

Chimp Empire, KEO films, underdog Films for Netflix. 

The Enfield Poltergeist Met film Concordia studio for Apple TV  

Forced out dragonfly for sky documentaries  

White nanny black child doc hearts. Tiger Lily Productions BFI for channel five.  


And finally, 

Single Docs: 

David Holmes, the boy who lived light box HBO for sky documentaries.  

Ellie Simmons, finding my Secret Family, Flicker Productions for ITV one  

Hatton, no Media Group for Sky documentaries  

Ver Thomas the Spiderman of Paris. Amos Pictures for Netflix.  



So, 12 nominees there. Let's begin our journey with the single documentaries, these other shows that give you a window into another world in just one sitting. 

The first nominee we’re looking at is David Holmes, the boy who lived from Sky documentaries, which follows the story of David Holmes, the stunt Double to Daniel Radcliffe, who was paralyzed after a tragic accident on the set of the penultimate Harry Potter film. For us, I mean, I'm sure this documentary will have particular resonance to those across the BAFTA membership in TV and film. How did you feel watching it? 

Faraz: I mean, firstly, there's a lot of conversation happening right now across the industry about making sure that stunt people are properly celebrated because the work they do is astonishing, and we've seen that conversation happen in film awards. That's had its moment and now's moving into the TV awards as well, as the standard of television gets higher and higher. 

The stunt community are heavily involved in high end drama and film and television. This film is remarkable. It is a really breath-taking watch because you are aware of this story, but again, it feels like it's one that will get hidden. It feels like you knew that it kind of happened, that it actually felt like they did quite a good job of making sure it wasn't overly reported. 

Because obviously Harry Potter is such a huge phenomenon, you know, in this country, but worldwide as well. This was a really, really tragic story. But it feels like it was forgotten about until this documentary came out. And what's really compelling about this is, you know, Daniel Radcliffe is, you know, who plays Harry Potter for the few, but a few listeners that don't know that. 


Faraz: For the few, listeners that don't know that. 

But Daniel Radcliffe is one of the executive producers of this, and it is very tempting that it becomes a film about him and about Harry Potter again. It is absolutely not that. It is a film about this story and it's kind of like that friendship that happens when you are working on such a huge piece. 

This was many, many films long and this was a real tragic event that happened, but they couldn't stop. They had to continue making these films even though this tragedy happened and to have that time to go back to it and reflect on all of those things that happened. These guys were all kids when they were filming this, and you really do forget this. 

And you can kind of sense that that trauma has lingered on, but also that friendship is absolutely there and it's a really beautifully made film and a really compelling watch, but it's the access that's really, really incredible. And I think having Daniel as an executive producer feels like it could have been, you know, taken it in the opposite direction, but it's absolutely not that, you feel like you're getting a real genuine insight into how this tragedy really affected the whole cast there. 

Alex: I mean, David Holmes himself, what an individual and what an outlook and as a subject for a documentary, this idea that, you know, I mean, the fact that he actively says on camera, “I didn't want to pursue any blame for this accident because what's the point? Making someone else's life miserable”. 

I mean, that really draws you into him and his positivity. 

Ramita: Also, there's this amazing scene, where he's in the hospital room where he was first taken to after the accident, and he always finds something to feel lucky about despite this horror that's happened to him. 

He says, “I was in this hospital room and the other guys who were here, well one was paralyzed in a terror attack. The other, I think it was a knife attack”. And he said, “Look at all that hate. I was doing something I loved”. I mean, it's really remarkable. And what I loved about the film was it not just showed the ripple effects of this, life changing accident and what happens when there's a life-changing accident and how many people it affects. 

But as you said, it was a study on friendship. It was these tight group of friends that come together and how a friendship survives, something like this and there was a moment where Daniel Radcliffe was really honest and he said the first time he went to the hospital room to see David, he was really worried that something would've changed. 

And he was really worried that they wouldn't have anything to talk about anymore and I thought that was, yeah, really, really honest. 

Alex: Right. Well, shall we move over to Netflix now? Netflix gave us Vjeran Tomic: The Spider-Man of Paris, a cat burglar. Tomic stole works by Matisse and Picasso totalling over 95 million pounds. For us it's about a heist and filmed very much like a heist movie in parts intercut with this interview with Tomic and they throw in his, “I only steal from the 1%”, line, which makes you go, oh, I think he's all right. Is he a good burglar? And what did you make of this? 

Faraz: Well, can I just say my daughter picked up on this. She's a bit like, “The title of this film is wrong because Spider-Man's meant to be the good guy. Like surely you should be called the Doctor Octopus of Paris”. She was quite confused about how we turn villains into heroes. 

This is a very much an anti-hero film. You do kind of in a guilty way kind of root for him. There are some brilliant scenes in this where it does feel like a proper heist film. You know, it has got that drama edge to it, and it comes back to what we're saying about factual programming that these stories are, you know, feel like they are stranger than fiction. 

When you are watching this, yes, there's lots of dramatized pieces in this and they're doing lots of reconstructions, but the story's real and you see the person that did this and there are some properly breath-taking moments here. The audacity of this crime and the audacity of what was happening here, is huge that you almost have to keep going back to the real people and hearing from them because you just can't believe that it actually happened. 

And I think that the access here is really, really great. The fact they got to tell this story in such detail and what's great about this is that it's a French film. It's, in the French language and it's in Paris. So, you really do feel like every part of you is taken to that city. 

You know, it's about the French Modern Art Museum. You see shots of the Eiffel Tower all the time, all of the contributors are French and they're speaking to you in French and so, I ate a croissant while I was watching this, and I was absolutely transported to that place in that time. 

It's a really, really enjoyable watch. Not least cause it’s so heart stopping, which, is a brilliant thing to be able to make happen when you're watching a documentary.  

Ramita: I've got a question. I'm loving the sound of the Spider-Man. I'm down with stealing from the 1% but what did he do with the money he made? Tell me he was Robin Hood? 

Faraz: Oh, That’s spoilers. I don’t know if we can do that 


Alex: Well, I mean the thing is, this is kind of why you like him. Because you're like, you stole artworks worth over 95 million pounds and then you sold them to an art dealer for about 50,000 pounds because you just wanted 50 grand there and then  


As opposed to trying to shift them yourself.  

Ramita: oh, I'm liking him even more, I’m dying to watch this now. 

Alex: I think Robin Hood's a stretch, because he's not giving his money to the poor. 

(RAMITA LAUGHING): Is he paying off his credit cards? 


Faraz: I think it is worth remembering, for those who haven't seen it, the reason it's called the Spiderman of Paris is that he's got this kind of climbing parkour thing going on, there’s a brilliant scene about how they talk about the people at the top of the buildings and for anybody that's ever been to Paris, you know, these buildings are, very tall and the higher up you go the less security they have and he worked this out, so he was climbing buildings to get to the top floor… 

Ramita: So, he’s cool as well? 


Faraz: Because that's where all the penthouses are, but it's also where the least amount of security is, and you see shots of people climbing and GoPro footage of them jumping from rooftop to rooftop and there's all of that kind of breath-taking moments in there. He's a really incredibly talented climber. He's an incredibly charismatic man. He just happens to be, a criminal. 

Ramita: Is he single? 


Alex: He's, single but in jail, is that good or bad? 


Faraz: If you live in a flat, you just need to make sure you’re really high up, that’s what will get you there. 

Alex: Right. If the Spiderman of Paris is a very clickable title, the star of our next nominee is just as clickable, Ellie Simmons, finding My Secret Family.  

Faraz, the search for family is a television staple, and here its gold medal winning Paralympian, Ellie Simmons, trying to find her birth mother. 

At what, if anything, does this film do differently that has made it a success? 

Faraz: Well, I think its Ellie. I think that you know she's actually an incredibly watchable individual and that it's really great when you see stars that have made their name and we've got some other kind of sports people on this list that we're going to be talking about as well. 

When you see these sporting people that have reached the pinnacle of their craft in this instance, swimming then go on to be able to tell stories beyond that. Again, it comes back to this thing I was saying earlier about access. Part of the trickiness-and you mentioned it earlier about clickable titles. 

Part of the challenge that we have with documentaries is bringing an audience to them, so when you have somebody that is already known by the audience, it helps unlock these stories in a different way and this is something that we know that a lot of people share this level of challenges with their family and having Ellie tell that story opens it up to a much wider audience. 

I think that that's what makes it important here, that it's her voice, her experience and you go with her because she has been such an icon, in the sports world. But hearing her background after we kind of championed her and cheered her to winning gold medals and learning more about her is why these documentaries really, really work. Because, you know, you are really drawn into these people because they are such brilliant individuals. 

Alex: I mean there is an incredible moment. I think it's about 15 minutes in where her adoptive father says about her looking for her birth mother. “You’ve got to be emotionally prepared for finding out stuff you might not want to find out”. 

And there's this look on Ellie's face in that moment that you see, she hadn’t even considered that as a possibility and you realize in that moment, you're watching a very genuine person who isn't performing for the camera. She's a very authentic human in this documentary, which is kind of rare when you put a camera on someone isn't it? 

Ramita: Do you know what? I was completely taken by her and taken, I love a family reunion show, and I just sobbed all the way through this. 

She was so open and so sweet and so trusting of the process and there's a moment where she reads notes that she's given from her adoption and in the notes, her birth mother is saying that “I wish I'd had an abortion”. And then her birth mother says, “I wish she'd just died”.  

And Ellie says, “So she wishes I were dead?” And oh, God, that moment. It really stayed with me and that's quite rare, I think, in a program like this, in kind of reunion programs we're so used to them to have these moments that stay with you. I thought it was really beautifully done and really respectfully done because after you hear, some of the terrible things that her birth mother said, there is of course a reunion and it's not filmed, and you don't feel cheated as a viewer. You don't mind, it's not filmed and in fact you want to respect their moment. I thought it was done beautifully.  

Faraz: I think that's a really important point actually because as we celebrate these films, it's not just the final films that were celebrating, it's how they got made and that building of trust between contributor and director or production team is so, I mean, you all know this. 

It's like, it's such an essential skill and sometimes you'll go years to build-up that rapport, build up that level of trust that, we will tell your story with respect and authority.  

But you have to always balance what is going to be viewed by the audience at home and make sure it's as compelling and make sure it's as interesting as it can be but also be really respectful of the fact that these are human beings and they are real stories and you have to tell them in the right way and this is a masterclass in that this film, because you know, this is very difficult. You could tell as you're watching this film, this is a difficult experience for Ellie, but it's told with that level of respect and trust between the director and the contributor. And when you get that right, then you, again really feel like you are hearing the true human story, behind this. 

Alex: Yeah, it does go back to the fact that she comes across so genuinely, because I mean to talk about, you know, building trust. I think that the godfather of flying the wall documentaries, Paul Watson of the family fame, I think he said about the subjects on camera, flying the wall docs, are people improvising around the idea of being themselves. Which ties into this idea of, you know, people do often present exaggerated versions of themselves. 

You cannot be unaware that a camera is on you. Do you think that is just half of the course now when you're making a documentary? Or in some way, are you striving for the real person, or do you want this exaggerated version? 

Faraz: Well, listen, I think that we are now in a generation where everybody's grown up with cameras around them. 

So, whereas many years ago, the idea of having a camera in your face was a far more intimidating thing. You know, now everyone's got a camera in their pocket, and we've got a generation that's growing up with filming themselves and filming each other. So, there is a discarding of impact that's happened as a result of that. 

But I do think it's not just about the camera and the contributor, it is about the relationship between the production team and the story that they're telling.  

I think a lot of people think that you just turn on the film and, and film an interview and then you you're done. The amount of work that goes into making sure that you're getting that level of honesty. 

Because I think audiences know when they're watching a reality TV show and an interview in that space and an interview in a documentary, and they can tell when somebody's being authentic and genuine and when somebody is doing it because it's a job or it's an experience. 

I think that audiences can tell the judging panel on award shows like this, they really consent where things are real, and it's called documentary for a reason. You're creating documents of time and so they have to be as real to life as possible. Because if they're not, they can't be trusted and once you lose the trust of either your contributor or the audience, things do start falling down and I think again, this doc in particular really demonstrates the level in which you can succeed. 

Alex: Well, we've reached the final nominee for the category of single documentary. 

We Return to Sky and Hatton which uses previously unseen archive footage to tell the story of boxing champion Ricky Hatton. For us that phrase, previously unseen archive footage, it does a lot of heavy lifting in generating interest, doesn't it? How hard is it though, to actually source previously unseen footage and how useful is that phrase to sell a documentary? 

Faraz: well, again, going back to my earlier point about the fact that everyone's got a phone in their pocket now, it is changing but I think that when you've got stars that are clearly on the rise, I don't know if that's the case here, but for many people there is a lot of archival work that goes on because we know that these are going to be legends and we want to make sure that for posterity that we're, keeping all of their work and there is so much stuff that is shot now, but every once in a while you get yourself into a room that you didn't think you were ever going to get access to and be it the family home, be it the kind of the changing room before you head out into the ring, there's a lot of times when those are where the real emotions and the real stories are. 

And when you are a sports person in particular, you are a brand and everything is controlled for a very particular filter and when you get the opportunity to make these documentaries, you get to see the kind of more raw edginess alongside it that you wouldn't necessarily see when that boxing match or that motor race or that football match happens. 

You're seeing more and more of these sport documentaries occur, but it's always after the fact when there's been an opportunity to see how that game or in this instance, boxing match has taken place and those careers have happened because your expectations of, let's be honest, a lot of these sports stars are super humans. You know, you have built a brand around them.  

But when you get an opportunity to take a bit of time away from that and actually see the real human being behind that brand, it is addictive viewing and it's incredibly compelling and again, a real masterclass in seeing that, because he is an incredible individual, an incredible character, but you do really feel like you're connecting with him in a way that you didn't when you watched him fight. 

Alex: I mean, because it's Ricky Hatton, hours and hours of footage, exists of him as a child through to when he became a world champion. I mean, hundreds of hours. That's, a lot to go through. I'm going to give you a bit of a curve ball here. Whoever wants to pick up the hot potato of AI can, but is this something AI might actually be able to help with in the future? I come from the terminator two generation where AI is terrifying.  


That's bad AI. But the idea of just going through that amount of footage and having something that is able to select what is relevant, what is interesting footage, IE, good AI. Could this be a useful tool in the future? 

Ramita: God, you know what, that sounds like a dream to me. 


Ramita: Because I spend so much time going through footage and actually authenticating footage, you know, especially in conflict zones where you're not sure of locations of whose involved, actually to have an AI system that could authenticate and pick out video evidence for you, bring it on! 

Faraz: I think what you are talking about is, the daunting reality of going through that amount of archive and being able to get the best stuff to tell the right story. 

I think that that's been happening for a while. I don't necessarily think that that's just about AI, it's just about really good cataloguing and I can tell you for free. When you work with an archive producer that knows how to get through content in any way, shape or form, they are super humans. 

They really, really are. Like I live in awe of the organization of really great archive producers because they know where to find stuff, they know who to speak to and they know what will work on screen and it's just such a real gift and I think that we are really blessed to have brilliant archive producers in this country who can make these films because it actually is the, as you say, unseen stuff that makes these films as well as the interviews with all the contributors. 

But it's when you get to see those people as kids or in the lead up to the fight. Those are the things that stay with you, and it is the archive producers that are making that happen. 

Alex: Yeah, I think you hit the nail of the head though. It's, like his parent's sort of knew he was going to be a star at a very early age, which is why there's no footage of me when I was a kid. 


Faraz: Well, listen, every parent now is filming every moment of their child. Because they're a bit like, “yes you are the greatest child that's ever lived” I'm doing it in my kids and, whether there's going to be an archive producer shifting through that footage in the future, I have no idea. 

Alex: We're moving categories now, this time to Specialist Factual, and the first one we're tackling of the nominees is the Enfield Poltergeist, which was on Apple TV Plus. No surprises for guessing this was released in the Run up to Halloween, but it is a Docudrama which is quite a difficult medium to get right, doing a Docudrama, isn't it?  

Faraz: Yeah. But I think that one of my feelings is that, there isn't one way to tell a story and I think that if this is the best format to tell that story and we get a bit of reconstruction in there, again, it's all about compelling the viewer to watch it through to the end, get the full gamut of the story and in the most compelling way. I think what it comes down to when it's with Docudrama is that you need to just make sure you've got that balance between truth, fact, reality alongside entertainment and drama. It can be quite easy to actually fall in either way where it's a bit too factual, so it doesn't feel like it's got the level of intrigue and engagement, to keep the audience to the end.  

But also, you don't want to go too far on the other end where you have too much of the reconstruction or, Drama, shall we say, that then makes a story feel like it's less real. The getting that balance right, is a real, real art and I think this is one of those films that does that with a deft hand. 

Alex: It does something different, in so much as it takes audio recordings from the period, so 40 years old, the seventies these events happened and it has actors lip sync to these original audio recordings and its use of sound in this way It's, very impressive. 

Faraz: And it's being nominated for BAFTA as well. 

Alex: correct, right yeah, it's got best sound at the BAFTA TV craft awards. 

Alex: Next up, Channel five's, white nanny, black child, a personal moving and sometimes unsettling meditation on identity, belonging and the nature of family. I'll admit this was a part of British history I had almost no knowledge of, for us The Telegraph called it a striking left turn for Channel five, what did you make of this film? 

Faraz: So full disclosure, I know Andy Mundy Castle, he's a friend of mine and he told me about this film on a train once and I literally went to him. “That's not true that that didn't happen”. And he was a bit like, yep, this is a part of British history that so many people are unaware of, but it's so important to a particular community. It’s based around the Nigerian community in the 1970s and a lot of those were brought up by white nannies so there were lots of black children that had white nannies and that's how they were brought up. Which for them it was normality, but it presents a really incredible sense of what diversity looks like in the UK because effectively these people were being brought up with two different cultures and that was happening while they were children. 

It was only until later in their life that they realized the conflict and the struggles that created and you having a lot from, a lot of contributors from both sides that retell that experience and both the positives and the negatives that comes with that.  

When you hear that you're a bit like, these stories have to be told and this is a great medium to do it. And I actually think, absolutely fair play to Channel five. This isn't a space that they usually play in, and they met with Andy and they met with the team that were making this, and they heard the stories and they saw the access that he had. 

And for many people, this is experience that they are very familiar with and he was bringing it to a brand new audience and it's a brilliant, brilliant film and I'm really pleased for him, that this has been nominated and is in this shortlist because I think it's an important story and it really says a lot about our culture and how a lot of people have been bought up in Britain.  

Alex: Ramita, it did very well at the Sheffield Dock Fest last year. It's obviously nominated for a BAFTA, now how important are festival circuits and awards nominations in terms of raising awareness about a film? 

Ramita: It's everything because you make a documentary and it's often about an obscure story, an obscure part of the world and we're often given a graveyard slot because it's thought that people aren't interested in foreign affairs. 

So, you get the feeling that you're having very little impact, and you have to go and create that impact yourself, which is writing articles, doing press interviews. So, award ceremonies and festivals are everything. It's a chance to bring your work to a bigger audience and that's really helped me in the past with my films, where you see viewing figures and you are bitterly disappointed. 

Then slowly the film starts to gain traction with screenings and with festivals and with award ceremonies after the actual broadcast. 

Alex: We return to Sky Documentaries and now for forced out, this tells the story of service people discharged from the UK armed forces simply for being LGBTQ plus who courageously fought to overturn the gay ban. Despite the fact that homosexuality was decriminalized in 1967, it remained illegal as in you could literally go to jail for being gay in the British military until the year 2000. 

For as many will know that information. But what does this documentary add to the story.  

Faraz: I didn't know that information. This was new information to me and again it comes back to how important documentaries are. Like, you know, I think that we've been on a journey about the representation of the queer community in this country. And it is genuinely shocking to see that date, that it was January 2000, up until then, it was a criminal offense to be a service person working in the military and be part of the queer community.  

That is properly shocking, this is really brave storytelling the contributors here have told those deeply personal stories about themselves. Again, it goes back to that issue of trust that, you know, they were marginalized to that extent when they're trying to fight for their own country and I think it's one of those things where we hold a mirror up to our society and see It has been a clear injustice to those people that were literally willing to put their lives on the line for a country that wanted to put them in prison it's astonishing.  

Alex: It's when a documentary can stun you with facts like that, and again, how those facts are delivered on screen that gives you an idea of its quality. What did you make of this? 

Ramita: These interviews were really moving, there was one particular man who broke down. He was replaying an interrogation and it was so cruel and his interrogator wanted to demean him, wanted him to spell out what he'd been doing, a sexual act. 

This grown man broke down crying, remembering what he was reduced to, how he was demeaned, and yeah, I thought it was a brilliant and incredibly important bit of work.  

Alex: It was astonishing. It wasn't just the fact that they had to hide their sexuality. It was the fact that there was a whole branch of the military police dedicated to hunting them down. They were subjected to home searches to find any homosexual literature, they might have. 

Ramita: Oh yeah. Home searches with rubber gloves as though this was some kind of forensic investigation. 

And actually, you know what the questioning reminded me of, the questioning reminded me of the Iranian regime. You know, it really was very similar. And I lived in Iran working as a journalist for many years. And this is what Iranians. Had to, and still have to put up with, and this is in our recent history. 

This is the British government, the British military what, 24 years ago? Shocking! 

Alex: Well, finally in this category, and you, you, you can get more different. We come to a nature Documentary, Chimp Empire on Netflix, tells the story of a vast community of chimpanzees thriving in a forest in Uganda, navigating complex social politics, family dynamics and dangerous territory disputes. There’s no shortage of nature Documentaries on TV. What did you make of Chimp Empire? 

Ramita: Oh, there is no shortage, but there is only one money succession.  

I mean, I was hooked. It’s absolutely phenomenal and it’s brutal. Actually, reminded me of when Jane Goodall was asked what her favourite animal was and she said, “well, everybody always assumed that I say chimps, but I never say chimps because chimps are so like humans that they’re all assholes” Which it turns out is true.  


I mean, not only is it, part succession, part Brazilian soap opera. It is shot so beautifully. I mean, you feel that you are there in the jungle with them. I mean, it’s absolutely extraordinary, piece of work.  

Faraz: Yeah. This comes from James Reed, who won a BAFTA for my octopus' teacher back in 2021.  

I don’t want to say it’s the follow up or the sequel, but I think that he’s obviously been known for that film which is an incredible film. I was actually, don’t know if I am allowed to say this on this podcast. I was at the RTS awards in the west of England, recently.  

Alex: Uh oh, there's a red dot on your head from the BAFTA snipers. 


Faraz: There are other awards but, what was interesting about that is, being in the west of England, the calibre we have in this country for natural history is without compare and this comes out of the west of England, as does Planet Earth. As you know, their natural history units based down there, you’ve got some incredible companies doing some really, brilliant films.  

This is one of them and like you say, the footage is just unbelievable. As you mentioned earlier about AI, you have to ask yourself sometimes when you’re watching this going, is this actually real or CGI? When you realize that they went out there, they pitched their tents and lived amongst the chimp community in that area.  

Ramita: For a year, right?  

Faraz: It's just incredible, the patience.  

Ramita: Phenomenal work, Oh my gosh, phenomenal work.  

Faraz: Yeah, the photography on this is really, really exceptional and it's a lot of these films that we talked about are, and it's a particular passion point of mine. 

It is family viewing. You know, a lot of these films are quite difficult films to watch, and you have to watch them in a particular setting. This is a film that I watch with my whole family and I think that that's really important that, in a world where there's lots of noisy programming out there, there's lots of things that are vying for your attention. 

To have something that the whole family can sit around and experience together that demonstrates our planet and our world, I think is really important and this is a masterclass in that.  

Alex: Let's move on to our final category for today. Factual series. These are multi-episode documentaries that might have exclusive access or perhaps tell a complex history. 

Ramita, we're going to start with evacuation, which I'm guessing you potentially had a very different experience watching having been on the ground in Afghanistan and dealing with the Taliban because this covers the perilous British campaign to evacuate Kabul in 2021. What did you make of how the filmmakers dealt with events here? 

Ramita: So, I can be critical of films in countries that I know well. Actually, I thought this was excellent. I thought it was really simply done. So it's mostly interviews with people still serving in the military, intercut with footage. And the retelling of what happened is absolutely extraordinary. First of all, I was quite stunned by the level of transparency that the MOD allowed, because let's face it, it was an absolute shit show. 

Um, and it was a horror story that was unfolding. And what the storytelling did so well was to build up the tension and to build up the horrific moments and events that led up to the final evacuation of the Brits from Afghanistan.  

What made it all the more powerful was that these are people who are used to being self-contained and are used to people who are really used to suppressing their feelings. I mean, they're serving military people. Yet you could tell that every single one of them was still traumatized and you're talking about some people who have seen terrible stuff in their lives. 

You know, several of them broke down explaining what had happened and you also realize that there was an absolute total lack of leadership. There was one RAF policewoman who likened it to being a sixth form field trip in Kabul. I mean, it was jaw dropping. 

Alex: I think just to touch on one of those points you made, It was such a minute detail in the way this was shot, but it was so key was the fact that these military personnel, sat down and they were filmed sitting down and you could see their military training so evident in the way they sat down, almost all took up a very similar position seated. They removed their Beret’s sort of in exactly the same way and it was all precision. It was military training, and then within sort of five minutes of beginning to talk about what they went through, that all just broke away because it had affected them so much. 

Ramita: Yeah, and you know, there were some critical reviews saying that there should have been more context and there should have been more history about the events leading up to this evacuation. 

I didn't think that was needed at all. I thought taking this one moment, this one event, picking it apart, told you everything you needed to know about the withdrawal from Afghanistan, but also about losing a war, about betrayal, and also about being in this really difficult situation. You know, it was really extraordinary to see the soldiers described that they had to carry out duties, they then felt very guilty about and there was one woman who said, I have to face myself and face the fact that I did stuff that I don't think is right, that I should not have done. You saw the real compassion and humanity, but you also saw reality of what it was like for Afghans from a British military point of view, which is very unusual. 

Alex: We have three nominees left, once upon a time in Northern Ireland. This is by the same team that won this award in 2020 for once upon a time in Iraq. 

Director James Bluemel has also been nominated this year for the BAFT Craft Awards for Director Factual. This has got some real pedigree, doesn't it? 

Faraz: Yeah. I mean, this is literally the standard that like, a lot of factual films and factual series are now held to because it is just a, what what's really fascinating about this is that it's a mix between incredible archive and brilliant access to all of these contributors, but the way that it's told, like that level of humanity and almost casualness in the way that they're having these conversations almost disarms you and feels like you're talking to real human beings. It doesn't have this level of like, you know, there's a lot of times documentaries get criticized for using particular types of music or kind of holding onto a shot for a little bit longer than needs be to kind of almost provoke an emotion out of you. 

I don't think that happens in this. There's a shot in the archive where they have the soldiers running through the streets of Dublin and there's just children playing around. So, you have this like weird juxtaposition where there's kids playing during a conflict moment, and it shouldn't happen. It shouldn't exist. And there's no mention of it. There's no reference to it. They just show you the shot and get you to make up your own mind.  

And I think that that is a real art they've managed to kind of crack with this and it's a brilliant, brilliant watch. 

Alex: Let's head over the other side of the border in Ireland, Dublin Narcos tells the story of how Dublin transformed from a recession blighted city in the eighties to one of the wealthiest cities in Europe in the nineties with a drug seen taboo. Ramita, I think you know somebody who worked on this program? 

Ramita: I do. One of my best mates, Claire. Hiya Claire. 


Ramita: She was a series producer of Dublin, Narcos and Lockerbie, double nomination for Claire. 

Alex: Congratulations, Clare McFall. For us, what did you make of Dublin Narcos? 

Faraz: I think that it's, what you said in the lead up to this, it is really compelling that we're here in London in Piccadilly, you know, this is a bit of a drive but it's still a drivable distance to these stories, which is so unbelievable that this has happened in our lifetime. That we're seeing such change happen in that region. I think, again, it's brilliant that we get to see these films because we really do get an understanding as to how our neighbours have had to deal with some pretty horrific stuff.  

But actually how it's really changed the communities. And it's kind of really shaped how that country has been built up and turned itself around. 

I think it's a brilliant film. There's another nomination that it's up for with photography because it just looks incredible. I think it's, a beautiful film. And I think what's interesting about this is, it’s, so often when you're talking about an island and Northern Ireland, it is told through the lens of the troubles as if that's the only story that they have. I think it's really brilliant that we've found another way to talk to that community and hear about their history, through, more than just one prism.  

Alex: lastly, we come to Lockerbie, which is made by Louis Theroux’s Company, Mindhouse, on Sky. Tell me what you made of Lockerbie. 

Obviously, a huge event, in recent memory, when it happened certainly, I remember distinctly what a story this was unfolding.  

Ramita: Well, another example of a story we all know and we think we know and we've been told a hundred times, yet done beautifully crafted, expertly told, I thought this worked on so many levels. 

You know, its part true crime detective, part journalist investigation, part study on grief. The first episode was incredibly moving because it grounded you right there with the people of Lockerbie and there were these moments of real compassion and kindness, the people of Lockerby rallying around. 

There was a group of women who washed the luggage and who washed teddy bears because they wanted families of loved ones to have something. You could see that the people in Lockerbie were still affected all these years later by what happened to them. There was one man who broke down another couple who would guard over a body at the end of their garden. They'd call him “our boy” And I thought that was a really beautiful way of starting to tell the story.  

And then, the intrigue, the disillusioned CIA agent who bitches about the incompetency of the FBI. He said, “What you've got to remember about the FBI, their just load of cops”. And of course, then study on grief. You know, you've got Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed, he's got grief on his face, and it's consumed 30 years of his life. You know, he's obsessed with it. But what it did so brilliantly and so delicately was allow Jim to question the official narrative.  

And it also gave weight to every single theory for which there was evidence. So, it didn't kind of fuel conspiracy theories. And that was very well done. Because it quite methodically went through all the evidence. And just when you thought, right, there's no way McGraw, he did it. You were presented with evidence that completely convinced you that of course he did do it. And ultimately there is no smoking gun. And ultimately there are different versions of what may have happened, which is a little bit JFK you felt like you were on this journey and there was no answer in the end, but it didn't matter.  

Faraz: I want to kind of bring this into the bit of the drama of the Bath Awards itself. So, this film is actually nominated for three awards, which I think makes it one of the most nominated films, certainly in in the factual category. So, John Dowry is nominated for best director for this film. And the editor Charlie is nominated for best editing as well as the film itself being nominated for best factual series. So, it's up for the treble. And I think that basically makes Louis Theroux the Martin Scorsese of the BAFTAs this year. 


So, I think that for me, those of you that are watching the BAFTAs and want a drama to see if this is going to unfold, is Louis going to be taking the biggest hall of BAFTA’S home or is he going to go home empty handed is the story of the night.  

Alex: well, on the subject of Louis Theroux, he delivered the Edinburgh TV festival keynote to the McTaggart last year, in which he gave this stirring call to arms for documentary makers, “we need television that is confrontational, surprising, and upsetting. We should aspire to challenge viewers' assumptions in resist orthodoxy wherever possible we serve social justice best when we aim to make television that reaches people and engages them take risks. Sail close to the wind.” We've kind of ended then where we started, because for us, looking at the nominees today and the state of the industry, how hopeful is you both in fact, that this is happening? 

Faraz: this is a bit of a weird analogy, but bear with me on this one, Alex. So, my feeling is that factual, and especially factual and the nomination that we're talking about here is a little bit like eating your greens, right? BAFTA is one of the best restaurants in the world and sometimes when you go to those restaurants, you want to order the steak or you want to order like the most incredible dessert, but the best restaurants have the best salads. 

And I'm telling you this for free. If you go to a restaurant that has the best greens, then you know you're in the right place. And this nomination list shows that, you know, we have got a list of incredible films that are not only good for you when you're watching them, but actually they taste absolutely incredible. 

And, and I think this is a brilliant list and it's really inspiring when it comes to the future of factual programming in this country, which I still maintain. The Brits are best at. 

Alex: Ramita? 

Ramita: I could do a bigger budget actually.  


Ramita: I'm quite worried about the ever dwindling budgets. I just got a commission first of all,  

Alex: congratulations.  

Ramita: Thank you. Thank you. It's a miracle these days. Right? So, actually. It's a great story, a great investigation, which was turned down by one broadcaster and nobody could quite believe it, including the commissioner of a rival broadcaster who said to us, “hang on a minute, was this really turned down?” 

So, then we got a commission, extremely excited, and then we found out the budget. We're not sure if it's doable. 

Faraz: should say that I, there are films on this list that I know were turned down by other broadcasters. So, this isn't an unusual experience. 

It does happen. And I think that there's nothing. More satisfying than when you have a film that was turned down by somebody else and then ends up on this list, it kind of gives you a little bit of pride. 

Ramita: I'm waiting for that moment. 


Faraz: May be happening. 

Ramita: We might, if we managed to stump up the money to actually make, make this thing. 

Faraz: But I think to your point there are a few things, you know, the factual space is in a bit of a tricky time when it comes to both the UK industry and across the world when it comes to budget, when it comes to commissions, there are lots of broadcasters that are under increasing pressure to only deliver hits. 

And some of these things do get less viewing figures because they are hard to watch. It's to go back to my Eat Your Greens analogy. They're important, but they're not always at the top of the menu. That the reality is that we need more people making these films. We need more companies making these films, and we need to have more of a wider gamut of storytellers and stories that get made because I think it is really, really important. 

And it has such a ripple impact onto our whole society. And I know that sounds quite lofty, but the reality is that we are seeing laws change. We are seeing people get represented in ways that would never be represented before. We're seeing human beings having relationships with other human beings through your television screen. 

And I really do believe that's incredibly important, and I hope that this list and others help more people get their films made. 

Alex: Right then we are almost done for this episode, but before I let you leave, after HQ I'm asking you and indeed every guest my regular quick-fire questions, Faraz I'll start with you. What was your most memorable moment from the past year of TV in general? 

Faraz: Oh God, you've really put me on the spot.  


Listen, I have mentioned this a couple of times. I've got a family sitting at home. The Bluey episode that just came out is incredible. You know, it's the complete opposite of what we are talking about right now, but I think that Bluey is in a real purple patch at the moment. But they are, you know, winning at life right now and if you want a palate cleanser, then then Bluey is out.  

I should also say, it's going to sound like I basically spend all my life watching cartoons. It helps me, but the new X men is out as well and its really remarkable I love it. It's brilliant.  

Alex: Love it. Ramita?  

Ramita: I'd say two. And of course they come from my world, the Russell Brand Channel four investigation, which I thought was. A brilliant piece of journalism  

Faraz: And continues to have impact.  

Ramita: And also, an ITV documentary inside Iran made by a friend and colleague, and that was a real feat because I know exactly how dangerous and difficult it is to make a documentary like that. And all kudos to her  

Faraz: Oh god I feel guilty about saying bluey now. 



Alex: We've got either end of the spectrum there. Final question, what are you watching and loving on TV right now for Faraz? 

Faraz: So, I watched Mr. And Mrs. Smith on Amazon, and that actually got me back to watching Atlanta with Donald Glover, which is just such a brilliant series. It's, a real treat to view.  

And I also think that in particular, I'm sure you've talked about it across this podcast, but entertainment is having just the most amazing moment right now. 

You know, obviously the traitors, gladiators, mask Singer. We're seeing so many brilliant entertainment shows and I think it's, a real joy that we're seeing a real resurgence of Saturday night entertainment across the board. 

Alex: Agreed!  

Ramita: Massive traitors' fan, massive fan of the piano, as you can tell, I love Claudia Winkelman. 

Alex: Lovely stuff. Thank you both. Ramita, Faraz. Wonderful to have had your input on this episode. If you haven't watched the excellent programs discussed today, most are still available on demand, so please do go and check them out and hit follow right now to get the inside take on the rest of the TV at nominees up for contention this year. We'll be dropping new episodes of the show twice a week, leading up to the BAFTA TV awards with P&O cruisers on the 12th of May on BBC One and BBC iPlayer hosted this year by Rob Becker and Ramesh ran Nathan. 

You will not want to miss it. Thanks to the producer of this series, Matt Hill at Rethink Audio. I'm Alex saying this was a BAFTA production. I'll see you again as the countdown to the 2024 BAFTA TV awards continues.