BBC announces ambitious new documentaries

Ahead of her session at the Sheffield Documentary Festival, Clare Sillery, BBC Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, has announced a wide range of new documentary commissions from acclaimed and established directors and producers including Mark Raphael, John Douglas, Arthur Cary, Morgan Matthews, Lynn Alleway, Daisy Asquith and Edmund Coulthard, as well as emerging talent like Daniel Dewsbury and Marcus Ploughwright.

Clare Sillery says: “This has been a fantastic year for BBC documentaries - we’ve celebrated success at the recent BAFTAs with wins for Exodus and Hillsborough as well as awards in factual drama for Murdered By My Father and Damilola, Our Loved Boy. We’ve also shown our first series of Hospital, which was a hugely important, timely and ambitious piece of work that will be returning this year. We’ve had single films with real impact, like Rio Ferdinand: Being Mum And Dad, which created a national conversation about men coping with grief as well as the highly acclaimed film from Sue Bourne, A Time To Live.

"Looking ahead, I’m delighted to announce a broad range of new commissions that demonstrate the ongoing ambition of documentaries at the BBC to speak to the now.

"Series will range from an ambitious longitudinal project about social mobility in the UK, which will follow highly promising children from families on low incomes over three critical years at school, to an epic adventure with six Britons embarking on a road trip that will challenge our perceptions of what it means to live with disability today.

"We’ll also be asking what family, community and home means to a generation of young people in the Yorkshire town of Redcar, and what the big decisions they make about their own futures will mean for their hometown, and with Lynn Alleway gaining privileged access to the very private world of high net worth divorces, these new films will take us right to heart of the cultural shifts happening in Britain today.

"On BBC Four, we have a strong line-up of Storyville films to look forward to this summer, from a tense Icelandic murder mystery to Daisy Asquith’s Queerama, telling the story of an extraordinary century of gay experiences."

Notes to Editors

  • All titles are working titles

    BBC One

    No Limits

    Six Britons set out on an ambitious road trip by modified motorbike and modified 4x4 along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam. It’s a challenging journey for any independent traveller but this group will be tested more than most - everyone is disabled.

    Travelling almost 1000 miles, through traffic jammed cities to mountainous rural tracks, the group will be staying with remote indigenous people, exploring dramatic cave systems, and meeting locals - many of whom live with disability from the effects of the Vietnam War.

    An epic and beautiful travelogue, this intimate series will find out their limits - emotional as well as physical - and show the audience a different view of Vietnam and a different way to think and talk about disability.

    No Limits (working title) is a 2x60 series for BBC One. It was commissioned by Charlotte Moore and Clare Sillery and the Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Jamie Balment. It is being made by Unscripted Productions, BBC Studios Bristol. The Executive Producer is Lucy Carter, the series producer/director is Sophie Todd and the producer/director is Anna Llewellyn.

    BBC Two


    A new landmark documentary from Arthur Cary and Morgan Matthews, this 90-minute film will use eyewitness testimonies from Holocaust survivors living in the UK today to tell the story of what is known as humanity’s darkest hour.

    Only 20,000 survivors made it to the safety of Britain and now only a few thousand remain. Many of those alive today were children at the time, providing a unique perspective on the Holocaust and its aftermath. All of them had to work hard to build new lives in the UK.

    With the aim to tell these stories as comprehensively as possible, the film will interweave survivors' accounts with the extraordinary archive that exists. These are stories of the Holocaust you might not expect; some have never been uttered before. With the youngest survivors now approaching their nineties, this definitive film will preserve these memories and historical records before they are lost forever.

    Holocaust (working title) is a 1x90 film from Minnow films. The director is Arthur Cary, the producer is Katherine Anstey and the Executive Producer is Morgan Matthews.


    What does it take for kids from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed? Gifted, an observational documentary series, takes a unique look at social mobility, and the factors which affect it in Britain today, by filming with six highly promising children, who are all from families on low incomes, over three critical years. Transmitting two 60 minute episodes each year from 2018, the series will explore the challenges facing these children, as they progress from ages 13 to 16 and sit their GCSEs. Whether they’re talented mathematicians, show a flair for literature or are flourishing artists, these kids all have the potential to go far.

    Filming with them both at home and at school, the series will provide intimate, rounded portraits of the kids’ lives and the challenges they face. We will meet their families, their friends and their teachers, to see how differing influences can affect these crucial years at school. The series will also highlight the national story of why social mobility in the UK is thought to be the worst in the developed world, exploring how children are affected by the competing forces of poverty, family and education.

    The opening episodes will begin as the kids progress through the mounting pressures of Year 9. This is a critical year when many start to fall behind; they need to do well in their end of year exams and make the right GCSE choices to have a chance of staying on track for the next important stage ahead.

    Gifted is a 6x60 series for BBC Two. It was commissioned by Patrick Holland Clare Sillery and the Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Danny Horan. It is being made by Blast! Films where the Executive Producers are Edmund Coulthard and Sacha Baveystock.

    For Richer For Poorer: The Ex-Wives

    From film maker Lynn Alleway (Camila’s Kids Company: The Inside Story, Hotel India), this intimate documentary gains exclusive access to the private battles of high net worth divorce. It explores a usually hidden world that we rarely get to see - where the Mayfair homes, the Bentleys and yachts have to be split.

    At the very heart of these divorce stories is an intense battle fuelled by emotion. In the cases we follow, the men are multi-millionaire businessmen who’ve spent a lifetime building their fortunes, while their wives' job is to be a homemaker, a mother, and a hostess. With divorce law in England and Wales now dictating that the assets have to be split 50-50 as a starting point, increasingly couples are battling it out in court.

    The film follows one ex-wife who walked away with millions whilst another refuses to give up the fight for the millions she once had. Are these women, often branded as gold diggers, really out to fleece their men for every penny they can get, or are they simply pursuing what they’re entitled to?

    For Richer For Poorer (working title) is a 1x60 for BBC Two. It was commissioned by Patrick Holland, Clare Sillery and Maxine Watson. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Emma Loach. It is being made by Century Films where the producer/director is Lynn Alleway and the Executive Producer is Katie Bailiff.


    What does family, community and home mean to a generation of youngsters as they approach the threshold and responsibilities of adulthood? Set in the town of Redcar, North Yorkshire, this documentary series will tell the stories of the town’s young people as they decide where, and what, home really means and see what their future has in store for them.

    In a snapshot of today’s Britain, family, friendship, loyalty, ambition and opportunity will be explored in a series that will not only offer insight into everyday family life but also the hopes and aspirations that exist within different generations. By following the young people of the town along with their families and friends, the documentary will explore a community with natural warmth and honesty and capture the real-life stories of a British town through the people it is relying on for its future.

    Redcar is a 3x60 series for BBC Two. It was commissioned by Patrick Holland, Controller BBC Two, and Clare Sillery. It is being made by Mark Raphael, John Douglas and Daniel Dewsbury at 72 Films.

    BBC Three

    Britain’s Forgotten Men

    Many white working-class men are struggling in today’s society - low education, poor jobs, high crime. Filmmaker Dan Murdoch (KKK: The Fight For White Supremacy, Black Power: America’s Armed Resistance) spent a year on the fringes of Manchester in some of Britain's most deprived estates. He finds anger, resentment and frustration. But also finds a spirit of camaraderie among the estates that are fighting to stay above water - fighting not to be forgotten.

    Britain’s Forgotten Men is 6x15 series for BBC Three. It was commissioned by Damian Kavanagh, Controller BBC Three and Max Gogarty, Executive Editor BBC Three. The Series Director is Dan Murdoch. the Producer is Holly O’Donnell and the Executive Producer is Max Gogarty.

    BBC Four

    Storyville Summer 2017:

    Oink: Man And Pig

    Oink explores man’s relationship to pigs, diving headfirst into a beguiling mix of sentimentality and violence: from keeping pigs in your bed to factory farming. Veering wildly from the birth of Dorothy our saddleback narrator to zeno-transplantation of organs, from Ralph Steadman cartoons for Animal Farm to wild hogs being machine-gunned from a helicopter, Oink is a mad bad journey from China via Brooklyn to Wiltshire, reflecting on who we are and how we deal with the world around us. Directed by Angus Macqueen.

    The Rise And Fall Of Geoffrey Matthews

    An intimate, warm and moving documentary by Bafta winning director Morgan Matthews. It follows ten years in the life of Morgan's father Geoff and his wonderfully eccentric partner Anna. Directed by Morgan Matthews.

    The Great European Cigarette Scandal

    The Great European Cigarette Scandal unravels a disturbing and darkly humorous investigation into a scandal at the European Commission. The former EU Commissioner of Health, Mr John Dalli, recently left his post having been accused of being in the pocket of Big Tobacco. Two Danish journalists Mads Brügger and Mikael Bertelsen travel to Malta to uncover proof of a vast conspiracy against Mr Dalli, when a secret source steps forward, claiming to possess documents and recordings which mention a plot to kill the former Commissioner. Mr Dalli strikes a deal with the source, taking them on a disturbing, thrilling and darkly humorous odyssey from the hallways of Brussels to an island in the Caribbean Sea.

    Accidental Anarchist - How To Avoid The State

    Carne Ross was a career diplomat who believed Western Democracy could save us all. But after the Iraq war and his friend David Kelly’s suicide he became disillusioned and resigned. This film traces Carne’s worldwide quest to find a better ways of doing things - from a farming collective in Spain, to Occupy Wall Street to Rojava in war torn Syria - as he makes the epic journey from government insider to anarchist. Produced and directed by John Archer and Clara Glynn.


    Queerama tells the story of an extraordinary century of gay experiences. Directed by Daisy Asquith with a soundtrack by Alison Goldfrapp, Hercules & Love Affair and John Grant, the film takes us into the relationships, desires, fears and expressions of gay men and women in the 20th century - a century of incredible change. Directed by Daisy Asquith.

    Silk Road: Drugs, Death And The Dark Web

    In 2011, a sensational new black market website known as the Silk Road emerged on the darknet, operating under the avatar The Dread Pirate Roberts. Promising its users complete anonymity, and total freedom from government regulation or scrutiny, Silk Road became a billion-dollar digital drugs cartel.

    Homeland Security, the DEA, the FBI, even the Secret Service mounted multiple investigations in the largest on-line manhunt the world had ever seen. But it would be a young tax inspector from the IRS, who had grown up in the projects of Brooklyn and who’d seen first-hand how drugs could ravage a community, who would finally crack the case and unmask DPR as Ross Ulbricht, respectable college graduate from Austin, Texas. Silk Road is a thrilling cat-and-mouse crime story for the digital age, bristling with intrigue, mayhem... and murder. Written and Directed by Mark Lewis.

    Out Of Thin Air: Murder In Iceland

    "Every Icelander knows about this case". In 1974 two men vanished several months apart. Iceland, with a population of just over 200,000, was a close, tight knit community where everyone knew everyone, but the police got nowhere: there were no bodies, no witnesses and no forensic evidence.

    Then six suspects were arrested and confessed to the murders, many facing long, harsh sentences. It seemed like justice had been done, but nothing could be further from the truth.

    Forty years later this notorious murder case was reopened when new evidence brought into question everything that had gone before. It became clear that the suspects had very quickly lost trust in their memories and were confused about their involvement in the crimes they had confessed to. The extreme police interrogation techniques were brought under intense scrutiny. This tense, psychological thriller tells the true story of the biggest-ever criminal investigation in Iceland’s history, exploring one of the most shocking miscarriages of justice Europe has ever witnessed.

    Directed by Dylan Howitt.

June 12, 2017 6:15am ET by BBC One  

, , , , , , , , , , ,

  Shortlink to this content:


Latest Press Releases