Category: Documentary

Penelope Keith’s Hidden Villages (2014-2016)

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I’ve been to England four times and often wished I could rent a car and drive everywhere visiting the little-known villages I haven’t seen.  How many of us have loved the photographs of quaint English country life and wished we could live in such an idyllic place?  I know that I have.

In all honesty, I’m not much for watching traveling shows, but this three-series wonder is an absolute gem.  Currently streaming on Acorn, I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to see the inner workings of these smaller communities.  At the present time, I’m only beginning Season 2 but have much more to see.

What is unique with this particular travel series is that while you’re riding in the car with Penelope to the next location, you know what is down the road is going to be as fascinating as the last.  So far I’ve traveled to Wales, Lancashire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Devon, and Cornwall, among other places.  Penelope immerses the audience not only in the village’s history but its people, architecture, challenges, and sometimes quirky celebrations communities hold together.  It’s a wonderful series that only deepens your longing for England.

The running time for each episode is 47 minutes. So brew a cup of tea, gather some biscuits and sit down for a wonderful tour of beautiful England’s landscape and its villages.

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Another series that is almost as entertaining if you’re interested in things regarding the monarchy, is Penelope Keith at Her Majesty’s Service also streaming on Acorn.  Here she visits the iconic locations and explains the unknown rituals that have continued on for centuries.

Episode 1 is at Windsor Castle, including a ride on the Queen’s barge.  Episode 2 visits Inveraray and Holyroodhouse, locations the royal family frequent. Episode 3 is on location in Northern Ireland at Hillsborough Castle and Episode 4 at Caernarfon Castle in Wales.  It’s another wonderful show for those who love all things English.

 

Our World War (BBC Series 2014)

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5 Stars for Bravery

Yeah, yeah, I know most of you don’t like documentaries.  This one is a little bit different because it’s a well-acted re-enactment of three significant events for the British Army during World War I.  The episodes are based on written accounts by the soldiers who lived and survived to tell their stories and the men with which they served.

What can say about it? It’s emotional. It’s heartwrenching.  It’s shocking.  Well done, except for the oddity of the rock music in some of the scenes. The series actually puts you — the viewer — into the battles as if you were with the men and hearing the bullets whiz by your head.  The tension prior to and in engagement with the enemy is palpable. Perhaps that is why this program will undoubtedly leave an impression on you.  And if you lost distant cousins in the war like I did — six of them the ages of 18 to 42 — you will appreciate their sacrifice and you will draw closer to their memory as the young lads who served their country.

The first episode focuses on the first day that the British army encounters the German army in August 1914. Unprepared for the onslaught of Germans and their brutal advance, it’s difficult to watch the slaughter.  The second episode is about the Manchester Pals, as they called them, who served at Somme.  A few of my cousins were from Manchester.  The third episode is about the invention of the tank, and how the British turned the tide of the war toward victory by these new machines.

As a caution before you watch, you might find the lads extremely difficult to understand with the myriad of different British accidents, along with Irish and Scottish.  Hang in there and don’t surrender.  Keep calm and carry on through the end.

If you possess a soul, you might end up a bit tearful watching this series.  As the trailer says, “Modern warfare is brutal. 100 years ago it was unimaginable.”

Check it out – now streaming on Netflix. Read about the series at BBC. (Especially the pages of Interactive Episodes.)

Secrets of Great British Castles – Season 2

castlesUPDATE: 2/27/17 – Binge watched and absolutely wonderful!  I had a chance to visit Leeds Castle in 2011, and this episode revealed everything I didn’t know about the location and history.  Love this entire series!  Hopefully, #3 will come next year.

Netflix has added new episodes to this great series with historian Dan Jones.  Season 2 takes you to:

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Cardiff Castle
  • York Castle
  • Leeds Castle
  • Lancaster Castle
  • Arundel Castle

If you missed Season 1, check out my review.  Great opportunity to visit these formidable fortresses that were places of kings, queens, and intrigue through Irish, English, and Scottish history.

The Dark Ages: The Age of Lights (BBC Documentary 2012)

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Well, I’ve stumbled across another great documentary on Acorn TV from a rather colorful narrator – Waldemar Januszczak, an art critic. Once again, had he taught in my high school, I might have actually listened and learned.

Though he’s not as good looking as Dan Jones from Secrets of Great British Castles, he is entertaining in his quirky presentation and voice. Instead of crawling into dungeons, Waldemar has the habit of getting on his knees to point locations on a map. Besides the information you receive, this show is also an armchair travel event around the world to ruins, old churches, and museums that will astound you at every turn.

This utterly fascinating series brought to light a ton of information about lost civilizations in the Dark Ages and the contributions they left behind that were actually enlightening. The documentary is a four-part episode:

  • Episode One: The Clash of the Gods
  • Episode Two: What the Barbarians Did for Us (Huns, Vandals, and Goths)
  • Episode Three: The Wonder of Islam
  • Episode Four: The Men of the North

The first episode astounded me. The depiction of early Christian art and how it intertwined with the Roman and Greek gods is evident. It’s interesting to note how a young and rather happy Jesus morphed over the centuries into a very different portrayal of a suffering Christ.  Early Christian symbols and their explanations are also touched upon.

What the barbarians offered in the way of art and architecture gives an in-depth look into civilizations that rose and fell but left behind astounding creations. The portrayal of the barbarians and how they were demonized in story-telling throughout centuries has cast a dark shade of untruths. Especially the “Goths,” who we think of today as a movement into the dark side, when in fact they were Christians who created beautiful mosaic artwork telling the story of Jesus.

The final two episodes focus on the emergence of Islam, it’s architecture and science and contribution to civilization.  Then he heads north to the Vikings, and the Norse gods and conversion to Christianity. They were craftsman who also made their mark of enlightenment in the Dark Ages.

If you are looking for another documentary that might add a bit more entertaining instruction into your life, you might take a look at this series.

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