The Guardian 7 December, 2005

Public TV worth watching

Thalassa — Catfish Of The Mekong (SBS 6pm Sunday) Catfish farming has been a traditional practice and a livelihood for farmers in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. Chau Doc, a small floating fishing community near the Cambodian border, is the centre of catfish farming. There, the catfish breeders keep their catfish in large cages under their floating homes along the bank of the Mekong River. These cages can hold up to 150 tonnes of fish. The fish must be fed until they are big enough to harvest. The process of preparing fish food can take several hours. When it is ready, the farmers open a trap door in the middle of their living room, and initiate a feeding frenzy.

When the war broke out in Cambodia in 1979, the Vietnamese fish farmers who went to live there came back to Chau Doc. Since then, catfish farming has become a thriving industry in Chau Doc. Thousands of tonnes of fish are bred here and sold all over the world.

Movie: Never On A Sunday (SBS 10.55pm Sunday) was winner of the Oscar for Best Music (1961) and nominated for an Oscar for Best Director in the same year. It is set in the 1960s in Greece, in the busy harbour city of Piraeus, which boasts more than its fair share of prostitutes to accommodate the sailors in port.

Ilya (Melina Mercouri) is a feisty, intelligent and independent woman who is proud to be a prostitute. She dictates her own terms and will only sleep with men she likes.

One of these men, Tonio (Georges Foundas), a Greco-Italian Lothario would do anything for Ilya.

Homer (Jules Dassin), on the other hand, is an American self proclaimed philosopher who has come to Greece to discover "the truth". When he meets Ilya he is fascinated by her and instead of rejoicing in the beauty of this free spirit he pulls a Professor Higgins and tries to impose his moral and intellectual values on her. Ilya goes along with Homer’s plans until she discovers Homer’s seedier Greek connections.

Drama Series: Jean Moulin (SBS 1pm Monday) This award-winning, four-part drama series looks at the life of Jean Moulin, one of the leaders of the French Resistance during WW2. In 1940, when Nazi Germany invaded France, an armistice was declared and the puppet government of Marshal Pétain was established.

Documentary Series: A Sweet Paradise (SBS 7.30pm Tuesday) is a comprehensive look at the origins of sweets and chocolate, their historical significance, their democratisation and universal appeal, and how the methods used for their fabrication have led to fierce trade wars. Ever wondered how the first Mars bar evolved? Why Nestlé became such a giant? And why people in the European Union lost their cool over the use of cocoa butter versus vegetable oil?

Part one looks at sweets from antiquity to the end of the 19th century, from honey to cocoa and how the European royal courts accommodated it after "steeling" it from the Aztecs. We learn about those responsible for putting sugar in cocoa and, later milk. The program looks at the consequences of the cane sugar and cocoa trades for people in the Caribbean and Latin America and how the Europeans’ appetite for sweets accelerated the slave trade.

The importance of maple syrup in the history of Canada’s European colonists is explored and how the 19th century saw the arrival of chocolate blocks thanks to Mr. Nestlé. This mini-series combines meticulous research with fascinating archival footage that takes you back to a time and place full of sweet discoveries.

Movie: Keltoum’s Daughter (SBS 11.35pm Tuesday) Ralia (Cylia Malki) was born in Morocco but was adopted by a Swiss couple soon after her birth. At the age of 20 she decides to go back to her birthplace and meet her mother, the woman who "abandoned" her as a baby. From the moment she steps off a bus in Morocco’s arid desert mountains, Ralia’s journey begins and she encounters many members of her family, including her mother and she learns the real story behind her abandonment.

This film looks at the disturbing treatment of women in this region, showing both the poverty and abuse that female citizens receive, through the eyes of Ralia.

Movie: Pather Panchali (SBS 1.20am Wednes­day) Satyajit Ray’s debut was the first Indian film to cause any real stir in Europe and America and it is still an enduring film, due to its beauty and simplicity. It is the story of a young boy (Apu) and his family, trying to eke out an existence in a ramshackle Bengal village.

Told with effortless beauty, drama and humanity, Pather Panchali is a true classic and the first instalment in what became known as The Apu Trilogy.

Documentary: Watergate plus 30 (SBS 1pm Thursday) This two-part series looks at Watergate from the perspective of 30 years on. Part one covers the period from January 1969, when Richard Nixon was sworn in as the 37th US president, to April 1974, when Nixon, and those close to him, realised their elaborate cover-up of the Watergate break-in was not going to work.

It gives a detailed account of events leading up to the break-in at the headquarters of the National Democratic Party in the Watergate Hotel and Office Complex in Washington, DC on 17 June 1972. When five men in business suits, with wads of consecutively numbered brand new hundred dollar notes in their pockets, were arrested by the police in the early hours of the morning. Nixon’s aides’ attempts at covering up any connection to the White House were seriously undermined by one of the "burglars", John McCord, who decided to talk. Pressure was put on John to lie, and 30 years on, John believes that if he had decided to lie then, they could still have gotten away with it.

Documentary: Whispering In Our Hearts: The Mowla Bluff Massacre (SBS 2pm Thursday) In this program, an Aboriginal community of Nyikina/Mangala people from Australia’s tropical north-west tells the story of the execution of family members at Mowla Bluff in 1916 by police and local pastoralists. In telling this story, they return to the area where the killings took place to ceremonially put to rest the spirits of the dead.

As we travel back with them to Mowla Bluff on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert, the film intertwines the oral account of the tribal elders (whose parents were alive at the time of the events) with white archival records from the period, to bring their story to life. Directed by Mitch Torres.

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