The Guardian 14 February, 2007

TV programs previewed
Sun Feb 18 — Sat Feb 24

Jungles cover roughly three percent of our planet, yet contain a staggering 50 per cent of the world’s species. Located around the warm, sunny equatorial zone, complete with constant daylight, they are the most productive habitats on earth. Beautiful floating aerial shots introduce the world’s most spectacular forest vistas and high-definition cameras enable unprecedented views of the species that live on the dark jungle floor.

In the Ngogo forest in Uganda, Planet Earth: Jungles (ABC Sunday 7.30pm) captures a "natural history first" when the largest chimpanzee group in the world — 150 strong — defends its territory from neighbouring chimp groups. On one patrol, a youngster from a rival group is killed and eaten.

But the most successful jungle strategy is to specialise. The red crab spider — the most specialised spider in the world — spends its entire life on a small, water-filled pitcher plant. It feeds partly on mosquito larvae which it catches by swimming to the bottom of the pitcher. Other jungle specialists include the colugo, which has been likened to a flying tea-tray, and the alien-like group of parasitic fungi called cordyceps. Cordyceps infiltrates an insect host, feeds on it, and then bursts out of its body.

When a politician’s daughter steals a legendary war­rior’s precious sword, a sequence of events is triggered to recover the sword, which leads to an encounter with the sword thief’s witch-like minder. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (SBS Sunday 9.30pm) is a masterpiece from renowned director Ang Lee, who orchestrated the first ever co-production between China and Taiwan. Watch for the startlingly impressive visual effects that see people defying gravity by bouncing up walls and bounding onto rooftops. The film received four Academy Awards in 2001, including Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography.

(see Guardian review online)

Edvard Munch (SBS Tuesday 1pm) is a two-part film which looks at the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944), who was one of the pioneers of Expressionism. From his austere and repressed upbringing and the devastation of family tragedies to Munch’s revolt against the stifling bourgeois society of the day, director Peter Watkins lavished enormous care, time and resources on making this film.

In this episode of Foreign Correspondent: Baghdad Doctor (ABC Tuesday 9.20pm) an Iraqi doctor takes us on a very personal journey beyond Baghdad’s high security Green Zone in to the emergency rooms and operating theatres of Al Yarmouk hospital.

Once a hospital where appendix removals dominated operating lists, these days surgeons at Al-Yarmouk hospital work round the clock to save the limbs and lives of bomb blast victims.

Filming inside the hospital which is located in one of the most dangerous areas of Baghdad was extremely risky and many staff were afraid to show their faces on camera.

Before the insurgency Al Yarmouk was a "normal, local hospital", now it’s a "field hospital in a civil war" said the Iraqi doctor/documentary maker. He was given unprecedented access to film in the hospital. His identity cannot be disclosed — to do so would endanger his life.

"I’ve worked as a doctor for five years, all through the invasion. It’s never been so bad and it’s getting worse every day. I don’t know how much more of this I can take", said the doctor.

Betty Churcher presents an insider’s guide to the Hidden Treasures of the National Gallery of Australia that are rarely on public display.

The National Gallery of Australia has more than 100,000 works in its collection — an extraordinary reservoir of creative vision and cultural history, from decorative arts to photography and sculpture and much, much more. Yet on a visit to the Gallery, you’ll see only the tip of this iceberg. Carefully stored away are the things that can’t be placed on permanent display.

These unseen gems include works of exquisite fragility, from brilliant hand-painted fabrics to delicate works on paper. From Australia, the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania, there are masks and carvings, lithographs and linocuts, set designs and stage costumes, sketchpads and hand-printed books, marionettes and maquettes, teapots and textiles.

Now in this Film Australia series of 15 x 5 minute mini-documentaries, former director of the Gallery Betty Churcher, presents an insider’s guide to some of these Hidden Treasures (ABC Thursday 6.50pm).

Episode one reveals one of the world’s finest collections of costumes from the celebrated Ballets Russes. Commissioned in Paris by Serge Diaghilev for his revolutionary troupe of dancers, many of these gorgeous costumes have been hand-painted by radical young artists who were to become giants of 20th century art: Matisse, de Chirico, Goncharova and Jean Cocteau.

On the northern coast of America a war is raging, the outcome of which will affect the world. On one side is a pristine landscape, on the other a natural resource that humans can’t get enough of.

Teeming with wildlife, the northern edge of Alaska is home to one of the world’s last remaining true wilderness sites — the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. But the Refuge is facing its toughest battle. For while its land, sea and sky are full of animals, birds and fish, beneath the earth lies something America hungers for — oil. The multi-award-winning documentary Oil On Ice (ABC Thursday 8.35pm) puts forward the case for the protection of the Refuge, as it details the battle to save the land and the people who subsist off it.

Over 90% of the North Alaskan coastline is already open to oil exploration and development. The remaining 10% is the Artic National Wildlife Refuge, a federally protected area which is at the centre of a national conflict over whether drilling for oil should be allowed.

The native Gwich’in people live alongside the Refuge, most of them following their traditional way of life, subsisting off the land. Their existence is tied to the huge herd of caribou whose breeding grounds lie within the Artic Refuge. Many of their villages are already feeling the effects of the oil development elsewhere on the coast. The village elders have given the tribe a mandate to ensure the caribou breeding ground is protected from oil exploration.

Through the views of legislators, Native Alaskans and energy and environment experts, Oil On Ice shows how the fate of the Refuge is inextricably linked to decisions America makes about energy policy, transportation choices and other seemingly unrelated issues.

In February 2006 Australia’s media was rocked by a headline, "Skeleton Man Found In Housing Commission Flat". The man had died 6 months before, and all that remained was his skeleton.

Built in the 1950s in the post-war effort to clear slums and create affordable housing for those in need, Northcott was opened with pride and joy in 1961. It was the largest public housing in the Southern Hemisphere, featuring the latest Swedish design and housing a thousand people.

But now the story is very different. As the public housing system comes increasingly under pressure to house the mentally ill, ex-prisoners, recovering addicts and those battling serious drug and alcohol issues, Northcott is becoming a haven for those in crisis. But Northcott is also the home of some incredible Sydney characters.

In Neighbours (ABC Thursday 9.40pm), Sandy, Mark and Dolly are just three of the tenants involved in a show called STICKYBRICKS — a performance piece put on by the tenants in collaboration with Big Hart — an arts organisation which has been working inside Northcott for 3 years, aiming to give a voice to its tenants.

As part of the Sydney Festival 2006, Stickybricks unveils North­cott to Sydney’s elite at $50 a ticket! The tenants’ voices navigate us through the fascinating history of the place, enmeshed with life there today, as the drama of the Stickybricks show unfolds in the Northcott car park.

The collaborating artists include renowned theatre director Scott Rankin, celebrity actors Kerry Armstrong, Leah Purcell and Lex Marinos, and musician Jackie Orszaczky.

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