The Guardian 21 February, 2007

TV programs previewed:
Sun Feb 25 — Sat March 3


The newly discovered coral reefs in tropical Indonesia reveal that they are one of the richest in the world. They are home to fantasy-like creatures — such as the head-butting pygmy seahorse, the flashing electric clam and bands of 30-strong sea snakes which have never been filmed before as they hunt in packs, using cunning strategy.

This episode of Planet Earth: Shallow Seas (ABC Sunday 7.30pm) uncovers mysterious giant colonies of seabirds nesting in the baking Arabian Desert, and ingenious surfing dolphins that have learnt to hydroplane right up onto the beach to catch their fish. Diving with graceful sea lions among vast swirling bait balls of anchovy, the greatest gathering of seabirds and whales in the ocean is filmed for the first time as they gorge on krill.

New underwater time-lapse photography reveals extraordinary plagues of sea urchins that decimate great aquatic forests of giant kelp. Star fish are shown on the rampage — including the world’s biggest, the giant sun star, a monster in its world. High speed photography reveals lightning ambushes by great white sharks on seals and gigantic bull fur seals, attacking king penguins, which put up one of the most spirited defences ever filmed.

Indian Royalty: Beyond The Veil (SBS Monday 5pm) explores the rich past, and the uncertain future, of two members of India’s former royal families; of two men who would have been kings. Only two generations ago, India was divided into hundreds of feudal kingdoms. Now India is the world’s largest democracy and the feudal claims of the past hold no future in a modern world.

The families of Yuvraj Digvijay Sinh and Shriji Arvind Singh Mawar were stripped of their titles by a government decree, thus these men who would have been kings must balance their illustrious familial histories, the burden of run-down palaces and a precarious future in a contemporary world where dynasties of wealth and grandeur are dying out. This program follows these two men as they try to carve out a future for themselves and their families, without abandoning their rich familial legacies.

In the first of the two-part Global Village: The Horse Drawn Carts Of Tana (SBS Tuesday 6pm) we are in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, one of Africa’s best preserved former colonial capitals. In the daytime its streets are choked with traffic, so much so that it is against the law to take produce to market during daylight hours. Since much of the produce is delivered by ox-cart and horse-drawn carts, congestion builds up on the outskirts in the afternoon. During the night, the carts swarm into the city, providing hundreds of peasants with an outlet for their produce.

In part two, The Valley Of The God, we visit the Valley of Kullu, the last inhabited place before the snow-bound peaks of the Indian Himalayas. In Kullu, the gods that govern everyone’s lives are obeyed with a fervour tinged with fear. For Mehar Chand, who works in tourism and rubs shoulders with modern India every day, it is not easy to go on observing immutable thousand-year-old laws and traditions. But when the time comes to celebrate the reunion of the god Khana Nag with his serpent brothers, Mehar forgets about his reservations and joins his family for one of the biggest festivals that celebrates the valley of the gods.

Richard Tognetti, Artistic Director of the ACO, had always wanted to collaborate with a visual artist. But which one? He wanted to create a spellbinding event, not just a soundtrack, through the combination of sound and vision. Then he saw the work of Bill Henson and Luminous (ABC Tuesday 10pm) was born.

In addition to Henson and Tognetti, Luminous harnesses the sound designs of composer Paul Healy and the vocal talents of Paul Capsis, in an amazing multimedia collaboration. The film immerses the viewer in the world of Luminous, a concert that was performed only four times in 2005. The artists are interviewed about the nature of their collaboration and a range of visual and musical highlights from the performance are featured.

The repertoire is an eclectic mix of works with disparate styles, often linked by Healy’s evocative soundscapes. Henson’s photography is projected onto a screen behind the ACO which adds a compelling visual dimension to the performance.

The concert includes 20th century classical works through to pop classics and includes; Schnittke’s Trio Sonata, Britten’s Corpus Christi Carol, REM’s I’ve Been High and Peteris Vasks’ Violin Concerto, Distant Light. Capsis also performs several songs, including Astor Piazzolla’s Oblivion, and lends an ethereal, vulnerable quality to the performance, with his high unearthly voice.

Filmmaker Nevin Seyit’s family of ten in Always A Visitor (SBS Wednesday 3.30pm) migrated to Australia from Turkey in 1969. Ten years later they moved from the inner city to Emu Plains, a move that proved catastrophic. Both Nevin and his younger brothers found it hard to grow up as Muslim Turks in a predominantly Anglo environment. As his family fell apart, Nevin decided to focus his energy on helping Muslim teenagers work through the problems he had experienced.

Scorsese On Scorsese (SBS Wednesday 10pm) is an intriguing documentary providing a remarkable insight into the mind of probably the most critically acclaimed director of recent times. Regularly acknowledged as the greatest American filmmaker of his generation, Martin Scorsese takes the audience on an entertaining and fascinating journey through all of his major films.

The documentary is based on an in-depth, five hour interview with Scorsese conducted by acclaimed author, critic and filmmaker Richard Schickel. This film delves into Scorsese’s memories of childhood in Little Italy, New York, and the warmth and fractiousness of his Italian-American heritage, using family photos and home movies. It also addresses the way his early movie going has influenced his work and, most importantly, the lasting power and influence of his own films.

Dying For Drugs (SBS Thursday 1pm) argues that Western drug companies are preventing Third World countries from accessing basic medicines through pricing, patenting and trade pressure. The program claims that these companies are the most profitable businesses in the world yet operate on a cut-throat basis. How far will they go to bring a new drug onto the market, and how willing are they to put profit before people? And once a drug is on the market, who decides the price? It investigates the effects of testing and marketing policies on the sick children of the Third World whose lives depend on the supply of essential medicines.

In Around The World In Eighty Treasures (ABC Saturday 7.30pm) Dan Cruickshank is now seven weeks into his travels around the world. He’s heading for the oriental delights of Japan and China, two of the most important civilisations in history. Dan is keen to find out if Japan and China’s ancient traditions and mysteries have survived into the modern technological age. His first stop is Tokyo, one of the most modern and vibrant cities in the world. But he discovers all is not what it seems and its modernity is little more than skin deep. Below its façade are deep roots of tradition.

His 25th treasure although ancient, is still made today; the Samurai sword. It is one of the most mystical of objects, a deadly weapon and a sacred work of art. Dan takes us to the factory and becomes entranced by the master sword maker at work.

From Tokyo to Beijing and the 28th treasure, The Forbidden City — for 500 years was one of the most mysterious, hidden and forbidden places on earth. The largest palace in the world built by the mighty Ming dynasty 600 years ago, it was meant to be a vision of heaven on earth, but became a symbol of imperialist corruption and decadence. Then to The Great Wall of China, the largest structure ever created. Stretching 6,350 km it is said to have taken 300,000 men and women to build the wall, many of whom died in the process. Their bodies were mixed in with the clay bricks, making it the longest grave site in the world.

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