Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, made an exciting announcement today during her panel session at the Sheffield DocFest. The BBC is set to release five new single films and a BBC Three boxset, covering a diverse range of thought-provoking topics.
Two new single films mark the anniversary of major life changing events with compelling new testimony from those who are still living with the repercussions today: nearly eighty years on from the first atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Atomic People, features voices from many of the last survivors; and forty years on from The Miners’ Strike, a new film hears directly from those caught up in one of the longest and most bitter industrial disputes this country has ever seen.
Hell Jumper, tells the story of the war in Ukraine from an entirely new perspective while Stranger in My Family follows film-maker Luke Davies as he discovers more about a hidden family secret. The film was commissioned by BBC Three after Luke Davies and Tamar Mankassarian successfully won the Sheffield Doc/Fest BBC Three Pitch in 2022 and is directed by Sunny Kang, an alumni of the BBC’s New Documentary Directors’ initiative.
Also announced today are two new co-commissions that came out of a creative scheme launched last year by BBC Three, BBC Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Screen for one independent production company to produce and deliver a series for BBC Three, BBC iplayer and BBC Northern Ireland. The quality of the pitches was so high that in fact two projects have been selected: a three part boxset from DoubleBand, Bait and the single film from Strident, Instascam: Give me Back my Face.
Clare Sillery, BBC Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, says: “Documentaries continue to be in fantastic shape at the BBC with recent highlights including Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland, the Bafta-winning The Real Mo Farah, Freddie’s Field of Dreams and Parole demonstrating our commitment to delivering high quality, distinctive, uniquely British stories to audiences.
At a time when change is happening at an exponential rate, documentaries have a crucial role to play in helping people make sense of the modern world. From the experiences of young British people in Ukraine, to the reverberations still felt to this day in many communities by the miners’ strike, I hope the single films I’m announcing today will give people a voice and bring viewers a range of perspectives.”
In addition, growing and supporting new talent remains incredibly important to me and I’m delighted that we’re announcing the new film, Stranger in my Family, which won the Sheffield Doc/Fest pitch last year whilst it’s exciting to see the fruition of the partnership with BBC Three, BBC Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Screen as we announce new projects from two local indies, Strident and DoubleBand Films.”
All titles are working titles.
Amidst recent Russian threats of a nuclear attack, this landmark BBC film for BBC Two and iPlayer will explore the human fallout from the first and last atomic bombs used in an act of war.
The decision by the United States to drop atomic bombs on two Japanese cities – Hiroshima, on August 6th, 1945, and Nagasaki three days later, was one of the most momentous and destructive in world history. The bomb known as ‘Little Boy’ that decimated Hiroshima was 2000 times more powerful than any bomb before, instantly killing 80,000 of the city’s 350,000 residents. By the end of the year, the death toll would rise to 140,000 as initial survivors succumbed to illnesses connected to radiation exposure. In Nagasaki, where 40,000 were killed instantly, the number would rise to 74,000 by the end of the year.
Now, nearly eighty years later, this film will gather the testimony of the last ‘Hibakushas’ – survivors of the two atomic bombs – before their voices are lost forever. With an average age of 85, most Hibakushas were children when the bombs were dropped. ‘Atomic People’ (WT) will feature a significant number of voices from this shrinking group – the only people left on earth to have survived a nuclear bomb – whilst exploring how their experiences continue to affect them to this day.
Atomic People (wt), a 1×90′ for BBC Two and iPlayer, is made by Minnow Films. It was commissioned by Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries. The Executive Producer is Morgan Matthews, the Directors are Megumi Inman and Benedict Sanderson and the Commissioning Editor is Emma Loach.
The Miners’ Strike
The year-long Miners’ Strike of 1984/85 tore apart communities across Britain. Today, 40 years on, the events of those tumultuous months still echo down the decades and generations. Many of those involved have never spoken openly about what happened, but none emerged unscathed. In a year that has seen hundreds of thousands of UK workers come out on strike, this story couldn’t be more resonant.
From the team behind the BAFTA-nominated and RTS-winning, Our Falklands War: A Frontline Story, this new feature-length documentary will tell the story of the Miners’ Strike through the experiences of ordinary men and women in some of the communities most affected.
In March 1984, the majority of Britain’s coal miners came out on strike against government backed pit closures. Some miners didn’t support the strike and went to work in defiance of it, finding themselves face to face with former work mates as they tried to cross the picket lines.
With a British government determined to break the power of the National Union of Mineworker and get working miners through the colliery gates, police were mobilised from across the country, leading to increasing violence on the picket lines. It became the most bitter industrial dispute Britain has ever seen. On a sweltering day in June, the conflict came to a head at the so-called Battle of Orgreave where 8000 picketing miners were met by 5000 police officers in riot gear. The result was shocking violence.
Across the year, more than a thousand police officers and thousands of miners would be injured. More than a 11,000 miners would be arrested. Three men would lose their lives. After the strike and as a result of pit closures that followed, tens of thousands would go on to lose their livelihoods.
For the ordinary men and women caught up in events, it was both deeply felt ideological fight and a battle to keep food on the table. For those on strike, the future of their communities hung in the balance. Those that crossed picket lines faced abuse, violence and pariah status. Families were divided, local police officers found themselves toe-to-toe with their neighbours and small villages were flooded by police drafted in from across Britain.
Though the strike bought punishing hardship, division and unrest, it also brought camaraderie, community spirit and a wealth of powerful human stories as relevant and enduring today as they were 40 years ago.
Four decades on, this powerful film will hear compelling new testimony from the frontline of the strike.
The Miners’ Strike (1×90) for BBC Two and iPlayer is being It is produced by The Garden, part of ITV Studios, where the Executive Producer is Zac Beattie. The Director is Ben Anthony, and the Producers are Simon Bunney, Scarlett Smithson, Anna Wardell. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Emma Loach.
Hell Jumper is the story of the war in Ukraine as you’ve never seen it, seen through the eyes – and the footage – of a group of volunteers saving strangers’ lives in one of the most dangerous places on earth. It’s a film about youth, drive and a relentless search for meaning.
At the heart of the film is 28 year old Chris Parry from Cornwall, who, without telling his family, decided to jump into a white van and head into Ukraine. There, he hooked up with a rag-tag bunch of civilian ‘evacuators’ from all over the world – so-called “Hell Jumpers” – crowdfunding vehicles and equipment to help people escape their burning homes.
But Chris and his friends were as interested in Tik Tok and Instagram as they were frontline rescues. They would upload footage of their daring rescue missions or near misses to social media, to be witnessed first-hand by friends, family and a growing audience of followers.
Over time, the missions grew riskier and Chris was driven deeper and deeper into the danger zone, and ultimately into the deadly hands of the Wagner Group. He was shot dead trying to save an elderly woman trapped in her home.
Now, Chris’ extraordinary story will be told for the first time, alongside the past and present stories of his fellow evacuators and friends on the frontline. Using an extraordinary archive of self-shot material, social media and video diaries, Hell Jumper is a uniquely first person, modern perspective on war. The film explores the sense of differing realities: the “upside down” hyper-real conflict co-existing with banal, everyday life, and the enduring legacy of Chris.
Hell Jumper w/t, a 1×90 for BBC Two and iPlayer, is made by Expectation. It was commissioned by Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries. The Director is Bafta-winning, Paddy Wivell (“Prison”, “Kids”) and the Executive Producer is Colin Barr, who was responsible for the multiple Bafta winning BBC series, “Our War”. The Producer is Adriana Timco and the Commissioning Editor is Carl Callam.
Stranger in my Family
Growing up in Rochdale, Luke always felt a bit different, and when he came out as gay the feeling still didn’t go away. Persistent questions about his appearance prompt Luke to take a DNA test and the result explodes his identity and his family, revealing a secret his mum has kept hidden since Luke’s birth – he’s mixed race and the dad who raised him is not his biological father. To get to grips with his own identity, Luke launches an ambitious search for a man his mum met on holiday in Portugal many years before. All she remembers is his name, Carlos. Luke’s extraordinary journey uncovers decades of family secrets, reveals a brand new multi-racial family and results in him healing much more than just his own emotional pain.
Luke Davies says: “I can safely say that what has transpired during this journey has left me feeling truly at peace with who I am and where I come from, and it has been a wonderful bonus to have become closer to my parents than ever before. I am thankful for all the support I’ve had from the team at Nine Lives Media, my wonderful partner, my family and my friends for uplifting me through the ups and downs of this journey.”
Stranger in my Family (w//t) was commissioned by BBC Three after Luke Davies & Tamar Mankassarian successfully won the Sheffield DocFest BBC Three Pitch in 2022. It is being made by Nine Lives Media. It was Filmed, Produced and Directed by Sunny Kang; the DV Director: Tamar Mankassarian; and the Executive Producers are Nic Guttridge, Jazz Gowans & Cat Lewis. The BBC Commissioning Editors are Fran Baker and Hamish Fergusson.
We’ve never lived so much of our lives online, or so publicly… sharing what we love, where we go, and what we do with anyone who wants to take a look. It can make you friends, it can make you rich… it can even make you famous. But what do you do if you’re busy living your best life on the gram and someone steals your face, your name and even your puppy pics and starts using them to insta-scam – and everyone thinks it’s you?
James – a 29-year-old from Belfast, who’s building himself a multi-million pound digital marketing business from nothing – was living the insta-dream: flash clothes, fast cars, exclusive parties and thousands of followers . . . class! Well, until someone scraped his accounts and he started getting messages from people accusing him of conning them out of tens thousands of pounds.
As he sets out to try and clear his name, James discovers a dark and utterly-heartless modern-day-crime where ruthless organised-crime-gangs are using the very latest technology to prey on our age-old desire for love and companionship, all to scam blameless victims out of their life-savings.
As James attempts to get his online identity back, he’ll discover that shockingly it’s not only those being conned who are the victims here – many of those carrying out the con are suffering even more at the hands of gangs running romance-scams estimated to have netted around 100 million pounds from victims in the UK alone in 2022.
Instascam – Give me Back my Face (w/t) 1×60 is being made for BBC Three and iPlayer by Strident. It is a co-commission with BBC Northern Ireland. The Producer / Director is Pete Grant and the Executive Producer for Strident: Kelda Crawford-McCann. The Executive Producers for the BBC are David Hodgkinson and Mary McKeagney. It is being made with support from Northern Ireland Screen.
This new co commission for BBC Three and BBC Northern Ireland tells the devastating story of how a university student from Northern Ireland became the UK’s most prolific predatory ‘catfish.’
Told from multiple perspectives, this three part series uncovers the criminal investigation to bring him to justice and reveals the catastrophic impact on victims and their families as well as those who knew him best.
In 2018, the Police Service of Northern Ireland were first made aware of the case when Scottish police alerted them to a ‘catfish’ incident involving inappropriate images of a young girl. Detectives began an investigation into the young criminal’s use of fake profiles to befriend hundreds of victims that ended up stretching across the world as far as America and New Zealand.
This series documents the international criminal investigation and brings to light the shocking scale of his global campaign.
Bait (w/t) 3×30 is produced by Belfast-based production company DoubleBand Films. The Executive Producer is Natalie Maynes, Series Director is Ben O’Loan, and Series Producer is Sharon Whittaker. The BBC Commissioning Editors are Emma Loach and Mary McKeagney. It is being made with support from Northern Ireland Screen.