Created by Nick Fraser in 1997, Storyville is a BBC documentary strand that features some of the world’s best non fiction films. With over 700 docs from 70 countries, Storyville has an impressive track record for producing award winning, critically acclaimed titles.
Storyville films include Hoop Dreams, Olympic Massacre: One Day in September, Death on the Staircase, Blackfish, Queen of Versailles, One Child Nation, Last Men in Aleppo and Eagle Huntress.
Three Storyville documentaries were included in the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Both Welcome to Chechnya and Softie won prizes in the World and US competitions and received widespread praise from audiences and critics.
While BBC Four is the home for Storyville on linear television, I typically watch Storyville docs via the BBC iPlayer platform. As the films are often only available for a limited time, it is a good idea to keep an eye on the Storyville collection - some of these docs are too good to miss.
To get you started, here are seven must watch Storyville documentaries. Each one has more than six months left on BBC iPlayer and each one is well worth your time.
Welcome To Chechnya
David France’s powerful and urgent documentary, Welcome To Chechnya, is an extremely tough but absolutely necessary watch. The film exposes the treatment of LGBTQI+ people in Chechnya who, since 2017, have been subject to an unbelievably violent campaign of persecution and extermination.
United Skates is an immersive and poignant tribute to the African American roller skating communities in the US - looking at their history, examining their importance and questioning why they are under threat.
OJ: Made In America
This five-part documentary series won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2017. It chronicles in impressive - and devastating - detail the rise and fall of OJ Simpson. As the title of Ezra Edelman’s documentary suggests, this is a comprehensive look at the country that made OJ Simpson and the circumstances that led to the brutal murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
Jonestown: Terror In The Jungle
On 18 November 1978, over 900 men, women and children lost their lives at Jonestown, a remote settlement established by the People's Temple in northern Guyana. They were led to their deaths by cult leader Jim Jones, a charismatic preacher who turned into an egomaniacal demagogue. Jones had insisted his followers perform 'revolutionary suicide' by drinking poison - either voluntarily or by force.
Jonestown: Terror In The Jungle is a two part series that tells the horrific and deeply disturbing story of the People’s Temple. Like OJ: Made In America, this is a comprehensive account - one that features unreleased recordings, photographs taken by members of the People’s Temple, previously classified FBI documents and new testimony from survivors and Jones's own family members.
Scandalous! The Tabloid that Changed America
Over the course of 60 years, the National Enquirer became the most infamous tabloid in America, publishing salacious stories, stretching the limits of journalism, blurring the lines between truth and fiction and changing the cultural landscape forever.
I did not know what to expect from Scandalous. However, within minutes, I was hooked. This is a fascinating tale and covers some of the biggest stories of recent years - including the deaths of Elvis and Princess Diana, the OJ Simpson trial and the Clinton impeachment saga. It is fascinating and disturbing in pretty much equal measure.
Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
This Sundance award-winning documentary tells the compelling story of how a group of young, feminist punk rockers known as Pussy Riot captured the world's attention by protesting against Putin's Russia.
The film features first-hand interviews with band members, their families and the defence team and exclusive footage of the trial. It examines how these women went from being playful political activists to modern-day icons.
The Gene Revolution
I was absolutely gripped by The Gene Revolution. The documentary explores a scientific breakthrough called CRISPR (a family of DNA sequences found in the genomes of prokaryotic organisms such as bacteria and archaea) and examines how this has given us unprecedented control over the basic building blocks of life.
The film investigates CRISPR's far-reaching implications, through the eyes of the scientists who discovered it, the families it’s affecting and the bio-engineers who are testing its limits. How will this new power change our relationship with nature? What will it mean for human evolution? It is endlessly thought provoking and often surprisingly moving.
Over To You...
Have you seen any of these films? If so, what did you think? What docs would you add?
Let me know in the comments section below or let’s chat about Storyville over on Twitter. You can find me @500DaysOfFilm.