Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment

Sunday 8 May 2022

Jazz All Stars: Cheltenham At 25 BBC4 8pm

Gregory Porter, Paloma Faith, Joe Stilgoe, Vanessa Haynes and Tommy Blaize, alongside new artists, perform some of the greatest jazz hits of the past 120 years.

Afghanistan: No Country for Women ITV 10.15pm

British-Iranian correspondent Ramita Navai powerfully exposes the reality of life for women under Taliban rule in Afghanistan: No Country for Women. In this documentary for ITV’s Bafta-winning Exposure strand, Navai secretly films in a jail where she discovers women being held by the Taliban without trial or charge, their fate often unknown to their families.

Ramita Navai uncovers evidence of Taliban officials using violence to forcibly marry young girls, as she accompanies an underground network of female activists on dangerous missions to rescue women hunted by the Taliban and joins a women’s protest that is broken up by their security forces.

Over the course of six months, ITV’s Exposure has investigated the Taliban’s treatment of women – and uncovered abuses that have never been reported before. Speaking Dari, one of the main languages of Afghanistan, Ramita Navai gains access to rarely visited areas undetected, gathering evidence.

In northern Afghanistan the team investigated reports that women had been disappearing without trace since the Taliban gained power. Highly-placed contacts told Navai the women had been jailed by the Estegabaarat, the Taliban Intelligence Service, for so- called ‘moral crimes’, such as travelling without a male relative. They alleged the arrests were being kept secret. “The Taliban want international recognition. They want to show women are OK and they do not have problems.”

Filming with a hidden camera, the team gained access to a major prison where they suspected the missing women were being held. They discovered around forty of the women huddled in a courtyard, with others in nearby cells. Those Navai spoke with said they were held without trial or charge.

Later, a few families negotiated the release of their daughter and the programme follows them as they are reunited with their families. They described being tasered and beaten, adding that officials pressured them to marry Taliban fighters. They resisted but one girl told Navai, “They detained other girls, 5 or 6 days after us, and they forced them to marry Talibs to get their freedom.”

The programme speaks to Najia Soroush who founded Radio Sada-e-Banowan, the Voice of Women. Although she is the station director the Taliban have decreed she must visit only when the offices are empty. None of her female staff have been able to return to work and she says she receives threats. She said: “Before we had programmes with music. Girls could host live talk shows and there was laughter. Before, a girl could joke with a boy, but we can’t do that anymore.”

In the capital, Kabul, the team join an underground network of young women who live in hiding, operating secret safe houses for those on the run from the Taliban. The team follows the network on a risky mission to rescue an exhausted and frightened woman and her family. Before the regime, the woman was a journalist and the Taliban are now hunting for her. She showed Navai a recent picture of her brother, whom she says the Taliban had branded with a red-hot poker in an attempt to force him to reveal her whereabouts. She tells Navai, “You wouldn’t do this to an animal but they do it to humans. Why? Because I am a journalist.” Navai meets other women who say relatives have been tortured, as the Taliban search for them.

Navai tells Government spokesperson Bilal Karimi about what the team have found. He denies these things can have happened and says they are ‘lies’ and ‘baseless claims’. “We tell everyone that you must follow Islamic standards. We will never allow our men to commit such indecent acts. Other countries should not impose on us what is good for them. We have our own culture, interests and values. The international community must now allow us to build a government for ourselves.”

Monday 9 May 2022

Beyond Belief: Fierce and Feminine: Kali and Shakti BBC RADIO 4 16:30

Visiting the British Museum to see a brand new sculpture of the fearsome Hindu Goddess Kali, Ernie Rea explores the idea of Shakti, a divine feminine force.

Fergal Keane: Living With PTSD BBC2 9pm

BBC Special Correspondent Fergal Keane has covered conflict and brutality for more than 30 years.

From Kigali to Baghdad to Belfast, he was always at the heart of the story and became a trusted BBC face, known for reporting with humanity and extraordinary empathy. But off screen, Fergal struggled to keep another story from overwhelming him. He was suffering from an acute form of post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2020, Fergal went public with his diagnosis of PTSD.

In this film, Fergal lays bare its impact on himself, and others like him. Fergal explores how post-traumatic stress disorder led him to consider withdrawing from conflict reporting in a personal new film for Horizon. Fergal also investigates the latest scientific thinking behind PTSD and its treatment.

Tuesday 10 May 2022

Escher: Journey Into Infinity Sky Arts 7pm

Narrated by Stephen Fry in M.C. Escher’s own words, ESCHER: JOURNEY INTO INFINITY is an exploration of the Dutch artist’s life and world-wide influence on modern art and popular culture today.

Wednesday 11 May 2022

Just One Thing – with Michael Mosley: Take a Nap

Michael embraces the joys of an afternoon nap. It’s not a lazy snooze, it’s a brain booster! Here’s how napping can help your heart, improve your mood and enhance your memory.

Other episodes I’ve so far listened to include one on the benefits of dark chocolate and another on restricted eating times and health. Check them out on BBC Sounds.

Thursday 12 May 2022

The History of the Red Army: The Great Patriotic War (1/2) PBS America 8.35pm

Created by Trotsky in 1918, the Red Army abandoned its egalitarian and democratic ideals to repress civil revolts. Stalin, worried about the power of the army, launched a purge of officers, the beginning of the ‘Great Terror’ of 1937-38. As a consequence, the Red Army was a shadow of its former self when Germany invaded the USSR in 1941 and it took all the energy of General Zhukov, the Resistance and the Allies to overcome the Nazis. On its way to Berlin, the Red Army discovered the extermination camps. Germany surrendered on May 2, 1945

Friday 13 May 2022

The History of the Red Army: The Cold War (2/2) PBS America 8.35pm

After the Second World War, the soldiers of the Red Army fell into disgrace. As the Cold War began, Khrushchev rehabilitated the Army for purely repressive purposes, and revolts were suppressed in blood. Following the Cuban Missile Crisis, the USSR and the Capitalist Bloc jockeyed for position. Meanwhile, as Russia entered the 1970s the living conditions of the Red Army’s soldiers deteriorated. The long intervention in Afghanistan definitively undermined the Soviet system, and at the end of 1991 the USSR disappeared. Today, the Red Army is purely symbolic, caught between nostalgia and nationalism.

And also….

Theatre

Red Ellen, Lyceum Theatre (Edinburgh) till May 21 2022

This remarkable new play, from Caroline Bird directed by Lyceum Artistic associate Wils Wilson, tells the inspiring and epic story of Ellen Wilkinson, Labour MP, who was forever on the right side of history, forever on the wrong side of life.

Caught between revolutionary and parliamentary politics, Ellen fights with an unstoppable, reckless energy for a better world. Running (quite literally in some cases) into the likes of Albert Einstein and Ernest Hemingway, she battles to save Jewish refugees in Nazi Germany; campaigns for Britain to aid the fight against Franco’s Fascists in Spain; and leads 200 workers in the Jarrow Crusade, marching from Newcastle to London to deliver a petition to end unemployment and poverty. She serves as a vital member of Churchill’s cabinet, and has affairs with communist spies and government ministers. But, despite all of this, she still finds herself – somehow – on the outside looking in.

This is the story of Ellen Wilkinson.

Selections by Pat Harrington

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