Thursday, February 11, 2010

The BBC did well with this programme

The Beeb, Auntie, British Broadcasting Corporation is known all over the world.It's come in for a lot of criticism of late, mainly for the vastly inflated salaries paid to some of its stars (although I am a Wossy fan and think it is a shame he has decided to leave; I don't have Russell Brand love though). Lately I have been watching quite a lot of programmes on its UK minor channel BBC4 and last night I saw a great one.

Called Syrian Schools it was the first of five episodes following life in a few different schools in - well- Syria. For someone like me who is very ignorant about the differences in the Arab world re secular and religious life, it was very illuminating.I can't do better than quote the Guardian's review - they put it so well

The star of the first episode of Syrian School (BBC4), a five-part documentary about young people's lives in Damascus, was undoubtedly Amal Hassan, the utterly wonderful headmistress of the Zaki Al-Arsuzi Girls' secondary school in the city centre. She looks out over her excitably shrieking charges as they read the new class lists, bewail the loss of partners in crime ("I'm not with my friends!") and test the limits of the new uniform rules. Under her basilisk stare, order is gradually brought out of chaos. "I want them to see how strong I am, and how proud I am of myself," she says, her face as immobile as her fabulous helmet of jet-black hair. If I were a pupil of hers, I would be daily prostrate with terror, but they evidently breed them tougher in Syria, and the girls under her care not only survive but thrive.

The teachers at the boys' school on the outskirts of Damascus face the even more formidable task of diffusing the physical and emotional tensions caused by the influx into a predominantly Muslim area of Christian refugee students from Baghdad. One of these is Yusif, who plays war games on his computer without a qualm but shrinks from sudden noises, which take him back to the bombings of his childhood. At his school, 500 boys are crammed into a building built for 300, and are almost literally bouncing off the walls. When Yusif, an avid football fan, realises that the PE lesson on his first day is going to be devoted to the rules of basketball*, he lays his head on his desk in theatrical despair; the other boys look similarly appalled. Some things transcend all differences.

*this was a bit that upset me actually. The (female) sports teacher was trying to encourage the class to vote for basketball over other sports. She said 'I'll favour any of you who pick basketball' - surely this goes against teacher rules the world over - to actually admit to favouritism?


the fly in the web said...

Is there a catch up for this programme?
If so, i will kidnap a small child to work the controls and watch sounds superb and just the thing the BBC always used to do so well.

Merisi said...

Nothing underscores the value of a great institution like the BBC (or PBS in the US) more than when the succeed in educating their listeners or viewers about places and people beyond their usual reach. So glad you enjoyed the program. I can watch BBC, but must confess I rarely turn on TV.

Bill Stankus said...

I doubt that particular show will be seen on prime time here in the States.

French Fancy said...

tfitw - if you are sneaky and have a cloaked IP address or a proxy then you can access BBC i-player to get the re-runs. I'm not saying we have or incriminating us in any way whatsoever though

Hello Merisi - how nice to see you here. I did learn something - I hadn't really given Syria a great deal of thought and had just sort of dismissed it in a way (you know, thinking it was just another Muslim country where the woman were covered from head to foot). It's not like that at all though.

The headmistress could not understand why so many young girls were wearing the jihab. She kept trying to find out from them and this was a very very interesting part of the show. Syria seems a very progressive Arab country. I'm really looking forward to the other episodes

Bill - I think if it was shown then a lot of Americans might be as surprised as I was at how secular Syria is.

Kathy said...

I am enjoying the TV over here. it is one thing I miss a lot. Those programmes sound interesting. Did you know that Russell Brand (not my fave either) is a "Credit Crunch Buster" love that term. he is number 57 in the top list of CCBs raking in 4.4 million. Yikes. Kathy.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bill that we are not likely to see
anything positive about the
Arab world here in the US!!!!!

I long to go to the old city of Damascus.
When we lived in Morocco, I did some teaching at the American School in Marrakesh and would consider doing so again.
I'm happy to say Claudia (our daughter) is now working for the Beeb!
Also I recommend the BBC's "RedRiding 1974"
which was excellent.
ps hope you are not dieting!!!!

French Fancy said...

Kathy - I shouldn't think you have much time to watch tv atm. Where are you staying?

Elizabeth - shame re the lack of neutral coverage re the muslim world. This BBC programme would soften the hardest of hearts I reckon - you realise that kids are just the same all over the world;the pretty Syrian girl told off for wearing jewellery to school, the Iraqi boy loving his online warfare games,

As for the diet - yes, course I am :) I'm a Weight Watcher now and loving being back in control. Must check out RedRiding 1974

Angie Muresan said...

Wow! I doubt we will ever see the series in the States, yet it is ever interesting. Religion and politics always makes for such drama.

French Fancy said...

Angie - what a shame for those Americans who are interested. I never expected to enjoy the programme that much

This isn't a popular blog post - I can tell, minority appeal :)

willow said...

I"m always very impressed with everything put out by the BBC. This sounds like a program I would enjoy. I'll watch for it on PBS, we might be pleasantly surprised.

Lulu LaBonne said...

Sounds great - I shall watch on iplayer.

BTW if you can get iplayer in France (you naughty thing) A film with quite a bit of The Director on screen (during the last 10 mins) was on last Sunday on BBC2

Great Rift: Africa's wild heart

Auntie - Marvellous isn't she?

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Yikes, admitting to favoritism ... obviously I don't know what the culture is like at the school, but in general, that sort of treatment never does win trust. And trust is everything if you want your classroom to run smoothly!

Anonymous said...

I know the BBC is getting a lot of flack these days -- some of it deserved -- yet when I lived in the UK I loved having that every day access to some wonderful programming, like the one you mention in this blog.

Steve said...

What was most comforting and most hopeful was the obvious truth that kids the world over are all just the same...!

Clarity said...

This a wonderful post a) for the BBC and b) to humanise a part of the world that suffered unfairness.

I am shocked to by the teacher's favouritism, more so surprised that she is pushing this sport that they don't want, strange, really.

For those that want catch-ups, perhaps you can tell them about BBCI online, where people can watch programs up to a week later.

Wonderful post, love.

Clarity said...

Hehe, just read back! How hypothetically cough cough does one cloak that thing?

I want to see old BW progs on the NBC site.

wink, wink, nudge, nudge, guvnor, what a pallaver.

A Super Dilettante said...

My dearest, I don't know where we would be without such enlightening programmes on BBC 4. I don't watch TV at home but I miss watching interesting cultured documentaries like this.

Brother Tobias said...

I missed this. But from the description I almost wish my children could have attended a Syrian school. Same bouncing off the walls, but with discipline.

LadyFi said...

Good old Beeb - I miss it now that we don't get it. BBC Entertainment or Prime is only old programmes over here.

Sounds like a fascinating programme.

French Fancy said...

willow - you know sometimes you tune in not expecting to enjoy something but mildly curious to see how it pans out - that was me and yet, ten minutes in, I was totally engrossed.

Lulu - yes, catch it - totally top telly. As for i-playe, well let's just say that I will be watching the Director's programme over the weekend

CT - yes, she was totally wrong to come out and say it. She wasn't likeable at all - not like the fantastic headmistress. The scene with her trying to understand why some of the pupils were becoming very Islamic was gripping television. There she was - a bold and confident woman, very much in the Western mode, yet in charge of this school - half of which were younger versions of herself and the other half were clad in the hijab. I am sure she will become a star after this programme

Ian - this was just the sort of telly you would approve of. Intelligent, interesting stuff that made people question their preconceptions - such as me blindly assuming Syria was a country where the women were covered from top to toe - one and all.

Steve - did you see it? Even though I am an hour ahead once I began watching I didn't want to stop

Clarity - well, just say someone wanted a cloaked id or a proxy, it wouldn't be me that could do it. I am totally ignorant of how to do things like this - but I know a man who can

ASD - you would have enjoyed it and would have empathised with this poor young boy (the Christian called Yusif) who had fled his country.

BroTob - you could watch it (legally) on i-player, it was ever so good.

Ladyfi - I don't get Entertainment or Prime, just the main 1,2,3,4 for the Beeb - lots of rubbish channels as well.

Reasons said...

Sounds fascinating - will check it out on iplayer. Thanks for your lovely comment FF. have a great weekend. Fab pictures of the house by the way.

Veggie Carrie said...

I like your new look blog! The documentary sounds interesting, I will have a look for it on iplayer. I watched a somewhat similar programme last night on Channel 4, about 8 year olds going to boarding school and was feeling very sorry for them :-(

French Fancy said...

Reasons - it is worth checking out - I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Ta re the photos

Carrie - thank you - yes, I nearly watched the boarding school one. I can't imagine sending your kids away like that really.

Delana said...

I finally have a TV but I can't get BBC for some reason. 100 channels, most of which are completely useless...and no BBC. I would really like to watch this series. Even though I am quite sure you would never utilize a cloaked IP address, I would be interested in finding out how someone (not me of course) could set this up.

French Fancy said...

Delana - it is out of my remit and the person I know who knows someone etc is so snowed under I would never even ask him. Sorry. If you google it there are lots of sites out there that can help you though. Some you can pay a small amount to and others are free - but are not necessarily the best (because apparently it is a prosecutable offence)

French Fancy said...

This looks a good avenue to go down