A very good documentary series

(Updated below.)

This month BBC World TV is running a series of short documentaries on China. My wife and I have seen only two of them so far -- one about a little place called White Horse Village that is being demolished to make room for a modern development, another about a year in the life of several public school students, some cramming hard for university entrance exams and others just trying to get by while their parents are a thousand miles away in factory jobs.

If they're aired where you are, they are worth seeing. (Series schedule here. I gather that several of the films have been broadcast before.) They capture some amazing moments -- a bright young high school senior from the boondocks as she learns the scores on the entrance exam that will change her life, a beleaguered rural mother nearly suffering a breakdown when her callous mother-in-law won't help her, a nouveau-riche land developer cavorting with his family while the people he's evicting despair. Most of all, they show what China outside Beijing or Shanghai looks like, in a way TV news rarely does.

Why these are being broadcast with no interference I can't say. In a similar development, unlike yesterday, today both CNN and the BBC, along with the French, German, and Japanese news stations, are broadcasting Lhasa footage without being censored. On the other hand, my experience confirms Danwei's report that YouTube is now blacked out.

Real time update: Whoops! I wrote this yesterday morning, and one minute before it was scheduled to appear -- that is, right now -- I heard in the background a third documentary in the series. In it correspondent Juliana Liu reported on a visit to her hometown of Changsha, capital of Hunan province, and her talk with a colorful local millionaire: the air-conditioning magnate, aviator, and environmentalist Zhang Yue. Who would have guessed -- his campus includes a gilded pyramid and a replica of the palace of Versailles!


Small world. This picture of Versailles-in-Changsha is not from the film but from our story on Mr. Zhang early last year. Maybe this film was shot long before that (though its credit screen said 2008). Further demonstration of our motto. The Atlantic Monthly: today's news one year ago.