America Season

BBC Four explores the cultural legacy of 20th century America

More documentaries

Category: BBC Four; Factual

Rich Hall's Continental Drifters (1x90-minute)

Returning from his successful BBC Four documentary The Dirty South, comedian Rich Hall embarks on a new journey across America to explore the symbolism of the classic road movie.

Cruising through the breathtaking badlands of South Dakota to the mountains of Montana, Rich follows in the famous Thunderbird tyre tracks of Thelma And Louise and serial killer classic Natural Born Killers, as well as Vanishing Point, Badlands, Lost In America, Easy Rider and Sugarland Express, to name a few.

This seductive exploration of the open road leads him on an inspiring journey of freedom and escapism, as he chases the horizon, discovering why the combination of road and rubber had become so iconic.

Rich Hall's Continental Drifters is not only a visual feast, but also a fascinating insight into classic Americana and the history of the American highway system.

With historians, motel experts and interstate scholars joining him on his captivating journey, and with a remarkable mixture of history, symbolism, wit and classic clips, viewers can sit back, enjoy – and let Rich do the driving.


Rick Stein Tastes the Blues (3x60-minutes)

Ever since he played bass guitar in a band at school in the early sixties, Rick Stein has been in love with the blues. He embarks on a journey to the Mississippi Delta where he explores the character of the communities that lie along the banks of the Mississippi River, at the very heart of where blues music was first born... the bars, the key musicians, the best eating houses as well as the dangerous currents and eddies the Mississippi River is famous for.

He opens the stage door to great jamming sessions, good indigenous food and people with an insight into the blues, past and present. This film is Rick's homage to the musicians who gave birth to the blues from the farms and cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta and a celebration of the tastes and smells that have been associated with the blues for nearly a century.


Storyville – The Billion Dollar Art Heist

The Billion Dollar Art Heist chronicles the long and dramatic struggle for control of the Barnes Foundation, a private art collection valued at more than $25 billion.

In 1922, Dr Albert C. Barnes formed a remarkable educational institution around his priceless collection of art, located just five miles outside of Philadelphia. Now, more than 50 years after Barnes's death, a powerful group of moneyed interests have gone to court for control of the art, and intend to bring it to a new museum in Philadelphia.

Standing in their way is a group of Barnes's former students and his will, which contains strict instructions stating the Foundation should always be an educational institution, and that the paintings may never be removed. Will politics prevail over a man's dying wishes?

 

Storyville: Bobby Fischer – Genius And Madmen (1 x 90-minute)

Considered by many to be the world's greatest chess player, Bobby Fischer personified the link between genius and madness. His trajectory propelled him from child prodigy to world chess champion at age 29 and then into a nosedive of delusions and paranoia. Fischer was a recluse for decades before resurfacing for a bizarre final chapter as a fugitive.

From veteran filmmaker Liz Garbus, Bobby Fischer: Genius and Madmen exposes the disturbingly high price Fischer paid to achieve his legendary success and the resulting toll it took on his psyche. Rare archival footage and insightful interviews with those closest to him expand this captivating story of a mastermind's tumultuous rise and fall.


Storyville – Client 9: The Call Girl And The Governor

Dubbed The Sheriff of Wall Street, Eliot Spitzer made his name as New York's Attorney General, prosecuting criminal activity by America's largest financial institutions and some of the most powerful businessmen in the country. He was then elected New York Governor with the largest margin in the state's history, and many believed Spitzer was on his way to becoming the nation's first Jewish President.

Then, shockingly, Spitzer's meteoric rise turned into a precipitous fall when the New York Times revealed that Spitzer – a paragon of rectitude – had been seeing prostitutes.

With unprecedented access to the escort world as well as friends, colleagues and enemies of the ex-Governor, Academy Award winning director Alex Gibney explores the hidden contours of this tale of hubris, sex and power.

 

Storyville: Deadline – The New York Times (1 x 90-minute)

Deadline: The New York Times goes inside the newsroom at one of the most venerable publishing institutions in the world, The New York Times.

Director Andrew Rossi gains unprecedented access to America's preeminent news factory during one of its most tumultuous years. The film follows the paper's struggle to survive in a year where Wikileaks emerged as a household name and other newspapers folded. Lead by journalists such as David Carr – a firebrand journalist and former crack addict – can the foot soldiers of this bastion of old media keep up with the torrent of information that is the world wide web?