Recently, I’ve been catching up on the BBC documentary series “The Story of China”. Watch the first of six episodes above! I had given it a miss when first I saw in a film critic’s review that it was “too academic and unexciting” to be entertaining, then changed my mind when I heard from my friends that it was “absolutely fascinating”. I don’t know why I was so hesitant to watch it, because it is presented by Michael Wood, one of my documentary idols. It does have some irritating moments, including:
- Its worst moment (ep.1): when it missed out 800 years of history by skipping all but the very start of the Han dynasty in order to move to the Tang dynasty. More “The Story of China, abridged”, than “The Story of China”.
- Its laziest moments (ep.4): using clips roughly 1,000 years out-of-date, of the popular film Red Cliff, alongside the narrative about football in the Song dynasty and the ascension of the Ming dynasty.
But overall this documentary series is worth watching. A memorable moment was when I found out that Chinese Muslim culture is unique in having female imams, heading female-only mosques. The BBC still educates and has obvious storytelling talent and a great eye for scenic backdrops.