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Al Jazeera Documentaries

Season 2015 2015

  • 2015-10-05T21:00:00Z on Al Jazeera
  • 50 mins
  • 16 hours, 40 mins
  • Qatar
  • Documentary, News

Watch the best of Al Jazeera's documentaries from around the world.

20 episodes

Playing a vital role in our everyday lives, technologies based on light are in use all around us. From art and science to modern technology, the study of light - and how behaves and interacts with matter has intrigued scientists for over a century.This year, 2015, marks the 1,000th anniversary of the Kitab al-Manazir (The Book of Optics), a seven-volume treatise written by the Iraqi scientist Ibn al-Haytham - a pioneering thinker who's views have been crucial to our understanding of how the universe came into existence.Shaping our understanding of vision, optics and light, Ibn al-Haytham interrogated theories of light put forward by the Greeks - men like Plato and Euclid who argued that the way we see objects is by shining light out of our eyes onto them. Ibn al-Haytham argued instead, and correctly, that the way we see is by light entering our eyes from outside either reflecting off objects or directly from luminous bodies like candles or the sun.His methodology of investigation, in which he combined theory and experiments, were also remarkable for their emphasis on proof and evidence.In the first episode of Science in the Golden Age, theoretical physicist, Jim al-Khalili, looks at state-of-the-art applications of optics and traces the science of light back to the medieval Islamic world.Al-Khalili recreates Ibn al-Haytham's famous 'camera obscura' experiment with stunning results and also uncovers the work of Ibn Sahl, a mathematician and physicist associated with the Abbasid court of Baghdad. According to a recently discovered manuscript, he correctly described 'Snell's law of refraction' centuries before Dutch astronomer Willebrord Snellius was even born.We also look at the work of Ibn Mu'adh, who brought together knowledge of optics and geometry in order to estimate the height of the atmosphere.

Imagine trying to make sense of the universe before telescopes were even invented. Jim al-Khalili reveals how scholars from the Islamic world played a crucial role in astronomy and navigation, influencing later astronomers in the renaissance.In this episode of Science in the Golden Age, we examine ancient maps dating back to the 9th century at Istanbul's Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam.In the Qatari desert, Ali Sultan al-Hajri, a businessman and Bedouin, shows how the moon and stars have played a crucial role in navigation and timekeeping for centuries.Going through an extensive collection of astrolabes - versatile scientific instruments that could be considered as the 'computers of their day,' we get a rare chance to see the inner workings of this complex device as one of the most elaborate astrolabes at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha is taken apart.Moving from ancient astronomy to the most cutting edge developments in space science, we examine the life of al-Tusi, a great astronomer whose work influenced later astronomers including Copernicus, the renaissance scientist who formulated the model of the universe that placed the sun at the centre and the planets rotating around it.In this episode we also discover how the Persian astronomer al-Biruni devised an ingenious method for calculating the circumference of the earth, which allowed him to come up with an incredibly accurate estimate, within one percent of the accurate value we know today.

From fast cars and aeroplanes to computer encryption – mathematics underpins so much of modern life. In this episode, Jim Al-Khalili uncovers how, between the 9th and 14th centuries, mathematicians from the Islamic world helped mathematicise science and lay the foundations of algebra. He looks at the modern mathematics behind flight, and behind the record-breaking fastest car in the world, tracing the route back from these achievements to the legacy of the Persian mathematician Al Khwarizmi. We also discover the role that the Islamic world played in giving us the modern numeral system that we take for granted in everyday life. And, in the Sulemaniye Library in Istanbul, Jim uncovers a rare text by Al Kindi – perhaps the world’s earliest mathematical code breaker.

Standing in one of the largest neo-natal units in the world at Hamad Hospital in Qatar, you would not immediately be able to draw a link between the pioneering medical research being conducted and the work of physicists from the 9th century.In this episode of Science in the Golden Age, theoretical physicist Jim al-Khalili guides us through a journey of discovery where he highlights the links between medical research in the Golden Age of Science during the 9th and 14th centuries and the modern practice of medicine today.At Hamad Hospital, a new treatment is being trialled for babies born with a neurological disorder called neo-natal encephalopathy. Senior consultant Dr Samawal Lutfi explains how the double blind placebo control method ensures the accuracy of the study. This notion of a control group goes all the way back over a thousand years to a Persian physician by the name of Al-Razi who built the first hospitals in Baghdad. He was an early proponent of applying a rigorous scientific approach to medicine and used a control group when testing methods to treat meningitis in the 9th century.At Harefield Hospital in the UK, we meet Professor Magdi Yacoub, a pioneering transplant surgeon and one of the world's leading heart specialists.Professor Yacoub explains how the 13th century Syrian scholar Ibn al-Nafis redefined the understanding of pulmonary circulation. He challenged the commonly accepted wisdom of the Greek scholar Galen, who had said that blood passes directly between the heart's right and left ventricle through the septum, the dividing wall that separates them. Ibn al-Nafis put forward the idea that blood could not pass directly between the right and left chambers of the heart - and that the lungs had a role to play in this process. Ibn al-Nafis' description was not widely accepted at the time, and it wasn't until his manuscript was re-discovered in the 20th century that his work was universally recognised.From Al-Razi, to Ibn al-Nafis, to the 10th-century philosopher and physician Ibn Sina, Jim examines the most influential medics of the Golden Age. He shows us his personal copy of Ibn Sina's Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb ('The Canon of Medicine'), a comprehensive text which was the pinnacle of medical knowledge at that time. It was widely copied and translated, becoming a standard medical reference across the world for centuries.Jim ends his journey at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, learning how the institute is using the latest equipment to map the human genome. The genome is the complex genetic code contained in every one of our cells and sequencing it can reveal possible diseases that are inherited.Focusing on genetic and hereditary diseases specifically affecting the Qatari population, scientists from around the world have come together to work on this ambitious project that some-what parallels Baghdad's Bayt al-Hikma (The House of Wisdom), the renowned centre of learning that played an integral role in the Islamic world's scientific advancement.

ISIL has been truly devastating to those it comes in contact with and bloody to those under its control. Its sudden rise and expansion in 2014 has perplexed many. It has humiliated its enemies, including those in Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran and Washington. Armed with extensive weaponry, boasting an international fighting force and adept in the art of digital media propaganda, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has become the de facto authority across an area the size of the United Kingdom. This two-part series peels back the rhetoric to examine how a volunteer organization managed to rise up from the ashes of post-invasion Iraq and defeat standing armies many times its size and capacity. How did it begin? How did it grow so astonishingly quickly? And how is it being used by global and regional powers to change the geopolitical map of the Middle East? With critical testimony from informed insiders and experts from across three continents, as well as original footage from Syria and Iraq, this series mixes documentary and discussion to unravel the interweaving nexus of events and alliances, at once aligned and conflicting, that have given rise to the world’s most notorious, and powerful, insurgent group.

he Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been truly devastating to those it comes in contact with and bloody to those under its control.Its sudden rise and expansion in 2014 has perplexed many. It has humiliated its enemies, including those in Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran and Washington. Armed with extensive weaponry, boasting an international fighting force and adept in the art of digital media propaganda, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has become the de facto authority across an area the size of Jordan.This two-part series peels back the rhetoric to examine how a volunteer organisation managed to rise up from the ashes of post-invasion Iraq and defeat standing armies many times its size and capacity.How did it begin? How did it grow so astonishingly quickly? And how is it being used by global and regional powers to change the geopolitical map of the Middle East?With critical testimony from informed insiders and experts from across three continents, as well as original footage from Syria and Iraq, this series mixes documentary and discussion to unravel the interweaving nexus of events and alliances, at once aligned and conflicting, that have given rise to the world's most notorious, and powerful, insurgent group.

2015x46 The Arab Awakening : Death of Fear

  • 2015-12-16T21:00:00Z — 50 mins

Al Jazeera examines how the death of a Tunisian street vendor led to a wave of uprisings across the Arab world.

Under apartheid, South Africa's police were notorious for extrajudicial killings and the routine use of torture against political dissidents. Only later did it emerge that these same techniques were being used even when the victims were suspected criminals, rather than enemies of the racist state.On the birth of the Rainbow Nation two decades ago, most people believed that this would quickly become a thing of the past, that a new era of prosperity, justice and social harmony would make such abuses unthinkable.But in the past 20 years, with both prosperity and social equality remaining an unfulfilled dream for many South Africans, violent crime has been on the rise. This in turn has generated an increasingly aggressive response from the police - under intense political pressure to stop muggings, armed robberies, gang warfare and murder on the streets of the country's major cities.The problem is that some of those charged with upholding the law have been breaking it themselves. Elements of South Africa's police now stand accused of being out of control in a way that is dangerously reminiscent of apartheid's darkest days.In this episode of Africa Investigates, veteran South African journalists Stephan Hofstatter and Mzilikazi wa Afrika, from the country's Sunday Times newspaper, examine the activities of one elite police unit and allegations that its members have been responsible for the torture and murder of criminal suspects.-Subscribe to our channel http://bit.ly/AJSubscribe-Follow us on Twitter https://twitter.com/AJEnglish-Find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera-Check our website http://www.aljazeera.com/

Twenty-five years after the Cold War, fear of Russia's regional ambitions seems once again to be on the rise; while many Russians, in turn, feel threatened and misunderstood by the West.The country's president, Vladimir Putin, had said that he would 'reclaim what was rightfully Russia's', and now this seems to be playing out in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. The annexation of Crimea and the support for ethnic Russians fighting the Ukrainian government in eastern Ukraine have made Putin more popular than ever at home. But this hasn't been so well received outside of the country.And there are other, more subtle, ways in which some believe Putin is turning Russia's clocks back - with apparent support from many Russians.So how do Russians feel about their president and his 'strong armed' way of governing

The Russian economy is in crisis. Many Russians are struggling to make ends meet, due to sanctions in the wake of the Crimea crisis and the Ukraine conflict, unstable oil prices, and a fluctuating currency.Even the better off have been affected by the economic crisis in various ways.But who is responsible for the crisisIs it Putin's imperial ambitions, or the western response to them, the Kremlin's economic policies, the infamous corruption, or the communist legacyRussian journalist and filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov travels across the country to try to explain and understand the impact of Russian economic policies.

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia seems to be on the rise once again, reasserting itself as a regional and global military power.Looking at its intervention in eastern Ukraine and the volatile civil war in Syria, this episode of In Search of Putin's Russia sees journalist and filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov explore Russia's attempts to rebuild its standing in the world by confronting unrest at its borders and beyond.But why is Putin so determined to involve the country in international conflictsNekrasov tries to find out if the idea of annexing Crimea is one shared by the population at large and reflects a nostalgia for the glory days of Russia's past.We meet Ukrainians who have fled to Russia, obtained citizenship and refuse to go back.Nekrasov visits the Republic of Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region adjacent to war-torn Chechnya which has become the most violent province in the North Caucasus.We meet residents who have endured years of oppression, had their homes vandalised and destroyed by the state to quell dissent. Does the biggest threat to Russia's grand ambitions actually come from within

We explore Russian arts and culture and its relationship with the country's long, vibrant and, at times, brutal history.

In rural Ghana, bursaries and extra training are helping girls stay in secondary school and shape their futures.

2015x53 Justice!

  • 2015-11-21T21:00:00Z — 50 mins

This exclusive Al Jazeera documentary is the incredible behind-the-scenes account of one man's extraordinary battle against judicial corruption in Ghana, one of sub-Saharan Africa's most developed countries.Over the course of two years, acclaimed investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas secretly filmed 12 of the country's High Court judges, 22 other judges, and 140 other court officials accepting bribes.In early September this year, despite huge pressure to keep his findings confidential, Anas released them to the Ghanaian public, unleashing an almost unprecedented crisis of confidence in the nation's judiciary - hitherto one of its most trusted and revered institutions.Justice! follows this most unconventional journalist, a qualified barrister in his own right, as these dramatic events come to a climax; revealing the complex moral and ethical dilemmas involved in an self-funded crusade that always looked likely to humble some of the most powerful men in the country, but which controversially also led to the release of alleged violent criminals from police custody. Although his identity is a closely guarded secret - because maintaining his anonymity is so crucial to working undercover - Anas has long enjoyed huge public support in Ghana and across Africa. Famously his work has even been endorsed by US President Barack Obama. But this this time even many of his friends feared he had bitten off more than he could chew, that the stakes were too high, that the risks to his safety were too great.This film tells of the huge political and personal pressures that saw Anas put his own and his family's lives on the line as the day of revelation drew near, the number of deaths threats increased and tense last-minute manoeuvring was needed to outwit the shadowy enemies trying desperately to stifle the story.The resulting scandal, which is still playing out, is changing the political landscape of the nation and its effects may be felt for years to come. As Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary- General and one of Ghana's most famous sons says in the film. 'Sometimes it takes a spark, just a spark, and I think Anas has provided that spark for the whole edifice to blow up.'One thing is certain - it makes for compelling viewing.-

2015x54 ISIL and the Taliban

  • 2015-10-31T21:00:00Z — 50 mins

Raising its black flag over the rugged mountainous regions of Afghanistan, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has emerged as a new threat to the war-ravaged country as it battles the Taliban for supremacy. Employing violence and brutality used by the group in Syria and Iraq, Wilayat Khorasan, (the ancient name ISIL has chosen for the region made up of Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of neighbouring countries), has emerged in seven different areas and vowed to step up operations, where the veteran fighters, the Taliban, once held sway.Fighting to reconstitute the historical Khorasan into the so-called 'Caliphate' of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group says it has grand plans for the region, starting with uprooting the Taliban and the government of President Ashraf Ghani.Causing friction with the regional and overall leadership of the Taliban, armed battles have increased over the past few months with dozens of Taliban fighters killed in the clashes, most notably in the Taliban stronghold of Nangarhar province.ISIL's local chapter has also managed to attract dozens of fighters from the Taliban's ranks into its fold, while foreign fighters unable to make it to Syria and Iraq have thronged to the group's territory.In ISIL and the Taliban we look at the group's growing popularity, how it made steady inroads into the country and the threat it poses for the future of Afghanistan.We gain exclusive access to ISIL's central leadership, and meet children as young as 5-years-old being trained to fight and dedicate their lives to the 'Caliphate'.

2015x55 Kenya's Enemy Within

  • 2015-11-28T21:00:00Z — 50 mins

In an attempt to shield itself from the armed group al-Shabab, Kenya has started construction on a 700km-long wall along its porous border with Somalia.The ambitious project, which consists of brick walls, fences and observation posts, will stretch from the town of Mandera in the north to Kiunga in the south. The goal is to lock out al-Qaeda-aligned fighters who have repeatedly crossed into Kenya to wage attacks. Kenya, an al-Shabab target due to its military involvement in Somalia, has seen an upsurge in large scale attacks recently.Earlier this year, 148 people, including 142 students, were killed after gunmen stormed the Garissa University College, some 200km from the Somalia border .The massacre piled new pressure on Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to deal with the group which has killed more than 400 people in the country over the past two years.In Kenya's Enemy Within we look at the government's proposed border wall and whether it will help stop attacks on Kenyan soil.Investigative journalist John Allan Namu speaks to people with direct access to the project, who say the plan is unfeasible and won't enhance the country's security. We hear how corruption among immigration officials, poor coordination with intelligence agencies and slow responses from the security forces have left Kenya unable to stem the attacks.With exclusive access to al-Shabab fighters in Kenya, we are told how the wall represents a futile effort to shut out the group and the biggest threat the country is facing is from within. We also speak to the Muslim community who say that constant harassment and intimidation at the hands of security forces, and scare-mongering by the government, are helping drive al-Shabab's recruitment and creating the perfect breeding ground for the group.

2015x56 Havana: Cuba's Food Revolution

  • 2015-12-24T21:00:00Z — 50 mins

We visit Havana to find out how politics affects food and how recent changes are being reflected in Cuban cuisine.

Femi Bamigboye is the coach and founder of the Remo Football Academy in the small Nigerian town of Iperu.He is not just a football coach, he is a pastor with a loyal congregation who worship every Sunday in a lean-to church in the middle of the thick forest that surrounds Iperu.We spend a week with Femi Bamigboye as he gets his players ready for the cup final of a local knock-out competition. Femi's son Sam leads the team of youngsters against an older and more experienced team.

2015x58 Snow of the Andes: Peru's Cocaine

  • 2015-11-26T21:00:00Z — 50 mins

For over 4 decades Peru has fought the war on drugs with backing from the US. Ten of thousands of coca plants and hundres of tonnes of cocaine have been destroyed. Despite all these efforts, United Nations now claims Peru is the most important producer of cocaine in the world; with this has come levels of corruption and violence that threatens the very fabric of the country. Over the past year that battle has focused on the capital's port, with criminal cartels fighting for control of the main exit rout for drugs.It is a war that everyone knows cannot ever be won, but not to fight it is un-thinkable, and Sonia Medina Peru's current anti-drug Prosecutor continously risks her life - and that of her family - to face down the growing grip of the narcotic cartels on her country.Globally, drugs supply and consumption have gone up. The price of drugs has gone down. Governments have spent billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives.

Bolivia is the third largest coca and cocaine producer in the world.The country has a long history of using the coca plant for many of its traditional medicines, in food and in daily consumption. It is something Bolivians, young and old, have chewed for centuries. The plant is one of the most important agricultural commodities in the country.Since the election of Evo Morales in 2006 many of the laws that had for generations outlawed coca farming have been thrown out in recognition of the plant's important role in the country's heritage and the economy of the indigenous people.But this has also created an opportunity for those wanting to exploit the new laws for cocaine production. This growing industry is not only using endless acres of the coca plant fields. It is also threatening the traditional way of life.