Birds of paradise are one of David Attenborough's lifelong passions. He was the first to film many of their beautiful and often bizarre displays, and over his lifetime he has tracked them all over the jungles of New Guinea. In this very personal film, he uncovers the remarkable story of how these 'birds from paradise' have captivated explorers, naturalists, artists, film-makers and even royalty. He explores the myths surrounding their discovery 500 years ago, the latest extraordinary behaviour captured on camera and reveals the scientific truth behind their beauty": the evolution of their spectacular appearance has in fact been driven by sex. And in a final contemporary twist to this story of obsession and royalty, he travels to the desert of Qatar, to a state-of-the-art facility which houses the largest breeding group of these birds in the world - a sheikh's very own private collection. There he has his closest ever encounter with a greater bird of paradise and its dramatic display, reliving the experience that captivated him in the forests of New Guinea more than 50 years ago.
Tim Whewell is in St Petersburg to meet the self-styled Russian nationalists and patriots who are volunteering to join the fighting in eastern Ukraine. He joins a group of volunteers as they undertake military training, and travels to Ukraine to see how the volunteer force is fighting on the ground.
Tom Service plunges into the life and times of Mozart to try and rediscover the greatness and humanity of the living man in his moment. Mozart's prodigious output and untimely death have helped place him on a pedestal that can often blind us to the unique brilliance of his work in the context of his life and times. Service visits the key cities and rooms in which Mozart lived and worked, plays some of Mozart's original instruments and scores, and gradually uncovers the brilliance and originality of his work." There is the prodigious childhood when Mozart was feted as an infant phenomenon around Europe's most glittering courts, and his golden decade in Vienna in which masterpiece followed masterpiece - operas, symphonies, piano concertos, string quartets - as if this short, high-voiced man-child must have been taking dictation from some divine source, until his death at the age of just 35 in 1791. Even more than the music, Mozart's tragic demise sets the seal on his myth. The trajectory of Mozart's life sets the template for the romantic paradigm whose throes we are still in today, which requires our creative heroes to die young to prove that they were too good for this madding world, whether it be Wolfgang Amadeus or Jimi Hendrix. Service travels from London to Vienna and Salzberg, unpicking the living, breathing genius that was Mozart. With Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Nicola Benedetti, Paul Morley and others.
Professor Simon Schaffer presents the amazing and untold story of automata - extraordinary clockwork machines designed hundreds of years ago to mimic and recreate life. The film brings the past to life in vivid detail as we see how and why these masterpieces were built. Travelling around Europe, Simon uncovers the history of these machines and shows us some of the most spectacular examples, from an entire working automaton city to a small boy who can be programmed to write and even a device that can play chess". All the machines Simon visits show a level of technical sophistication and ambition that still amazes today. As well as the automata, Simon explains in great detail the world in which they were made - the hardship of the workers who built them, their role in global trade and the industrial revolution and the eccentric designers who dreamt them up. Finally, Simon reveals that to us that these long-forgotten marriages of art and engineering are actually the ancestors of many of our most loved modern technologies, from recorded music to the cinema and much of the digital world.
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