‘Trump Takes on the World’ shows why a visceral recording of history is important

If journalism is the first draft of history then documentaries are surely the second and as necessary as the first, writes Mary Dejevsky

Thursday 18 February 2021 21:30
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<p>The rapid turnover of officials under Trump has provided a long list of people prepared to talk – a recipe for documentary gold</p>

The rapid turnover of officials under Trump has provided a long list of people prepared to talk – a recipe for documentary gold

I

t is 30 years since a small British production company completed what was to become the first of a very particular brand of television documentary. The Second Russian Revolution, produced by Norma Percy for Brook Lapping, chronicled Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempts to reform the Soviet Union through the eyes of those who made the decisions as a country, and a whole system, spiralled out of control.

Since then, the same partnership has produced dozens of memorable TV documentaries, painstakingly constructed from eyewitness accounts of recent history. But their latest, Trump Takes on the World, may be the closest in spirit and substance to their first, not least because of the sense it conveys that everything, every day, is in flux and that the humans – for better or worse – can affect what happens, but not always in the way they intend.

The last of three parts airs on BBC Two next Wednesday (24 February). Thereafter, as the BBC will not hesitate to tell you, it will be available on the BBC iPlayer.

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