Pick of the week

22nd October 2004 at 01:00
Virtual History: The Plot to Kill Hitler

The Making of Virtual History

Discovery Channel

Sunday, October 24, 8-10.30pm

Technology in the 20th century provided a new instrument for recording events. Because of the moving image, not only do we have a valuable body of evidence about the past, but also a remarkable aid to the historical imagination. But the 21st century will probably turn increasingly to computers to supply what the camera failed to capture - those moments when history was made away from the newsreels.

The Plot to Kill Hitler tracks four world leaders as they went about their business on one fateful day in July 1944: Churchill dictating a memo about the possible use of poison gas against German civilians; Roosevelt suffering a near-fatal heart attack; Stalin directing the Soviet advance into Poland; and Hitler, in his forest hideout, having a meeting with his generals that nearly proved to be his last.

If the plot led by General von Stauffenberg's to kill Hitler had succeeded, the commentary suggests, the war in Europe could well have come to an abrupt end. Historians (Andrew Roberts, Simon Sebag-Montefiore and others) comment on the personalities involved while actual film footage is blended into the computer simulations to give a seamless narrative of the day's events.

The final half-hour shows how this virtual history was made, using actors'

bodies and computer-animated faces for the world leaders, with convincing effect particularly in the case of Roosevelt. The film also touches on the questions of authenticity and legitimacy that such techniques raise, so there is material here for media studies as well as history, and the starting-point for discussions about historical evidence and "knowing the past".

Diverse Music

BBC2, October 27, 2-4am

Music and the expressive arts feature this week on the BBC2 Learning Zone, starting with this programme on musical styles from around the world: Chinese, gamelan and Jewish. It is followed by Music File, a two-hour unit for 13 to 16-year olds giving a practical introduction to composition and dealing with topics such as rhythm, melody, harmony, structure and mood.

On the following night, jazz musician Wynton Marsalis offers a couple of programmes for 11 to 16-year-olds about musical styles from Sousa to Satchmo and beyond.

Jools Holland features on the same evening in Listening for Clues: Cool Keys, and on October 29 there are two more programmes on musical styles and composition, Mad About Music. Some of these units are also available on video and have additional materials such as teachers' notes.

Timewatch: the Black Pharaohs

BBC2, October 22, 9-9.50pm

This edition of Timewatch ties in with the opening of an exhibition at the British Museum in London, "Sudan: Ancient Treasures". The programme is based on the work of the museum's archaeologist Derek Welby and his team as they uncover evidence of the ancient kingdom of Kush, a black African civilisation to the south of Egypt that flourished for 3,000 years (and gave the Egyptian rulers a lot of bother). The film would be a good lead-in to a visit to the museum and gives an insight into a little-known corner of ancient history.

Full listings can be found at:

* www.channel4.comlearningmainprogrammestv_schedule.htm

* www.bbc.co.ukschoolsguidetv_schedule.shtml

* www.discoverychannel.co.uk

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