Television: Pick of the week

2nd May 2003 at 01:00
THE MIRACLE MAKER. BBC2 Tuesday, May 6, 2-4am

The story of Jesus' ministry, told through the eyes of a child in first-century Palestine, in a remarkable full-length animated feature. The animation was done in Russia and Wales, part of a long-term collaboration that was also responsible for the Animated Shakespeare series, the Animated Tales of the World and nine films of Old Testament stories.

The main narrative is in puppet animation, with two-dimensional cell animation for the Parables. Ralph Fiennes, William Hurt and Julie Christie head the impressive cast list providing the voices. There is a lot of information here about the main Christian concepts and beliefs, though the script has to satisfy a range of Christian believers, so the list of religious advisers at the end is more heavyweight even than the voice credits.

As well as its obvious uses for RE, the film could also inspire work in English and art for seven to 14-year-olds. If you miss this overnight transmission, it is available on video (pound;12.99 from BBC Customer Services, tel: 0870 830 8000), there is an activity book and there are online teachers' notes at www.themiraclemaker.comresindex.html

ALTERED STATESMEN. Discovery Channel Wednesday, May 7, 9-10pm

The last world leader diagnosed in this fascinating Discovery Channel series is British prime minister Anthony Eden; and since the programme deals mainly with the background to the Suez crisis, it could be useful for teaching modern European history.

Eden is almost a tragic figure, a brilliant pre-war foreign secretary, who resigned on principle over appeasement, became Churchill's right-hand man and successor, and ruined his reputation with his disastrous policy over the Middle East.

This film, plausibly, suggests that one cause was his botched operation for gallstones and his subsequent dependence on amphetamines; but it does not overlook his flaws of character and his obsessive desire to see President Nasser as another Hitler. How easy it is to learn the wrong lessons from history.

THE FRENCH EXPERIENCE. BBC2 Monday, May 5 to Friday, May 9, 4-5am

Holiday time is approaching and the emphasis in BBC2's overnight transmissions this week is on France and the sort of language you will need to converse with our friends across the Channel.

The French Experience, going out every night this week, consists of 20 programmes, filmed all over France and covering such topics as introductions, town and country, shopping driving, hotels, work and so on.

French Experience 2, in the last week of the month, takes a trip to the wider Francophone world.

BITESIZE: French 1 and 2. BBC2 Monday, May 5, 2-4am; Sunday, May 11, 3-5am

The GCSE Bitesize theme for the week is also French, with these two programmes covering all the topics you are likely to need for the oral exam - and most of the written papers, too: everyday activities, personal and social life, and the rest. And don't forget to visit the Bitesize website (found at for revision on all the four skills (reading, listening, writing and speaking), together with sample answers, hints on exam techniques and tests. "Indispensable" (as the French also say).

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