Arts documentary, first broadcast before Ai Weiwei's arrest by the Chinese authorities in April 2011, and his subsequent release after being detained for 11 weeks.
Architect, photographer, curator and blogger, Ai Weiwei is China's most famous and politically outspoken contemporary artist. Alan Yentob explores the story of Ai Weiwei's life and art, and reveals how this most courageous and determined of artists continues to fight for artistic freedom of expression while living under the restrictive shadows of authoritarian rule.
Widely considered to be the world's first paparazzi photographer, the controversial American photojournalist Ron Galella was sued by Jackie Kennedy and had his jaw broken by Marlon Brando. Throughout a career spanning more than 40 years, Galella's stalking tactics have attracted criticism, hostility and lawsuits. But his relentless pursuit of the famous has enabled him to amass an archive of 3 million photographs that represent a unique record of modern American celebrity culture.
In this film, the award-winning programme-maker Leon Gast follows Galella as he revisits some of his old haunts and recalls his encounters with the stars who have tried - and usually failed - to evade his lens.
Pioneer photographer, forefather of cinema, showman, murderer - Eadweard Muybridge was a Victorian enigma. He was born and died in Kingston upon Thames, but did his most famous work in California - freezing time and starting it up again, so that for the first time people could see how a racing horse's legs moved. He went on to animate the movements of naked ladies, wrestlers, athletes, elephants, cockatoos and his own naked body, projecting his images publicly with a machine he invented and astounding audiences worldwide with the first flickerings of cinema. Alan Yentob follows in Muybridge's footsteps as he makes - and often changes - his name, and sets off to kill his young wife's lover. With Andy Serkis as Muybridge.
Alan Yentob presents this special edition of Thom Zimny's documentary in which Bruce Springsteen describes his attempts to create a sequel to one of the most popular albums of all time, sealing his legendary status in the tortured, but ultimately triumphant, process.
Darkness on the Edge of Town was Springsteen's make-or-break follow-up to the classic 1975 album Born To Run - the recording that made him a superstar. In the period before the album was made, Springsteen was mired in a protracted legal battle that thwarted his desire to produce an album that would surpass his previous achievements. Zimny's film shows the young Springsteen driving himself, his band and his manager almost to distraction in his search for perfection, as he writes and records new compositions and produces ground-breaking work in song after song.
Zimny's film features reflections from Springsteen, manager Jon Landau and members of the all-important E-Street Band on the extraordinary process of making this crucial rock 'n' roll album. It includes visceral, previously-unseen black-and-white footage shot between 1976 and 1978 from the rehearsals that took place both at Springsteen's home and at the Record Plant recording studio in New York.
Alan Yentob learns what links Radio 4 soap The Archers with Ben-Hur, one of the most epic Hollywood blockbusters of all time, as he charts the progress of 350 "everyday folk" as they benefit from an unusual bequest.
Margot Boyd, the actress who played Ambridge's Mrs Antrobus, wanted ordinary people to experience the joy and excitement of being involved in theatre. They took up the challenge, and spent a year preparing to perform Ben-Hur on stage in Bath's historic Theatre Royal.
As the creative powerhouse behind hugely influential band The Kinks, Ray Davies was responsible for writing some of the best-loved songs of the 60s, including pop classics You Really Got Me, Tired of Waiting For You, Dedicated Follower of Fashion, Sunny Afternoon and Waterloo Sunset. Alan Yentob meets Davies, a unique talent who describes with rare candour his troubled relationship with fame and the vicissitudes of his career. They also discuss a new album of Klassic Kinks Kollaborations which is near completion and features musical luminaries such as Bruce Springsteen, Mumford and Sons and Metallica.
Alan Yentob takes an epic train ride through Tolstoy's Russia, examining how Russia's great novelist became her great troublemaker.
In this programme, he reveals a difficult and troubled youth, obsessed with sex and gambling, who turned writer while serving as a soldier in Chechnya and the Crimea. His experiences on the frontline eventually fed into War and Peace, a book now recognised as, 'the gold standard by which all other novels are judged'. They also triggered his conversion to outspoken pacifist.
Alan's expedition takes him to the Tatar city of Kazan, where Tolstoy was a teenager, the siege of Sevastopol on the Black Sea and Imperial St Petersburg, as well as the idyllic Tolstoy country estate, the writer's cradle and grave, and home throughout his passionate but brutal 48-year marriage to Sofya - a marriage that began with rape, produced 13 children and ended with desertion and denial.
Contributors include Tolstoy's great great grandson Vladimir Tolstoy, AN Wilson and author of a new Tolstoy biography, Rosamund Bartlett.
Alan Yentob continues his train ride through Tolstoy's Russia, examining how Russia's great novelist became her great troublemaker.
The success of War and Peace brought Tolstoy fame, wealth and a massive mid-life crisis. Alan follows the writer through the tortured second half of his life as he transformed himself from aristocrat to anarchist and turned his back on his novels, his possessions and finally his wife of 48 years.
Alan travels east into the remote emptiness of the Russian steppe, through the dark, pages of Tolstoy's great romantic novel, Anna Karenina, on to the small town where Anna takes her life, and then on the pilgrimage to the spectacular monastery where Tolstoy's spiritual quest began.
Using extraordinary early film of Tolstoy, we witness the tumultuous events of Tolstoy's final years and his passionate relationship with his disciple Chertkov, the man his wife called "the devil incarnate".
Finally, Alan retraces Tolstoy's flight from home at the age of 82, a journey that ended in a remote railway station. Heartbreaking archive footage shows his wife Sofya being turned away from the deathbed of her husband. So great was Tolstoy's influence at the time of his death that the government feared the news would spark revolution.
Contributors include leading Russian commentators, as well as AN Wilson and the author of a new Tolstoy biography, Rosamund Bartlett.