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Imagine... is a wide ranging arts series first broadcast on BBC One in 2003, hosted and executive produced by Alan Yentob. Each series usually consists of 4 to 7 episodes, each on a different topic.

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Station: BBC One (GB)
Rating: 0/10 from 0 users
Status: Running
Start: 2003-06-11

imagine... Season 20 Air Dates


S20E01 - The Trouble with Tolstoy - 1. At War with Himself Air Date: 27 March 2011 21:35 -

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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.


S20E02 - The Trouble with Tolstoy - 2. In Search of Happiness Air Date: 03 April 2011 21:35 -

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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.


S20E03 - The Man Who Forgot How to Read and Other Stories Air Date: 28 June 2011 21:35 -

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Presenter Alan Yentob meets clinical neurologist and author Dr Oliver Sacks to investigate the myriad ways we experience the visual world and the strange things that can happen when our mind fails to understand what our eyes see. In the course of this investigation, Yentob tells the life story of Dr Oliver Sacks, the man who would become one of the world's most famous scientists.

Alan delves into this world by going to meet several of the case studies from Sacks latest book, The Mind's Eye.

He meets Stereo Sue, neurobiologist Sue Barry, who always saw the world as a flat 2D image until she suddenly acquired stereoscopic 3D vision in her late forties; Canadian crime writer Howard Engel, the man who forgot how to read, who remarkably continues to write despite a stroke that destroyed his reading ability; Chuck Close, the renowned portrait artist, who cannot recognise or remember faces and Danny Delcambre, an extraordinary and spirited man who, although having a condition which means he was born deaf and is gradually going blind, lives life to the full and uses close-up photography to record the world around him.

Often overlapping with these case studies is Sacks' own story. Here, doctor and patient combine as he talks about his childhood, his own struggle with face blindness, and the loss he felt when eye cancer recently destroyed his 3D vision.


S20E04 - The Pharaohs' Museum on Liberation Square Air Date: 05 July 2011 21:35 -

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Alan Yentob visits Egypt's National Museum, possibly the most precious museum in the world, with its dust-covered collection of thousands upon thousands of priceless ancient antiquities.

The museum was caught up in the revolution on Cairo's Tahrir Square, standing right at the centre of the action. Its precious cargo was looted, and young revolutionaries formed a cordon around it to protect it.

The museum is the heart of Egypt, containing the key not just to the country's past but to its future, offering inspiration and hope. Alan discovers that the pharaohs were not the slave-drivers of Hollywood legend, and that 4,000 years ago there was another revolution, foreshadowing today's, and even a goddess of social justice.

With Omar Sharif and novelist Ahdaf Soueif.


S20E05 - Lennon: The New York Years Air Date: 12 July 2011 21:35 -

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Alan Yentob introduces Michael Epstein's film uncovering John Lennon and Yoko Ono's move to New York City, as Lennon sought to escape the mayhem of the Beatles era and focus on his family and private life. It was in New York that Lennon created some of his most famous work, writing most of his songs in his apartment at The Dakota on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Revealing the tumultuous life of one of the world's most famous couples as they adjusted to life in the Big Apple, the film charts the ups and downs of their creative and personal lives - including their battle against the immigration services, and Lennon's infamous "lost weekend".

Michael Epstein's documentary also features never-before-heard studio recordings from the Double Fantasy sessions, and never-before-seen outtakes from Lennon in concert and his home movies.

The film includes exclusive interviews with Yoko Ono and with artists who worked closely with Lennon during this period, including Elton John and photographer Bob Gruen.


S20E06 - Harry Nilsson: The Missing Beatle Air Date: 19 July 2011 21:35 -

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Alan Yentob introduces John Scheinfeld's documentary Harry Nilsson - The Missing Beatle, a film that tells the story of the riotous life and music of Harry Nilsson.

Nilsson, a friend and hero of Lennon's, was one of the most successful and influential, but least known, songwriters of his generation. He is remembered as much for his wild lifestyle as for his outstanding performance of Everybody's Talkin' from the movie soundtrack Midnight Cowboy.

The film showcases new and archived audio and film, including home movies, music videos, promotional films and segments from the unreleased documentary made during the recording of Son Of Schmilsson, Did Somebody Drop His Mouse? The film also features interviews with Robin Williams, Yoko Ono, Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, Ray Cooper, the Smothers Brothers and Micky Dolenz.


S20E07 - Iraq in Venice Air Date: 26 July 2011 21:35 -

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Iraq and art are not words that usually go together. Yet this year, for the first time since Saddam Hussein's rise to power some 35 years ago, Iraq has a presence at the Venice Biennale - the show that is theCannes Film Festival or the Olympics of the international art world calendar.

Thousands of years ago, Iraq was the cradle of civilisation - Mesopotamia, the 'land between two rivers' - the Garden of Eden. Decades of despotism, destruction and despair have stifled its art, but now, despite all the dangers and difficulties, art is re-emerging.

Jill Nicholls' film tells the moving stories of six Iraqi artists, all scattered around the world, and follows them as they prepare their work for Venice. The artists include Halim Al Karim, who survived for three years in a hole in the desert, escaping conscription into the Iran Iraq war; as well as Walid Siti, dreaming of the mountains of Kurdistan in his East London studio and going back to Iraq to gather images for his work. Also Ali Assaf, poetically evoking his home town of Basra back in the days when it was called the Venice of the East; and Ahmed Al Soudani, whose visceral paintings of violence and chaos sell for six-figure sums.

The theme of this Iraqi show is not war but water - 'wounded water'. There is a water shortage crisis looming - already a litre of drinking water costs as much in Iraq as a litre of oil. The artists explore this issue through contaminated dates (once the pride of Basra, until Saddam deliberately destroyed 20 million date palms), dried-up waterfalls in Kurdistan (the fountainhead on which all of Iraq depends), and outsize taps looming over piles of plastic bottles. But the work is always imaginative, never just didactic.

This is an epoch-making event in the history of a war-torn country. The film opens a new window on that world, seeing it through the eyes of artists who have been torn away from it.

imagine... Actors

Alan Yentob (Presenter)



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Next Episode of imagine... is

Season 34 / Episode 2 and airs on 27 May 2018 21:30

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