Unreported World

Daniel worked on Channel 4’s critically acclaimed foreign affairs strand “Unreported World” for five years, producing and directing documentaries in countries all around the world. He covered subjects as diverse as lobster divers in Honduras, child boxers in Thailand and real estate agents in the Gaza Strip. In 2012, an Unreported World episode he directed called “Terror in Sudan” won the prestigious Rory Peck Award and was nominated for an RTS. In 2015, Daniel was assigned the role of Series Editor and oversaw together with Monica Garnsey the research, development, production, editing and delivery of 16 episodes, several of them award-winning.

40 years to find my family

“Incredibly emotional”

Krishnan Guru-Murthy has taken a bit of a bashing this week for an interview he did with Robert Downey Jr on Channel 4 News. His crime was to try to make the interview interesting and actually find out something about the actor, rather than sticking to the PR script and asking lame questions about the film Downey Jr was there to promote. A lot of people didn’t like it. RDJ certainly didn’t like it and walked out of the interview.

There are no Hollywood egos for Guru-Murthy to take on in Unreported World: 40 Years to Find My Family (Channel 4), just two middle-aged sisters who haven’t seen each other since they were separated as children. This is not your average Unreported World territory, you might think – more like something from Take a Break magazine. Actually the sisters were reunited by a reality TV show; this is television about television. We are in Cambodia, though, and Hong and Bo were separated by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, while the rest of their family was either killed or starved. I think it’s OK for UW and KG-M to be here too. Plus, KG-M does interview a former Khmer Rouge torturer for some context, so it’s not just Siblings Reunited.

The sisters’ lives took very different paths after their separation. Bo has been living in the Kampong Chhnang area of Cambodia, where she is a rice farmer. She hasn’t been back to Phnom Penh since childhood. Hong left the country altogether, and has been living in the Texas area of the US, where she runs a donut shop. But both their lives have been defined by the losses they suffered as children. The reunion, in a TV studio, is incredibly emotional. They embrace, a huge emptiness is suddenly filled, there’s not a dry eye in the house, I’m practically in tears here and I’ve only known them for 20 minutes.

But that’s not the end of it – there’s a further twist, and that’s it, me gone, blubbing like a baby. I won’t go into the details, in case you didn’t see it. You should, though, if you fancy a bloody good weep. Much much better than awkwardness and A-list stroppiness.

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

Kickboxing Kids

“Shocking”

I’m a big fan of Channel 4’s Unreported World strand, in which a team of reporters track down controversial stories from the most far-flung parts of the globe. This week’s episode, Kickboxing Kids, which documents the lives of young Thai children who are trained to fight for money, maintained the high standard to which viewers of the programme have become accustomed.

Mary-Ann Ochota, the presenter, was rather cheery to begin with. So when she was confronted by the sight of two seven-year-olds beating each other unconscious to the baying of a 1,000-strong crowd, she looked profoundly shocked.

But she quickly came into her own. The most disturbing scene came when Nat Thanarak, 11, weighed in the day before a bout to discover that he was three kilograms too heavy for the category. His handlers spent the rest of the day trying to make him lose weight by forcing him to run up and down alongside a motorway in the searing heat, wearing a rubber “sweat suit”.

They then locked him in the car with no air conditioning, and forced him to lie in the back of a pickup truck under a black tarpaulin, wearing a woolly hat. It was pushing 30 degrees. Needless to say, he wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything.

Ochota broke with journalistic convention and confronted the handler about it, suggesting that it was cruel to treat a child in this way. Needless to say, he took little notice. But her distaste was palpable, and reflected the audience’s own.

Nat’s fight did go ahead, and he was beaten. His father and trainer berated him, asking repeatedly whether he did not regret missing out on all that money?

Because that’s what it all came down to: 30,000 children, some as young as seven, fight professionally in Thailand, some for as little as £4 per bout. Nat, as a popular fighter, stood to earn £1,000 for that fight alone. That’s more than his mother, who worked in Bangkok and sent money home, could raise in a month.

Towards the end of the programme, Ochota visited a scientist who had studied the detrimental effects of Thai boxing on a child’s brain. But Nat’s parents were poor, and his fighting was making them rich. With such powerful incentives, it seemed unlikely that they would allow him to hang up his gloves any time soon.

Jake Wallis Simons, The Telegraph

Baseball Dreams

“Powerful”

Quiz question: which city produces more Major League Baseball players per capita than any other? New York? Philadelphia? Boston? Detroit? Nope, it’s San Pedro de Macorís in the Dominican Republic. In the US, a boy can’t sign for a club until he’s got a high-school diploma, normally when he’s 18 or 19 years old. But America’s scouts like them much younger than that, so they go to the Caribbean instead, where kids can drop out of school at 14.

Unreported World: Dominican Baseball Dreams (Channel 4) is a departure for this foreign-affairs strand, which normally reports from areas of conflict and danger. No blue flak jacket required this time – but the story is powerful and shocking.

The trouble is, for every Julio Lugo (no, me neither) who makes it to the big time, there are 1,000 kids who don’t, and who then have nothing to fall back on because they left school at 14. Like Jose Miguel, who was once a major-league prospect and offered contracts, but his greedy trainer held out for more, and Jose ended up with nothing.

Exactly the same now appears to be happening to Miguel’s nephew, Patterson Segura, the main character in reporter Seyi Rhodes’s film. Patterson, a talented and likable 16-year-old who can pitch a ball at 90mph, has a couple of offers at around the $40,000-50,000 mark. Which is fine by Patterson and his granny who raised him, but his trainer Jovanny says no, he wants more.

Rhodes asks Jovanny what happens to the ones who get left by the wayside. “Drugs – because of the frustration,” Jovanny says. “Alcohol, depression and madness.” So take the 50 bloody grand, for God’s sake, for Patterson’s sake, I’m shouting at the telly. You’re half the problem.

On my preview copy, there’s no postscript, no news of what happened to Patterson. Hopefully there is on the final version. And hopefully it’s good news for Patterson – not three strikes and he’s out.

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

Diving into Danger

“Excellent”

Unreported World – Diving into Danger(Channel 4) had you holding your breath and increasingly panicky feelings at bay as one of its team, Jenny Kleeman, followed Alexis Valderamos, a 29-year-old on one of his trips out to sea and then down into its depths. Alexis has been diving for lobster off the Mosquito Coast since he was 14. A few years ago, he and his fellow divers only had to go down 40 or 50 feet – now, with the depredations caused by the west’s appetite for seafood and the unwillingness to curb the environmental damage that makes the habitat unviable, perilous dives to 100 feet, 140 feet are increasingly common. Lobster traps could be used, but they are more expensive than the lives of desperate men.

The only thing more rickety than the boat they travelled on, six to a bunk, was the kit they used to dive. No depths or pressure gauges, no way of telling when the air in their tanks was about to run out – just an inability to breath, an emergency rush to the surface and then, quite possibly, decompression sickness (“the bends”) followed by paralysis or death. Hyperbaric treatment can save them, but decompression chambers are scattered along the Honduran coastline even more thinly than the lobsters

Kleeman met Jesus Gonzales who has been paralysed and housebound since he fell victim to the bends 13 years ago. Four thousand other divers are known to be suffering – an estimated 10% of them will end up like this, and there are nearly 50 reported deaths at sea a year. Reported, of course, being the key word here.

It was customarily excellent, enraging and upsetting half-hour’s work by the documentary strand, highlighting another overlooked instance of man’s inhumanity to man. Unusually, this time they pointed out what European and US consumers could do to ameliorate the situation – not boycott the seafood suppliers, which would only bring further hardship to the area, but lobby the companies to provide proper equipment for their divers and treatment for any made ill. Until then, may everyone’s lobster thermidor turn to ashes in the mouth.

Lucy Mangan, The Guardian