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BBC and Sundance Institute Premiere First Audio Storytelling Collaboration, Neighbourhood

PRESS RELEASE — September 25, 2018

BBC World Service and Sundance Institute are excited to announce the premiere of the first-ever audio collaboration between the two organisations with the launch of Neighbourhood, a five-part audio series airing worldwide on the BBC World Service and also available in podcast and streaming audio formats. Each episode is introduced by Sundance Institute founder Robert Redford.

Under this unique collaboration, five project teams with a background in independent filmmaking were selected from a joint open call. They have each produced a 30-minute audio program around the theme of “Neighbourhood” to be broadcast to the BBC World Service’s global English language audience of 79 million listeners. The BBC World Service provided technological and creative mentorship for the duration of the production.

The selected projects tell stories from a range of locations around the world, including a community garden in a diverse Massachusetts neighbourhood; a land claim by Shinnecock Native Americans in an upscale Long Island enclave; the impact of rapid urbanization in Lagos, Nigeria; a look at how Finland’s unique national identity has been shaped; and the experiences of young unmarried couples in India.

“We wanted this partnership to introduce filmmakers to the rich possibilities of audio storytelling,” said Simon Pitts, Commissioning Editor. “We’re all very proud of the result.”

“There has recently been an explosion of interest in podcasts and audio storytelling more generally,” said Mary Hockaday, Controller, BBC World Service English. “Of course, at the BBC World Service we’ve been reporting the world and telling stories in voice and sound for almost a century, and we’re now making the most of the new era of audio. It was a pleasure to be able to share our expertise with the filmmakers, and introduce them to a vibrant new means of storytelling. We learnt from their traditions too.”

“Both the BBC and Sundance Institute keenly believe in supporting nonfiction storytellers to find their voice and find the right language for each project,” said Tabitha Jackson, Director of the Institute’s Documentary Film Program. “To experiment with form by having the opportunity to play in a purely sonic landscape has been hugely valuable for many of these filmmakers, and to have the potential of reaching such a huge global audience in such an intimate way only adds to the power of the collaboration.”

Neighbourhood’s preview episode will be available on September 24; its first episode posts on October 1. It also aired on the World Service in August of 2018.

Episode Descriptions

Neighbourhood: Fake Marriages for Real Homes 1/5

In Mumbai, young couples struggle to rent a flat unless they are married.

Nicole and Ajit, both in their mid-20s, met in Mumbai, the city of dreams. But as they are an unmarried couple, the housing system does not allow them to find a flat to rent together. They decide to pose as an engaged couple, about to be married. With exclusive access into their exciting and tumultuous life, “Fake Marriages for Real Homes”, is their secret little story. Presented by Shirley Abraham

Neighbourhood: We Might as well be Finnish 2/5

How has Finland been shaped by its two very different neighbours, Sweden and Russia?

These days, Finland is considered to be one of the best governed, least corrupt, most educated nations in the world. It has even earned itself the title of “World’s Happiest Country”. Yet the self-deprecating Finns have long seen Finland as a scrappy underdog wedged between two much bigger countries. Kavita Pillay travels to Finland during the country’s centenary of independence to find out how this Nordic nation has been profoundly shaped by its two much bigger — and very different — neighbours.

Neighbourhood: The Battle for the Future of Lagos 3/5

A private city dredges up a public past in Lagos, Nigeria. When developers broke ground on one of the most ambitious, privatised cities in West Africa, they committed to dredging up millions of tons of sand to build 10 square kilometres of land off the coast of Lagos. But as they commenced this project at what used to be a beloved public beach, they ended up dredging up more than just sand.

Reporters Katie Jane Fernelius and Ishan Thakore look at Eko Atlantic City, a city with its own private electricity, water supply and sewage system that works to make Lagos the Dubai of Africa, and fight coastal erosion.

The developers claim that they offer a vision for the future of Lagos. But those evicted, who are among the 14 million urban poor in the African megacity, worry that they won’t be included in that future.

Neighbourhood: How a Garden Grows 4/5

In a small city, a community garden represents change. But is it good or bad?

Alexis Pancrazi talks to recent immigrants, long-time residents, and a local historian to try to get a better picture of how the gardens are part and parcel of the city’s efforts to reinvent itself, and makes some surprising discoveries along the way about how community gardens can impact individual lives and a city at large.

Neighbourhood: At Conscience Point 5/5

The Shinnecock Native Americans struggle to survive in their ancestral land surrounded by the super-rich social and financial elite of the Hamptons. Treva Wurmfeld and Shinnecock activist, Becky Genia, walk to Conscience Point.

Exploring the roots of American inequity, greed and pollution, At Conscience Point contrasts the values of those for whom beautiful places are a commodity - who regard land as raw material to be developed for profit and pleasure - and those locals for whom land means community, belonging, heritage and home.

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