Clare Sillery, BBC Head of Commissioning, Documentaries, has announced two new documentary series and a new single film.

Award-winning journalist Mobeen Azhar presents new two part series Our Town: The Day that Ended in a Riot for BBC Three and iPlayer. Produced by Forest, the series explores community concerns around the housing of asylum seekers, and how a peaceful protest outside a hotel in Knowsley in February 2023 became violent.

Five years on from the pandemic, new single film Our Pandemic, directed by Catey Sexton, will tell the story of the pandemic from a deeply personal standpoint, that of the bereaved whose loved ones died of covid.

A co-commission with BBC Cymru Wales, Hunting Mr Nice from Passion Pictures and Welsh indie Kailash Films tells the definitive story of notorious cannabis smuggler Howard Marks AKA ‘Mr Nice’.

Clare Sillery says: “Documentaries at the BBC are in fantastic shape, bringing broad audiences to distinctive, high impact content, from the recent Sarah Everard: The Hunt for Justice and the Miners’ Strike: a Frontline Story to the award-winning Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland.

“Two new documentaries from Forest demonstrate our commitment to supporting talent to tell important, timely stories: Mobeen Azhar presents a new two part series which investigates community division around the housing of asylum seekers whilst Catey Sexton directs a deeply personal film about the covid pandemic.

“In addition, I’m delighted that we’re partnering with BBC Wales on the new series, Hunting Mr Nice, which promises to be a fascinating new insight into this compelling and controversial cultural figure.”

Our Town: The Day that Ended in a Riot
Award-winning journalist Mobeen Azhar presents this new 2×40’ documentary series for BBC Three and iPlayer

Produced by Forest, the series explores the factors that influence community concerns, divide opinion and spark action and unrest around the housing of asylum seekers, an issue brought into sharp focus by a protest that turned into a riot outside a hotel in Knowsley in February 2023.

Mobeen Azhar says: “This is an important story that lots of people are talking about but nobody feels like they are getting heard. It’s my job to listen and try understand what’s really happening.”

Our Town: The Day That Ended in A Riot, a 2×40’ series for BBC Three and iPlayer, is made by Forest. It was commissioned by Fiona Campbell, Channel Controller, BBC Three and Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries. The Executive Producers are Catey Sexton and Jez Lee, the Director is Leo Fawkes, the Producer is Stefan Mattison and the BBC Commissioning Editors are Tom Pullen and Fran Baker.

Our Pandemic
This new documentary tells the story of the pandemic from a deeply personal standpoint, that of the bereaved whose loved ones died of covid. It will transmit in 2025, five years on.

The film is being made by Forest and directed by Catey Sexton (multi-BAFTA & Grierson nominee and RTS winner) who lost her mother in the first wave. The director’s own story of loss will be told amongst those of others bereaved by covid – and through them, the retrospective and tragic story of the pandemic.

The people they lost will be brought to life using archive and testimony – and their stories interwoven with news footage from the time and the revelations of the public inquiry.

For some this will be the story of their fight for justice – a determination to uncover the truth, to learn lessons and hold those in power to account. For others it will be about piecing together the events that shattered their lives and learning to live with the impact.

For all, it will be the story of a nation’s grief and how we make sense of a world-defining event that has claimed the lives of over 230,000, with the biggest loss of life in our nation’s history since World War II.

Director Catey Sexton says: “It’s important that we document the stories of those we have lost to the pandemic. To ensure their deaths are not in vain or forgotten, and to make sense of what happened, in the hope future lives can be saved. For those who no longer have a voice it’s the least they deserve.”

Our Pandemic (w/t) 1×60 was commissioned by Clare Sillery for BBC Two and iPlayer. It is being made by Forest, the director is Catey Sexton. The BBC Commissioning Editor is Fran Baker.

Hunting Mr Nice
This new two part documentary series from triple Academy award-winning Passion Pictures and Welsh indie Kailash Films tells the definitive story of the hunt for ‘Mr Nice’ aka Howard Marks – the world’s most notorious cannabis smuggler – with members of his criminal inner circle breaking their silence for the very first time.

Co-commissioned by BBC Factual and BBC Cymru Wales, the series tells the story of how Marks, who grew up in a Welsh valleys village, dabbled in dealing weed while at Oxford university, before building a worldwide drug-smuggling empire (and even working for MI6) at the height of the war on drugs. For decades the audacious and charismatic ‘Mr Nice’ managed to evade prosecution whilst writing books and appearing on television advocating decriminalisation. But then one day, his luck finally ran out.

Hunting Mr Nice is told from both sides of the law, with unique access to his network of former smugglers and to the DEA agents and police who devoted their lives to bringing him to justice. Also featuring journalists, lawyers and Marks’ friends, the series takes us inside the cultural phenomenon of ‘Mr Nice’ to ask how he was able to become so criminally famous yet continue to evade justice.

Filmed across the US, UK, Spain and the Philippines and featuring new archive and drama recon, it’s a story that explores our ever-changing relationship with drugs: from the hippie smugglers in the 1960s to the emergence of organised crime networks, to the vast law enforcement efforts to stop its sale, all the way through to debates about decriminalisation, instigated in the UK by Marks himself, that continue today.

At the heart of the series is the voice of the one man around whom it all revolved and who died a 90s cultural icon and controversial figure within America’s War on Drugs. But who was the real ‘Mr Nice’?

Nick Andrews, Head of Content Commissioning, BBC Wales, says: “Howard Marks was a fascinating character – a boy from the Welsh valleys village of Kenfig Hill who secured a place in Oxford but swapped academia for the life of an international smuggler, becoming Britain’s most infamous drug dealer in the process. Despite having links to the Yakuza, the IRA, the Mafia and MI6, Marks was known for his charm and charisma, more interested in changing the marijuana laws than indulging in criminality. Although, as this terrific documentary boxset reveals, the story behind the legend of Howard Marks was much more complex.”

Gwenllian Hughes, Co-Series Producer/Director and Creative Director of Kailash said: “It’s an honour to be able to tell the real story of a home-grown legend… we’ve all been raised with the myth of Howard Marks and I’m so excited to deep-dive into this incredible story.”

Nick Leader, Co-Series Producer/Director said: “With marijuana now legal in most of the US, it’s the perfect time to be able to explore this topic with a bit of hindsight.”

Céire Clark, Senior Acquisitions Manager, International at Fremantle said: “Hunting Mr Nice is a remarkable tale and we’re looking forward to telling Howard Marks’ fascinating story through the lens of those who knew him best. We’re delighted to be working with Passion Pictures, Kailash Film and the BBC – we can’t wait to share this jaw-dropping story globally.”

Hunting Mr Nice 2×60 is a BBC Factual and BBC Wales co-commission for BBC Two and iPlayer commissioned by Clare Sillery, Head of Commissioning, Documentaries and Nick Andrews, Head of Content Commissioning, BBC Wales. It is being made by Passion Pictures and Kailash Films where the Co-Series Producer/Directors are Gwenllian Hughes and Nick Leader. The Commissioning Editor for BBC Factual is Tom Pullen and the Commissioning Editor for BBC Wales is Julian Carey. Fremantle is handling international distribution for the documentary.

Pippa Considine

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