Tag: bbc

2012: The Kidnap Diaries

BBC Four, Thursday 26th April, 2012

“Dramatised account of film-maker Sean Langan’s kidnapping in 2008 while on a quest to become the first western journalist to film the Taliban training camps. In a bizarre meeting of East and West, the self-confessed adrenaline junkie strikes up an unlikely friendship with the deeply Islamic family holding him captive. As his captors become his hosts, he begins to question his own motives and discovers a common humanity across the vast cultural divide.” – Sean Langan is played by Douglas Henshall.


Review of The Kidnap Diaries

Although it is hard to imagine a predicament more frightening – and hence more dramatic – than being held hostage, hardly any of the high-profile kidnap stories of recent years have been dramatised. Presumably this is because kidnappings involve a lot of sitting around, usually in the dark. In A Mighty Heart director Michael Winterbottom tried to get round the problem by telling the story of Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping from the point of view of his wife, played by Angelina Jolie. The result was an unfortunate combination of earnest and boring. The Kidnap Diaries (BBC Four) was less stagy, more bitter sweet, somehow more human. It told the story of how, in 2008, Sean Langan set out to be the first western journalist to film in a Taliban training camp. He was kidnapped and held hostage for three months instead. For this drama, based on his story, we were taken inside his head during his captivity, via flashbacks to him playing with this children, a devise which brought a sense of balance and depth to the narrative.

As played by Douglas Henshall, Langan seemed sympathetic and good-humoured. What made his story chilling was the way his Taliban captors were portrayed – they seemed quite sympathetic, too. Indeed it was a sense of their common humanity – Langan talked to them about his love for his children – that persuaded them to spare his life. One even sounded like a character from Lawrence of Arabia: “Bloody good stuff, Mr Langan.”

That we knew the ending already didn’t seem to compromise the tension. And it seemed to be about the right length, at one hour. It opened with Langan in a hotel room rehearsing to camera what his film was going to be about. His nerves were palpable, as was his vanity and ego – memories of his ex-wife joking about “The Sean Langan Award for Stupid Bravery”. The most moving scene came when his Pashtun captors allowed him to leave a farewell message on her answering machine: “I don’t want to scare you, but I might not get the chance again to tell you how much I love you.”

About a third of the way into The Kidnap Diaries, Langan tries to convince his captors that he is not a spy but rather an ordinary journalist, a hack who covers anything and everything. It was at this moment that dolphins popped into my head. Though I don’t think I’ve ever met him, many years ago I did commission him, over the phone, to write an article for this paper about rescuing dolphins off a beach in Cornwall. A true hack, indeed. Much braver than most, though.

© Nigel Farndale, The Telegraph, 27 April 2012

2012: Mark Lawson talks to Sean Langan

BBC Four, Thursday 26th April, 2012

In this in-depth interview Mark Lawson meets the award-winning journalist and filmmaker Sean Langan, whose kidnap by the Taliban in 2008 inspired BBC Four’s hostage drama The Kidnap Diaries. Langan’s professional life began as a TV entertainment presenter, but his investigative nose led him to document some of the most volatile and war-torn regions in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Armed with a camera and irrepressible courage, he has produced a series of enlightening documentaries including Afghan Ladies Driving School, African Railway, Langan Behind the Lines, Mission Accomplished and Fighting the Taliban.

*Watch a short clip from Mark Lawsons’ interview with Sean Langan on the BBC Four website.

2009: African Railway

October 2009 – Sean Langan begins work on BBC Four documentary about a railway line in Tanzania

“Thank God. I’m finally back in the land of the living, and back on the road, after a long absence spent staring into an abyss. After my release from Hotel Taliban last Summer I withdrew, mainly into the arms of my two boys, family and friends – but also, inadvertently, up my own arse/nose/bottle/youporn/ anything, infact, to not think about my three months in a dark room under threat of death by my Taliban captors. But after months of that realised I’d ended up in another prison of my own making, so stopped all of that and got back to life. Feels great. Have basked in the company of my children and got my life back on track. Now ready to start my romance with making documentary films again. But before I do, would just like to send a heart-felt thanks to all those who helped or who were worried about me during my ordeal, and apologies for not contacting you all. But extremely grateful nevertheless. About to start filming again. No war for me, at least not for a while anyway, and until my insurance premiums have come down and my boys grown up. BBC4 has commissioned me to make a documentary about a railway line in Tanzania; a slice of African-life, something heartwarming and heartfelt. And made me promise not to cross the border into Congo or Zimbabwe…..as if I’d cross a border into a dangerous place! Writing this from my hotel in Dar es Salam. Biggest danger I’ll face, apparently, are elephants on the railway track. Shouldn’t be a problem. I’m not in a hurry and happy to wait and watch the elephants go by. Feels great to be alive and in Africa – the cradle of humanity, and the birthplace of mine, and everyone else’s, original grandmother!” Sean Langan

Read more about the 2009 film African Railway