As far as political documentaries go, this first instalment of Inside the Foreign Office has to be right up there with the very best ones to have graced our TV screens in 2018.
Made by film-maker Michael Waldman over an extended period of time, this episode was entitled ‘Keeping Power and Influence’. It looked at the unique and somewhat strange world of British diplomats. It was stated how Waldman had gained unprecedented privileged access to the British Foreign Office and its employees.
What we got throughout was an extremely fascinating sixty minutes. The action picked up from four days after the British General Election in 2017. Here we saw British foreign secretary Boris Johnson, address the foreign office workers with an attempted rousing speech. There was a reaction shot of some people in the audience who rather amusingly had facial expressions of indifference.
It was impressive how this documentary personalised the footage, thus allowing us to make an emotional connection to certain foreign office officials. The person who we most got to know was Sir Simon MacDonald, the permanent secretary and chief civil servant. He offered us great insight into his role and the role of the British Foreign Office in the twenty-first century.
If you are into your political history then you will have loved some of the stuff that Sir Simon MacDonald said throughout the course of this programme. A great quote from him was when he described what the art of diplomacy was. For example, he said ”diplomacy was the art of letting other people have your way”.
It was great to see female British Foreign Office officials figure so prominently both within this institution and this programme. We saw Harriet O’Brien and Senay Bulbul give Waldman a secret night-time guided tour of the Security Council. Furthermore, it was also inspiring to hear Harriet state that she had reached such a position despite her leaving a state school at the age of sixteen.
One of the things that made this documentary so watchable was that there was tension aplenty. There was the sudden eruption of the Rohinga refugee crisis in Burma to try and deal with. Delicate but determined diplomacy was the aim here. There was also coverage of the ongoing difficult relationship between the United Kingdom and Russia. Recent world events putting extra strain on such dealings.
This documentary was interesting, captivating and very watchable. A superb insight into the somewhat secretive world of international diplomacy. 5/5.