Maverick Life

PODCAST REVIEW

Movies for your ears: From Borat to that racist film Disney doesn’t want you to see

Image design Leila Dougan for Maverick Life

In this week’s selection, we celebrate the silver screen with podcasts that give us a peek of what happens behind the scenes.

With the 22nd edition of the Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival kicking off this weekend, we’re tuning our ears to podcasts about films and filmmaking. From the racist film that Disney doesn’t want you to see to a rare candid interview with the creator of Borat, these podcasts are for film buffs and casual viewers alike.

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Nomanzi Palesa Shongwe: Filmmaker and teacher – Voices from SA

Length: 1 hour and 12 minutes

Format: Single episode

Year: 2019

Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Radio Public or any other podcast app or streaming service

Writer and podcast host Nicholas Claude is creating an extraordinary archive of audio interviews with South African artists and activists. Voices from SA is nothing fancy. The interviews are long and meandering, with the odd taxi hooting in the background. However, for what it lacks in glossy production, it makes up for in the richness of its content. Claude is a natural interviewer who is not trying to be anyone else. He fumbles for answers alongside his guests in a gentle and encouraging way, making space for the listener to do the same. In this episode, Nomanzi Palesa Shongwe offers up nuance in understanding how the personal and political intertwine in our histories. Discussing everything from school integration in the early days of South Africa’s democracy to the intertwined histories of Christianity and colonialism to the aesthetics of her filmmaking, this wide-ranging conversation will have you reflecting for days after listening.

If you enjoyed this episode, take a listen to Claude’s interview with Richard Poplak, whose film Influence about the dubious and controversial reputation management firm Bell-Pottinger opened this year’s Encounters’ line-up.

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Punks – Nancy (WNYC Studios)

Length: 24 minutes

Format: Single episode

Year: 2018

Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Radio Public or any other podcast app or streaming service

This award-winning episode of the Nancy podcast is equal parts delightful and hilarious. Out for fun from the beginning, the story centers on a quest to track down a missing black gay romcom called Punks. Co-hosts Tobin Low and Kathy Tu have a natural chemistry that structures the hunt for the missing film. Kathy leads the detective work while reporting back to Tobin who stands in for the listener eagerly waiting for the next clue. Punks is a commentary on representation while itself doing the work of lifting up and archiving Queer stories. The podcast aired its last episode in June this year leaving a Nancy sized hole in every fan’s heart that cannot easily be filled.

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Disney’s Most Controversial Film (Six Degrees of Song of the South, Episode 1) – You Must Remember This

Length: 57 minutes

Format: The first episode in a six-part season

Year: 2019

Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or any other podcast app or streaming service

You Must Remember This is creative non-fiction meets history meets audiobook. Creator and host Karina Longworth combines meticulous research into “the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century” with exquisite writing and a natural narrative delivery. The resulting 13 seasons developed over the past six years cover topics ranging from Charles Manson’s effect on Hollywood, the establishment of modern beauty standards through film and the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s. In this episode, Longworth investigates the only Disney movie that will not be made available on Disney Plus: the racist 1946 film Song of the South. This detailed deep dive into the history of Walt Disney and racism in the US is the first episode of a six-part season on the topic. Narration is punctuated by music and interspersed with clips from the film, but includes very few other voices, hence the audiobook feel. If you want to get lost in fascinating stories from Hollywood’s golden era, this is the podcast for you. And if you’d like to do some of your own research, Longworth provides extensive lists of all her sources on her website.

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Ordinary People: Steve Almond – This Movie Changed Me (On Being Studios)

Length: 27 minutes

Format: Single episode

Year: 2018

Listen on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or any other podcast app or streaming service

Instead of tracing the history of films or unpacking how they were made, This Movie Changed Me centres on the emotional impact of movies on individual viewers. Each episode consists of an interview with a different guest about a movie that changed their life. Here, Steve Almond, author and co-host of The New York Times’ podcast Dear Sugars, explores the emotional vulnerability portrayed in the 1980 film Ordinary People. It’s a powerful look at the complexity of family dynamics and how movies can give us the language to make sense of our experiences.

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Sacha Baron Cohen – Fresh Air (WHYY, NPR)

Length: 39 minutes

Format: Single episode

Year: 2012

Listen on: SoundCloud or the Fresh Air Archive.

A rare and revealing interview with the actor and writer who is almost always in character: Sacha Baron Cohen. With veteran interviewer Terry Gross leading the conversation, Baron Cohen dishes on the real dangers inherent in using his characters to intentionally antagonise people for the production of his fictional documentaries. Baron Cohen recounts his experiences of being tracked by police and the FBI while filming Borat and of hiring a bodyguard for protection while shooting Brüno. The interview is a fascinating behind the scenes look at Baron Cohen’s dedication to staying in character despite the very real risks associated with doing so.

If you’re wondering how to listen to these audio gems, local podcast organisation Sound Africa has prepared a handy guide to show you how.

Happy listening! DM/ML

Do you have an issue that is close to your heart, an itchy question, or something you’re interested in? Let us know what it is and will find and review podcasts that might help answer it! Email us at [email protected]

Missed the last edition of our podcast review? Click the link below to read more about “On voyeurism, closeness and living together”

On voyeurism, closeness and living together

 

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