Monday, October 24, 2011

Fingering exercise in optimism

An accident, and within seconds life is not the same as it was before. Nebojša Ignjatović, a lecturer at the faculty of music in Belgrade, had to undergo a surgical operation, after which he was forced to walk on crutches for two months. This old-fashioned device (crutches in Serbia are still the same as in World War I) gave him an idea: Why not turn a crutch into a harp-like musical instrument? "Optimism" presented by the Serbian Radio Belgrade 2 is a neat fingering exercise in looking on the bright side of life.

From heel to toe

Bob Hill and Katie Burningham, dancing. (BBC)
BBC Radio 4 and Falling Tree Productions present "Heel, Toe, Step Together", an amazing documentary about the encounter between the 86-year-old Bob Hill, a passionate dancer for all his life, having won many competitions with his late wife Iris, and the 28-year-old radio producer Katie Burningham, a self-confessed bad dancer.

The outcome? Dancing lessons, and a blossoming friendship bridging generations. "Heel, Toe, Step Together" is a compelling piece about the power of waltzing, about loss and loneliness, about love and life.

Cracking ice and broken dreams

When The Prime Minister's office of Iceland assigned a team of communication experts to set up an image campaign for the country in March 2008, no one knew that only a few months later Iceland's economy would break down, and that all the plans for prosperity and expansion would lie in shatters. "Iceland Survey: The Ocean Is A State Of Mind" presented by the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RÚV is a sensible collage unfolding the layers of a nation between isolation and trade, between patriotism and emigration, coined by the danger, by the cold, the ice and the vastness of the surrounding sea.

Scenes of argument and affection

The radio documentary jury, carefully listening. (twb)
Two aged ladies, having been living together for thirty years, and a wide social gap between them: "Die Herrinnen - Szenen einer Zweckgemeinschaft" is a stunning radio piece presented by the Austrian ORF Ö1. It tells the story of the conflictual and complicated, yet close relationship between Christa Hauer-Fruhmann, the former painter and Lady of Lengenfeld Castle, and her housekeeper Maria Moser.

The author, Eva Roither, has seen the ladies over a period of several years. Her documentary is an amazingly vivid painting of the present and the past, of argument and affection, and of mutual dependency.

Breaking the silence

The deepest traces of war are left in souls. The tale "Briseurs de silence" presented by Radio France has been inspired by the Israeli organisation "Shovrim Shtika", (silence breakers), which collects the testimonies of Israeli soldiers telling what they have done during their military service in the occupied territories. The radio piece recalls the banality of small deeds causing deep injuries, often invisible, and yet severe.
"Silence breakers" gives a voice to shame and guilt, in a disturbingly unemotional tone, not through the victims' voices, but through the soldiers', in order to uncover the horror in a region living under war conditions.

A matter of life and death

As in any part of the world, every day there are Bulgarians who are in desperate need of a transplantion in order to save their life. Yet, donors of healthy organs are more rare than in most parts of the world. In 2009 there were only 11 donors saving a total of 35 lives. Numbers can hide tragedies. "Transplantations" broadcast by the Bulgarian National Radio BNR tells three different stories, of Lidia, Martin, and Alexander, of hope and of grief, of the struggle for life, and of death. A radio piece by Desislava Popov, sober and simply-put. Disturbing.

Thou shalt not steal

Former curator David James, ancient islamic painting. (RTÉ)
"The caretaker" presented by the Irish Radio RTÉ Radio 1 would be a simple whodunnit story, if there wasn't for the author and producer Liam O'Brien. They tell us the story of Ireland's biggest ever insider theft from a cultural institution, the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, famous for its huge collections of islamic artifacts dating as far back as 2700 BC. It is an artistic tale of theft and deception, and still it is a whodunnit.
(The thief? No. No spoiler this time.)


Haus des Rundfunks, main hall. (twb)
Day two, early in the morning. The main hall is deserted, the steps are echoing. A charwoman cleaning the floor, a barman switching on the coffee machine, a security officer ranting at the blogger for not wearing his badge. The rest is silence. A perfect beginning for a radio piece. Here we go.