Monday, October 22, 2012

Insights I

Here they are: Jan Kopetzk's first photographic impressions of this year's Prix Europa, giving a proper view on the jury work and the passionate discussions of programme makers coming from throughout Europe.

Where is the blogger?

Radio documentary jury, discussing. (Jan Kopetzky)

Picture puzzle: Where is the blogger?

Beloved birds

"Documentary On One: The Secret Chicken Society", RTÉ
We breed chicken, we feed them, butcher them, eat them. But there are others: farmers who love their birds, look after them and spend a whole lifetime breeding even more perfect chicken.

Jenny and Willie O'Mara are Irish farmers about to take part in Ireland's national poultry show. They shampoo their pets in the shower, dry them with a hairdryer (I actually didn't know what hairdryers are for) in order to make them champions. "Documentary On One: The Secret Chicken Society" (RTÉ Radio 1) is lighthearted and brillantly composed, telling an unexpectedly hilarious story of people loving their chickens just because they are beautiful birds. Not just food.

Wrongs of the past

"The Judge and the Victims" - The Ardous battle
for Ghetto Pensions, BR/ARD
Are jews who were forced to live in ghettoes in Nazi Germany entitled to pension? For decades German courts refuse nine out of ten applications. Jan-Robert von Renesse, a judge at the North-Rhine-Westphalian Social Court, was determined to change this. He proved that in most cases the legal requirements were fulfilled, and thousands of former ghetto inhabitants - or their families, as many of them had died in the meantime - came into their own. The insistent judge on the other hand, from one day to another, was taken off all the ghetto cases. No concidence.

"The Judge and the Victims - The Arduous Battle for Ghetto Pensions" (Bayerischer Rundfunk BR/ARD, BR Bayern 2) is a beautifully crafted tale of a penny-pinching bureaucracy, highly reluctant in dealing with the wrongs of the past, and of a rebellious mind with a vision beyond the wording of the law.

Against their will

"Crossing Continents: Forced Sterilisation
in Uzbekistan", BBC
Usbekistan is a country in isolation. Here the meaning of life is having a big family, and the Uzbek population is growing fast. Allegations say that the government is sterilizing women, against their will and even often without their knowledge. An investigation. "Crossing Continents: Forced Sterilisation in Uzbekistan" (BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4) may not be radio art, not even a radio documentary. But it is a shocking report on despotic practices in a forgotten country.

Desperado

"Sense and Sensibility", NRK
Bjarte Berntsen loves driving motorbikes. Fast, way too fast. Long ago Bjarte has been banned from driving forever, but he simply does not care. He is aggressive, a desperado, feared and hated for his ruthless driving. Yet, one man supports him: a well-respected high school teacher, local politician - and his father.

"Sense and Sensibility" (NRK) takes us along Bjarte's long path from ADHD diagnosis to extreme sports, drug abuse and to ending up as a modern outlaw. It lets us look deep down into a troubled mind on the brink of psychosis, to a point where justice and psychiatry are helpless. The story is thrilling, full of almost physical aggression, leaving its listener restless and perplexed.

Driving for a better future

"Let's Drive for Your Native Land", Russia
Moscow, December 4, 2011: Elections for the Russian parliament, the starting point of a political grass-roots protest in Russia. Civil observers move between polling stations, and Mikhail, a former businessman and oppositionist, is one of the drivers. He has grown tired of fighting against oppression, but he keeps driving anyway. Why?

"Let's Drive for Your Native Land" (Foundation for Independent Radio, Webradio Podstantsiya) is a report rather than a radio documentary. Even if its tone remains grave and educational it sheds light on what media refer to as "the opposition" - in a country pretending to be democratic.

Unspoken words

"The price of exile", ACSR, RTBF, La Première
Belgium, land of hope: Rabia, born in Morocco, is determined to reach out for a brighter future and leaves her children and her country behind. Yet paradise is not free of charge.

"The price of exile" ("Le prix de l'exile", Atelier de Création Sonore Radiophonique ACSR, RTBF, La Première) is a carefully crafted programme about great expectations shattering on a social ground we tend to ignore. "On ne parle pas beaucoup", one of the protagonists says: "The price of exile" is a quiet and slow-paced piece about unspoken words, about loneliness, love, anger and grief, and about two worlds seemingly light years apart. Even if a number of underlying stories remain untold: "The price of exile" is a remarkable portrait of a family that has been torn apart.

Day two: Radio documentary

This house gave birth to the German radio documentary half a century ago. In its corridors two doyens of the genre, Peter Leonhard Braun and Aldo Gardini, can be met these days. Therefore day two: Radio documentary.