One Voice, One Mic: The Rise of Podcasting Ben Gummery on the Importance of Me

One Voice, One Mic: The Rise of Podcasting Ben Gummery on the Importance of Me

One Voice, One Mic, a 2019 documentary by Ben Gummery is all about the rise of the podcast. Narrated by the man himself, the short film could be said to be all about the importance of me. In today’s society it is all about the big “I am.” Podcasts, as pointed out in this short feature, are all the rage. Some are more popular than others, for example, Kevin Smith’s work is beyond well known, but according to Gummery and his subjects, there is room for everyone.

This documentary will be hitting Amazon on 30 September and it is one to check out. Using clips from Smith at the start, Gummery turns the camera on a number of known and unknown Podcasters. Many of these are English and, for the most part, unheard of by this reviewer.  This is not to say that they are not significant, nor important in their own way.

Podcasting has indeed been on the rise, as aptly pointed out in this documentary, and, as also pointed out, becoming a popular way for folks with clean diction and a unique take on things to build an audience. Some of the participants in this film downplay the requirements and the time consuming edits needed to sound professional, or at the very least not sound gormless to the nth degree, but this is an interesting look at a booming industry niche.

Podcasting has been around for a while now, as pointed out by Gummery and his Podcasters. This reviewer has even guested, several times, on ChasingCinema.com, that started out on Apple iTunes and can now be found on YouTube. It is a comfortable medium that does indeed feel up close and personal. Intimate without being intrusive, the format is one that becomes almost addictive to its listeners.

It is also a means of getting one’s own opinion and voice out to the masses. In this time period of “the importance of me” it trumps YouTube, with its excessive need to regulate. Podcasting also neatly sidesteps Google with its anally retentive attention to marketing, copy-write infringement and annoying algorithms. As one caster states, “you just upload to Apple” and bang you’re a Podcaster.

This is an interesting look at the rise of Podcasting and Gummery does a good job of showcasing a varied group of folks who take this world serious enough to put their mouth where their money is (pun intended).

Gummery, whose next project will be on Kevin Smith “fan-art” is a capable craftsman. He is able to provide the viewer with a diverse arena of spokesmen for the art form of speaking into a mic. His passion for the medium shines through clearly as does the passion of the various folks who love it. (It is interesting to note that there are no female Podcasters involved with this project.)

Keep an eye out for this One Voice, One Mic September 30, 2019 on Amazon. It may just inspire you to pick up a microphone and have a go yourself. A 5 out of 5 for presentation and the inclusion of “we are not worthy” Kevin Smith.

 

The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble (2016)

Promotional shot for The Music of Strangers

Music, the old saying goes, hath charms that sooth the savage breast. It is also, according to Morgan Neville and Caitrin Rogers’ documentary, an international language that knows few limits. Their documentary “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble” follows the start of the ensemble and its continuing life.

We are allowed to see the thought process of Ma during the gestation period. The world famous cellist had a type of epiphany that culminated in the year 2000 with the first ever get together of these international stars. The music created came from worldwide composers, lyricists, musicians and storytellers.

At the end of this initial musical collaboration, Yo-Yo was not sure whether or not the experience could be replicated or if they should even attempt it. Ma’s act of letting this musical genii out of the bottle, however, meant that The Silk Road Ensemble would meet again and again.

This brilliant blending of instruments, cultures and styles have come together in what has been described as a fusion, not too dissimilar to what happens when disparate jazz musicians get together and jam.

The result is exciting, moving and life changing. Not necessarily for an audience privileged to hear this incredibly beautiful music, but for the participants. Neville and Rogers take us through the birth process of this magical group and show us some of the stories behind the players who contribute to the ensemble.

Artists from Spain, Tehran, Syria, China, America, Japan and India all comprise this unique group and blend their musical cultures to produce music that is exciting and addictive.

The Music of Strangers takes a closer look at Man Wu, Cristina Pato, Kayhan Kalhor, Kinan Azmeh and Yo-yo Ma. We get backstories for these fascinating and talented individuals.

The documentary attempts to explain just how the group works so well together by speaking with some of the participants who have been playing since the ensemble’s conception. It also shows what the various members have taken away from their long running experience with Yo-Yo Ma and the group.

Most of all, however, The Music of Strangers is about music. The universality of it, the blending of a variety of cultural influences to create a sound that is different and appeals to all who hear it.

Ma’s son Nicholas Ma provides a little background on his father and what he believes that Yo-Yo has taken away from his experiences. Not just a redefinition of himself but an experience of coming home to his beginnings.

The stories of the players focused upon make up a varied and colorful tapestry of global landscapes, hometowns and experiences by country. Each musician has taken something away from his or her experiences with the ensemble as well as having brought so much to Ma’s concept.

The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble is a celebration of music, its universal appeal and its language. This blending has resulted in a truly breathtaking exhibit of just how interchangeable and incredibly flexible music can be.

This documentary is well worth the time spent watching it. Just the music alone makes this a brilliant and moving experience for the viewer.

LIfe, Animated (2016): Just Your Voice (Review)

Owen Suskind

I am well known for getting tearful at any well done heart tugging scene in a film, or even television. It is not often, however, that I break out in tears while watching a documentary. Yet this is precisely what I did while sitting alone in the back booth of my local diner.

Hiding my MacBook Pro from prying eyes, it was here that I sat  watching the screener for Life Animated, when the Ariel moment towards the start of the documentary takes place.

In “The Little Mermaid” Ariel has just made her deal with Ursula the sea witch for legs. All she has to give up in return, sings Ursula, is her voice. To Owen Suskind, the subject of this documentary, the line of Ursula’s gloating song was a trigger. The youngster who, until then, spoke gibberish, repeats the scene and  his translation of the line, several times.

Ron, Owen’s father makes the connection and he is elated. His son is still in there, inside that Autistic shell, a thing that has enveloped his boy and changed him into a non-communicative stranger.

As that lightbulb goes off over Ron’s head, I cried like a baby. What parent would not?  The tale of a family who used Disney films to create a language that their autistic son could use to communicate, is easily the best “feel-good” documentary of 2016.

It is one that any family who watches Disney films as a unit, where everyone from grandma to the littlest family member gets involved with the drama, action and the stories, will be drawn to.

They will also understand the deeper magic beneath the animation and the songs. How the communicative storylines discovered by a young boy and his parents enabled a family to speak with their son after years of frustration.

Life, Animated bounces to and fro. We see Owen now, as a young adult, making his first faltering steps to freedom.  He is excited at the prospect but also worried. His gal pal from the Disney Club will be moving in above him.

We will be, says Owen, neighbors in love.

The flashbacks, apart from one family film where Ron plays Captain Hook to Owen’s Peter Pan, are made up of hand drawn animation. Pen and pencil sketches that capture the essence of the young Owen brilliantly.

The older Owen runs a Disney club which he says was started partly to help him make friends. It worked, he says gleefully, and it also enables him to interact with his childhood hero, Jonathan Freeman. The actor who voiced Owen’s favorite character’s partner in crime: Jafar, amongst a bevy of other roles became a family friend.

The young man shows off Freeman to his chums in the Disney club and while Owen voices Iago, Gilbert Gottfried, who voiced the parrot in the films, arrives. Owen is beside himself with excitement.

It is all too easy to give the Disney films all the credit for Owen’s progress, but as Ron implies early on, the clever and interactive little boy was always inside that autistic shell. Disney, through the means of its animated dialogues, allowed that boy to be reached by his family. It also allowed Owen to talk with those he loved.

Based upon the book by Ron Suskind and directed by Roger Ross Williams (in what is his third feature length documentary) Suskind senior narrates the film. He has some help from  his wife and Owen’s older brother who take the audience down memory lane.

The family, and Owen, show us what  life was like pre-Disney, and post-Disney.  Using the films and memorizing the dialogue enabled Owen to relate to real life issues with a language he not only understood, but could use as his own.

This award winning film is a “must-see” for anyone who loves Disney animated films. The idea that these classics, that already speak to the inner child in all of us, helped a young autistic boy to not only communicate with everyone but also allowed him to learn some real life lessons along the way.

Life Animated is a full five star treat of a documentary.  Those tears that pop up at the very start will reappear several times throughout the movie. Keep your tissue-box or hanky handy.

On a sidenote: If you’ve never been a fan of either Freeman or Gottfried before this film, you will be by the finish.

Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee – The Root of All Evil (Review)

gringo_ka_01a-r

Nanette Burstein  (who has a number of documentaries under her belt including the 2002 film “The Kid Stays in the Picture” which was a close look at coke head film producer Robert Evans) takes on John McAfee. Burstein does a good job peeling back the multiple layers of B.S. that surrounds the software tycoon and megalomaniac.

“The Dangerous Life of John McAfee” is a bit of a misnomer, although the film’s title could be seen as a skewed accusation.  For a man suspected of two murders and at least one chemically coerced rape, it seems life is more dangerous for those around the father of anti-virus software than for McAfee himself.

Documentary director Burstein plots the rise and increasingly odd behavior of McAfee.  From his forced buy out from the company that bore his name to his eventual migration to Belize. Once there McAfee wasted no time building a personal army of security guards and buying off the local police.

Watching the Showtime documentary it is clear that McAfee is, at times, beyond eccentric.  Several of the people interviewed by Bernstein come out and say the man is “batch*t crazy.” While in Belize, the software mogul definitely appeared to be delusional.

After his brief term as a yoga master, which, incidentally, appeared to be focussed on sex, McAfee moves to Belize. Apart from his armed bodyguards and accumulation of girlfriends and hookers, McAfee seems to  have believed he could replicate the 1992 Sean Connery film Medicine Man. 

Hiring a Harvard graduate to turn plants into medicine, McAfee spent his time granting interviews about a nonexistent products and looking for investors.

Later he was believed responsible for the deaths of two men in the area and the Harvard grad has accused him of rape. That John McAfee suffers from megalomania is apparent from his email correspondence with Bernstein and his threats.

The documentary speaks with a vast number of people in Belize, including the man thought to be responsible for carrying out the killing of McAfee’s next door neighbor.

By the end of the film, the subject of the documentary does not come off very well.  Overall it is a story of a visionary whose brief time in the spotlight paid over the odds and gave him a taste for the spotlight. McAfee took his payoff and “lived large” in several different places.

The former software genius seems to have lost that visionary capability and has replaced it with sordid desires and an accumulation of power.  McAfee is also the embodiment of a modern day flimflam man, aka an entrepreneur.

Almost as an afterthought, the film points out that his home  was raided by the police looking for manufactured drugs.

It is revealed that the suspected meth was in fact something else. Reading other articles about McAfee and his flight from Belize to escape questioning and possible conviction for murder, it is clear that Bernstein wanted to focus on the homicides and not the alleged drug dealing.

Vice Gaming, whose reporter inadvertently caused McAfee’s arrest in Guatemala, mentions the sexual obsession side of the man. Their article focusses on bath salts, as a sex aid, and McAfee’s orgies. They also talk about his interest in scat.

The Showtime documentary leaves all that alone. Bernstein is interested in John’s two alleged murders and his other off the wall antics. One of which happened to be his bid for the white house.

(On a sidenote, it would not be surprising to learn that McAfee and Donald Trump are actually huge pals.)

It is interesting to note that a man with so much money responds with threats of violence and disturbing innuendos to Bernstein’s documentary. Rather than take legal action, that the man could clearly afford, he  opts for threats.

The documentary actually does a good job showing just how delusional and dangerous McAfee is.  While the man is not in Belize any longer he still has enough money to cause problems in this country as well.

Fortune reports that McAfee is fighting back against the documentary. Like everything else on file about the man, it appears to be a form of  self aggrandizement. His version of events makes him a  victim of the press and Showtime in particular.

Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee is steaming on Showtime. Stop by and check this documentary out.  Watch this take on an “ugly American” who built his own gang in Belize. McAfee comes across as the root of all evil in this film and not just because of the fortune lining his coffers.

This documentary proves that money may not be able to  buy happiness but it can pay for the murder of two people in another country.

gringo_ka_01a-r

Touch Gloves (2016): Boxing as Societal Aid (Documentary Review)

ATT_1470847738298_FB_IMG_1467528970278

It is a sport not known for being kind to its participants.  Long term fighters are damaged, like the United Kingdom’s Frank Bruno for example.  Boxing has been referred to as the
“Gentleman’s Sport” and Touch Gloves infers that it still is. Ray Herbert and his gym use boxing as a societal aid, helping young, and not so young, inner-city kids find an outlet for aggression.

Documentary filmmaker Felipe Jorge has turned out a polished and in-depth look at a gym in Haverhill, MA.  His focus is the gym’s owner/operator Ray Herbert.  Boxing may be the focus here but Ray believes that the sport offers life lessons to those who participate.

The facility caters to both male and female trainees who learn from Herbert and his other trainers. Haverhill Downtown Boxing  is not fancy, nor is it state of the art equipment with fancy bells and whistles.

Ray is quite clear about the goals of his establishment.  It is, first and foremost, there for the city’s youth. Secondary to that is the opportunity for those who show the drive and initiative to box in events like the Golden Gloves.

Participants ages range from  the very young, age 11,  to a 26 year old man who decides to return to the ring after a six year absence.

Herbert is adamant that the kids under his tutelage not be hurt. It is, he says, about learning how to fight and how to improve their  performance.  In essence the gym is teaching youngsters about self control and how to handle aggression through the art of boxing.

Touch Gloves (which is what boxers do before a match)  follows the training of several gym members. It includes coverage of several external matches including the Golden Gloves.  It follows the progression of several boxers and their successes and failures.

It shows that even the most experienced get nervous and forget their training and tune out their trainer’s advice.

Jorge films the entire documentary on his own.  The single camera process works well for the 75 minute long film. The filmmaker also edited the film and has proven to have a deft touch by  putting together a thoughtful and intelligent look at one establishment.

This is the filmmakers second documentary, the first being the 2013  short film The Comic Book Palace. Jorge manages to capture moments that are intense and he seamlessly films action that is incredibly “up close and personal.”

The film also shows both sides of the story.  It focusses on the boxers, and their thoughts, as well as the trainers who push the fighters to learn more about the craft and to win.

Touching Gloves leaves the viewer with a message that  is less about boxing than teaching kids about life and how to live  it.

If there were any complaint at all about the film, it would be with the fighting competition filmed against the a slow tempo operatic chorus.  The fight and the peripheral events around it could have been slowed down to match the music allowing for a balletic feel.

This is a brilliant bit of work considering that it was produced with no budget and “one man and his camera.” (Additional footage was provided on one match by filmmaker Chris Esper.)

Felipe informed us that  in October the film will be shown at the Tryon Film Festival in North Carolina. Jorge has been invited  as a VIP guest for the screening and he will be discussing the film as it is being showcased.

ATT_1470847738298_FB_IMG_1467528970278