Piece Comment

Review of Mandela: An Audio History (Hour Version)

This is great. When I first heard about this idea, I wondered what value there would be in a non-narrated historical documentary. What sort of historical thread could be created without narration and how historically accurate could it be? "Mandela" succeeds, not as a factual history, but as the kind of storytelling that should accompany the heroes of our modern history. It is an emotional history, with enough archival tape from news broadcasts to hold the narrative together. The real strength comes from the interviews, located in context, so that the listener understands what it felt like to be part of the struggle to overturn apartheid and the power of that movement. We get a very clear sense of why this struggle was important.

"Mandela" does challenge the listeners a little as we seek to identify the different voices. A careful listener will have no problem recognizing Nelson Mandela's voice nor that of Desmond Tutu, both of which occur throughout. The casual listener may not recognize the voice of DeClerk and may find the abridged political analysis of Botha's collapse and Mandela's release to be confusing. Although it would be nice if these sections could be more clear, I am won over by the power of non-narrated history to, well bring us closer to the story, or even into the story. I am excited about what this says about the role of radio in helping us form a historical conciousness.