Talking Movies: The Conductor, The Radical and Collision [Extended]

Spling reviews The Conductor, The Radical and Collision with a shorter variation broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about two character portrait documentaries and a crime drama thriller.

Starting off with a film screening at Encounters…


Leonard Bernstein’s protégé Marin Alsop reveals how she smashed the glass ceiling to become an internationally-renowned conductor.

Director: Bernadette Wegenstein

– The Conductor is a character portrait documentary about Marin Alsop, whose fighting spirit led her to become a conductor after she faced numerous rejections and mounting opposition.
– From her neglected childhood, we journey with Alsop through her studies at Juilliard to the formation and rise of all-female group String Fever and onto her dream to form and conduct an orchestra with the assistance of a financier.
– A recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant, Alsop’s mission hasn’t simply been self-centred, taken under the wing by the legendary Bernstein and paying it forward by leveraging her standing and knowledge to open doors for other female conductors and leave a lasting legacy.
– The Conductor focuses on the spirited Alsop, her childhood, relationships, mentorship, talent, international renown and far-reaching influence to encapsulate her life’s work.
– Detailing the setbacks, her bold undertaking and the art of conducting itself, this documentary offers a fairly straightforward portrait of Alsop, her dream and the hard road to success against the odds.
– It’s a fascinating and inspiring film with Alsop at the helm of many fine orchestras from Brazil to Austria, featuring interviews with journalists, friends, colleagues and rising stars.
– Trying to get a sense for the glass ceiling and unpack the hypocrisies within the field, The Conductor touches on many nuances of the hardfought victory with Alsop mustering humility and wisdom along the way.
– An important documentary, it’s just a pity that the self reflective female-directed documentary did not take as many risks or inject as much flair as its subject.
– While engaging, entertaining and comprehensive, the safe, straightforward take and 85 minute runtime does feel more like two hours.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

Moving on to another documentary at Encounters…


A chronicle of Muhsin Hendricks, a radically-inclusive imam.

Director: Richard Finn Gregory

– Hendricks has led a fascinating life – the basis for The Radical – a documentary filmed over 4 years about the world’s first openly gay imam.
– The Radical comes to us from Finn Gregory who’s best known for The Boers at the End of the World, a documentary about a century-old Afrikaans community in Patagonia.
– Finding niche South African stories with a global ripple effect is this documentarian’s speciality as evidenced by the intimate portrait, The Radical.
– A former dress designer who came out in 1996, Hendricks has become a figurehead for self-expression and self-acceptance, devoting himself to a group that supports the LGBTQ+ community through various empowerment programmes.
– His unconventional and liberal approach puts him at odds with conservatives who have turned their backs on Hendricks, his interpretation of faith and role as a spiritual leader.
– A compassionate, gentle and down-to-earth man, Hendricks has faced staunch opposition and the odd death threat but his need to be authentic has led him to choose faith over fear.
– This radical story deals with a very controversial topic with many people’s faces blurred out, but it was important for the filmmaker to collaborate and learn about Hendricks and his theology as relates to timely conversations over sexual orientation and gender identity.
– As a character portrait, there’s a curious tension between Hendricks as a humanist with a big heart, his incompatibility with culture, history and his radical interpretation of ancient religious texts.
– Serving as a guiding light to the seemingly lost and rejected, The Radical journeys with the controversial imam and his role within a community, culture and continent still largely resistant to same-sex relationships.
– The Radical is a gentle yet thoughtful balancing act of a documentary, which comes to represent Muhsin’s quiet strength, endurance and humour in the face of firmly rooted opposition.

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!

And finally a movie now on Netflix…


A former security director comes to blows with a criminal when his daughter is taken.

Director: Fabien Martorell

Stars: Langley Kirkwood, Vuyo Dabula and Tessa Jubber

– Collision is a South African crime drama thriller that seems to be aiming for films such as Crash and Taken, trying to weave together divergent yet connected storylines with dramatic intensity and themes involving the criminal underworld.
– The film rewinds to 3 days before its climactic collision to give context and unfurl the inner lives and relationships between the characters.
– While there are glimpses of a nuanced screenplay and the technical aspects of the filmmaking is competent, Collision is undermined by its pacing, storytelling, characters and dialogue.
– A slow-burning ensemble drama, the stakes aren’t high enough, the characters are distant and not enough happens to invest audiences or drive the story.
– The ensemble come across as cold without a sense of the film’s overarching vision, enough substance or contact points to make them relatable.
– Failing to win the audience over or warrant empathy, Collision becomes a numb viewing experience where you don’t really care for the characters or their plight.
– Touching on many truly South African issues, the story’s themes seem geared towards proving the stressors of its world rather than actually drawing story threads together.
– Watching from the fringe, it’s blunt, uninvolving and fairly charmless – trying to build to a climax that has already been revealed and leaving with just as many questions.

A third-rate 3 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

THE CONDUCTOR… a spirited, entertaining, important and straightforward documentary character portrait and chronicle of one of the world’s first female conductors… A solid 7!

THE RADICAL… this bold and intimate character portrait pivots between a man’s gentle, open-armed spirit and his controversial and liberal interpretation of faith… A satisfactory 6!

COLLISION… this technically competent yet charmless crime drama thriller is undermined by lofty ambition, subpar performances, slow pacing and cold characters… A third-rate 3!

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And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!