Talking Movies: I Am Here, Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road and War Dogs and I

Spling reviews I Am Here, Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road and War Dogs and I as 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 three character portrait documentaries.

Starting off with a film now at the Labia Theatre…


At 98-years-old, a spirited South African Holocaust survivor reveals her astonishing life story and unwavering appreciation of life.

Director: Jordy Sank

It’s amazing to think that we live in a society where there are still people who deny the Holocaust ever happened. This is the launchpad for an intimate memoir from Ella Blumenthal, whose compassionate letter to a high profile influencer and denialist became the inception for this vivid chronicle of her storied life. Living for every second, an absolute character and a well-travelled soul, I Am Here serves as a harrowing albeit important recollection of tragic events that shaped her life. Born in Warsaw, a teenager at the time of the outbreak of World War II, Blumenthal survived five years of living in Nazi concentration camps, making I Am Here a challenging and emotional journey as Blumenthal recounts her story in her own words. Walking through the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre and using animation to recreate scenes from her memories, this multimedia documentary gives viewers a visual insight into the tragedy from Ella’s first-hand account. Pivoting from her 98th birthday, Blumenthal’s testimony is a true inspiration, speaking to the power and endurance of the human spirit. Compelled by her faith, tenacious spirit and life force, Ella was moved from one concentration camp to another – narrowly escaping death in a gas chamber. A heartfelt character portrait, I Am Here offers an emotional, painful and heartbreaking account, which while difficult to fathom at times based on the scale of genocide is made all the more powerful by its hard-earned legacy. Surrounded by family and friends, the trauma of Ella’s remarkable true story still resounds as the lively and characterful now 101-year-old woman continues to live a life of love and tolerance.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a movie now on Showmax…


A chronicle of the career of musician, Brian Wilson.

Director: Brent Wilson

Features interviews with Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and the late Taylor Hawkins

Brian Wilson is the subject of the moving character portrait Love and Mercy starring Paul Dano about the genius behind The Beach Boys. Regarded as the true inspiration from their critically acclaimed and hugely influential album Pet Sounds, this documentary chronicles Wilson’s earliest days as a retrospective from the man himself. Having struggled with mental health most of his life, he continues to be an inspiration, touring classic Beach Boys numbers, reclaiming a previously forgotten album and making music is life force. While understandably anxious, having come out of a difficult nine-year conservatorship, Rolling Stone journalist and long-time friend Jason Fine interviews Wilson in a similar style to Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Listening to music from the age to pass the time, reminisce and jog his memory, we get a candid and stirring up close and personal account through his commentary and memoirs. As intimate as it could get, this gentle, nostalgic and sentimental documentary is the equivalent of a fireside chat with a photo album and record player. Referring to many high profile interviewees who were inspired by Wilson’s significant musical contribution, this tender and heartwarming film offers rich insights into the music industry, offering a vivid recollection of the band’s heydays with many snapshots in time. While honest, Wilson’s naturally guarded interviews require subtext in order to mine his answers from the tidbits he is willing to share. A wonderful companion to Love and Mercy, both films help fill in the gaps in telling Wilson’s story.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

And finally a documentary on DStv Catch Up…


A nomadic former professional cricketer and his four dogs flee war-torn Ukraine.

Writer-Director: Stefan Enslin

Set during the early stages of the Russia-Ukraine conflict when Kiev was under attack, War Dogs and I centres on a man named Kobus Olivier and his four dogs. The documentary lands in the middle of Olivier’s darkest days when he was forced to hide out in his apartment’s underground parking lot as explosions and machine gun fire filled the air. War Dogs and I is an unconventional documentary film, as Olivier comes to rely on the kindness of strangers and lean on his spiritual conviction. Trying his utmost to keep them together, War Dogs and I becomes a sentimental and thought-provoking journey between a man and his best friends: Tikkie, Ollie, Jessie and Kaya. In many ways a character study, Kobus Olivier is a humble and unassuming subject, whose life was shaped by this arduous expedition across Europe. Honest, grounded and gentle in his recollection of events over that 4-week period, his tenderness is expressed in his affection for his pups, doing everything in his power to keep the family together. This heartfelt documentary may have a small story but it plays out on a much bigger canvas against the refugee crisis. Through cellphone and drone footage, camera interviews and radio commentary, War Dogs and I pieces together a quirky yet sweet-natured tale of triumph over adversity. A heartwarming story for dog lovers, War Dogs and I offers a hopeful and optimistic perspective in an age where everyone could use some good news.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

I AM HERE… a powerful, spirited and eclectic chronicle of a World War II survivor’s inspirational faith and resilience… An excellent 8!

BRIAN WILSON: LONG PROMISED ROAD… while a bit restrained, this remains an intimate, emotional, nostalgic and inspirational music chronicle… A solid 7!

WAR DOGS AND I… a tender, heartwarming and sweet-natured character portrait documentary set against the war and refugee crisis… A solid 7!

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