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2 Responses to “The Wonderlist: Your Reactions…”
I saw most of it and the general impression I had was it was a, not nearly as well done, copy of Anthony Bourdain’s CNN show. The photography was OK and there was some interesting discussion of the many problems facing Vanuatu.
The problem, for me, was the uncomfortable interplay between the host and other non natives on the show and the locals. The interactions seemed forced and even faked at times. The constant picture taking of locals in native costumes seemed exploitive, especially when there was talk of money being paid in exchange for the photos. It short much of the show came across like a 1940’s travel show to a third world nation; dated and creepy.
With only a few exceptions, when you see Bourdain interacting to locals in his show it always looks like those interactions are real and natural. With Weir they all looked, and many were, staged for the cameras.
I like to give a program a few viewings before I pronounce my judgement on whether I like it or not so I may change my mind after I see a few more episodes; but, based solely on first impressions of this episode, I give the show a failing grade.
To compare the ‘Wonder List’ to Anthony Bourdain’s take on food is to compare apples to oranges.
The Wonder List is one of the finest examples of heritage documentaries out there at the moment. As for Weir’s interaction with the locals compared to Bourdain’s … I can only say the subject matter determines the reactions in a given local. Bourdain’s subject is food and he covers that very well. His bigger than life personality on that subject insures the programs success but food, at this point at least in his program, deals with styles, receipts, and local flair … NOT political issues on food quality … who doesn’t love that subject?
The Wonder List brings up subjects that locals have diverse political interests in controlling … that’s a fact. It’s far more difficult to get a natural reaction in such circumstances.
Finally, lets deal with the question of style of presentation. I assure you that the DP Phillip Bloom is one of the finest in the business when it comes to documentaries. This show provides a variety of techniques, framing, action, and sheer quality of image that is not matched by other nature, social, political or historical documentaries shot by a one-band-camera operator on TV at this time. As for the editing process, the program certainly takes a conservative bend but that is to be expected from an Organization such as CNN!
This program is a step in a positive direction for CNN given it’s lack-luster programs in the past. Kudos to the crew and producers for trying to cover things that will not be here in the future! Bill Weir will get better at his interviews … just wait.