i just spent a week in vienna, attending the international features conference and kicking around the city for a few extra days. during the conference i basically spent five days straight listening to radio features from all over (mostly europe) and my ears are still ringing from the experience. pleasantly, that is.
european radio features are a different breed altogther from much of what we listen to / think of as "documentary" in the states. to begin with - they're long. usually 45 minutes or so (compared this with the longest you'll hear on NPR - 22 minutes) and they don't always, uh, move along at the swiftest pace. i happen to often love this exact aspect of these audio works, but they're definitely not for everyone's ears. what i mostly admire about these features is the respect and importance they give to the use of sound in a story - it's a crucial element of these productions in ways it's just...not...in american radio. actually i wrote a lot about attending last year's conference in romania, so if you're interested to learn more about all of this (or see a few pix from romania) check out this essay.
this year's IFC was hosted by the (quite styley, see above) ORF,which is in some ways austria's equivalent of NPR. except for the fact that the government actually supports ORF, totally. (take a second to ponder that one.) over the course of the conference i heard radio from countries including: norway, denmark, estonia, slovakia, russia, germany, finland, ireland, and at least a half dozen others. no, i'm not a crazed polyglot - english transcripts were provided for each piece. my favorite story might have been either the belgian one about a community of elderly men and women who gather in the zoo everyday to feed the ducks or the short polish soundscape/ history lesson about a now-deserted shipyard. but ask me tomorrow and maybe i'll say it was the french one about the psychotic ward. or the other belgian one, about the blind guy. or maybe the romanian one about the villagers who are resisting selling their land to the canadian corporation that's digging for gold in their backyards.
how many stories can one head hold, anyway?
p.s. during a session about podcasting/new technologies, i heard this kind of creepy but equally fascinating and spot-on advice:
forget control / learn social engineering
p.p.s. vienna has the best small shop window displays.
i don't actually remember what this shop was selling, but it's my favorite window