A series that goes into the life and times of icons through the ages, this is a must-watch for all history buffs.
I’ve always viewed history to be lacklustre on account of being born in the 80s (those textbooks!). But lately, I’ve been seduced into becoming a fan due to increasingly popular narratives of the past, and especially that of memorable characters that are so dear to us. Not to mention, increasingly better production value and instantly recognisable star casts.
The first season of Genius follows the life of Albert Einstein (if asked to guess who the first person covered was, I think almost everyone would have guessed it would be him). It opened my eyes to some interesting facts revolving around what we lovingly refer to as E=MC (squared), but know close to nothing about. Some intriguing facets of the man’s character are also portrayed well by Geoffrey Rush (the guy who fixed the King’s Speech), all the while keeping the inter-relationships amongst the other cast members cohesive. Inspired acting, indeed. Solid supporting cast, too.
The second season has Antonio Banderas playing Pablo Picasso who does a stellar job of it, supported by Alex Rich (young Picasso) and (a returning — from Season 1) supporting actress — Samantha Colley. Another eye opener not just towards Picasso, but artistes in general. How their lives were always in creative turmoil, even after they found their personal style.
The series had me guessing who the next genius might be, until National Geographic (producers) recently released a statement saying it would be Mary Shelley (Frankenstein, Modern Prometheus). I would never have guessed, but it’s reported to be quite exciting (she pioneered the sci-fi horror/thriller genre, was a staunch feminist and lost her husband at sea among other things).
Documentary films have become more film and less documentary, in my opinion. However, they cover all the important bits whilst keeping it interesting. Full points to that. Documentary TV series are here to stay, that’s for sure. Production quality and screenplays could use a lot of improvement, but filmmakers are off to a good start. It’s only a matter of time before people head to cinemas to catch the first-day-first-show of the Boston Tea Party or Leopold II of Belgium, knowing fully well that they will have to return in a week because the entire season airs in cinemas, simultaneously. Maybe even a complete shift towards the “true story” mania. After all, true genius lies in bringing stories to life, true or otherwise, by recreating them in different formats, and hence unique points of view. It’s actually like editing the original and adapting it to several factors including palpability by the viewer and “doing justice” in ways that were not done in the original. A fresh chance. History in thrilling avatars.
This makes them not-so-different from works of literary fiction that have been made into movies. But whatever the case, I’m now a die-hard fan of these documentary films and TV series, and am all for bigger budgets so these filmmakers can really shine.
Did you know? Executive producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are behind the premiere season of National Geographic’s first scripted anthology series, GENIUS’ first episode, which is based on Walter Isaacson’s critically acclaimed book, Einstein: His Life and Universe.
— The writer is a coffee roaster, vaping enthusiast, cinema buff and seeker of unique stories.