In the end, we all just want to share our story
If the walls of the SBS foyer in Sydney could talk, they’d have plenty to say about the state of the world today, and even more about what it means to be human. That’s largely thanks to a weekly program called Insight which has been hosted by acclaimed journalist, Jenny Brockie since 2001.
Panel shows are usually filled with people trying to outsmart or out-funny the person sitting next to them. They can be glib, awkward and far too easy to switch over when something better comes along.
Insight is different. If you want to understand people, their motivations, their tragedies, their histories and their lives then you can’t afford to miss it. And tonight’s episode, “Child Warriors” is no exception. It kicks off the 2013 season with the question: what happens to children who grow up in extreme political circumstances?
On the panel: a man who grew up in an IRA family during The Troubles in Belfast, Ireland, a child solider from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, an American former neo-Nazi skinhead and a woman who endured a childhood under Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
On paper these four people would be nothing less than extraordinary. On television the effect is magnified – electric, devastating and absolutely un-missable.
The most incredible thing about Insight is observing the affinity that emerges between people, despite their extraordinary personal histories and circumstances. Previous episodes have pitted bikie against bikie, Syrian Australians from both sides of the political divide, cheating partners and baby boomers versus Gen Y.
There is a powerful moment played out in tonight’s episode when Deng, the Ugandan child solider and Frank, the ex-neo Nazi, admit to having been raised with the same principles of hate. Despite having once represented disparate sides of the world, politics, culture, religion, thought, philosophy – you name it – they somehow manage to meet each other, in front of a captive television audience.
On screen, the Insight space looks vast, but once inside the studio you realise how close everyone sits to each other. And that must be unnerving experience for many of Insight’s guests who find themselves sitting elbow to elbow with people of diametrically opposing views.
It’s clear that the show host Jenny Brockie is the glue holding Insight together. She is warm and well-spoken, with a gentle and open face. These are qualities that make it easy to see why people feel comfortable divulging their most intimate details of their personal stories. But Brockie’s questioning is also determined – each guest has an opportunity to share and will be readily cut off if they’ve gone on too long.
Research is key to the selection of the topics for each program. Brockie told The Punch she spends several days before filming each episode memorising the details of each guest’s personal story to ensure when the cameras are rolling she captures the most important aspects of their experience.
Sydney psychologist Bill Campos told The Punch, the format of Insight also contributes to people’s willingness to share their stories. “When you know that people want to listen to you and share your story, this makes it easy to feel relaxed and comfortable,” Dr Campos said.
“Sometimes when you have a specific experience to share it’s hard to talk about it if nobody else has experienced it. A forum like Insight is encouraging because it helps you to normalise your experience and you don’t feel so hidden.”
Hidden they are definitely not. And it’s hard not to feel in awe of people who are willing to reveal not only their identity, but also some of their most painful memories for our viewing pleasure.
The results however, speak for themselves - there’s no other television show quite like it.
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