A Review of Mark Doyle’s ‘A Good Man In Rwanda’

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Former BBC journalist, Mark Doyle’s ‘A Good Man in Rwanda’ adheres to a high standard of recording whilst including a personal style. The documentary styled podcast enlightens the audience on the life of UN Captain Mbaye Diagne, who saved hundreds during the Rwandan Genocide, before being killed by a grenade. The topic is sensitive for many reasons therefore it is interesting to note Doyle’s etiquette when interviewing those involved and the interpretive narration in which he uses to construct a solid format. The programme was aired on the 1st June 2014 at 13.30 on Radio 4, aimed at a mature audience, although can be accessed at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b045741x.

As Curtis Fox (2008)  notes ‘many of the most popular podcasts are simply radio programmes reissued as on-demand audio’ and this is apparent here. In terms of podcasts, Doyle is able to reach both a specialised group and a generalised audience. His fluent chronological structure which unravels a story of a ‘good man in Rwanda’ attains audience attention as we listen to hear the fate of the Captain and his gripping encounters.

Doyle’s intention with interviews is to add colour, validity and opinion to a historical story. His noticeable effort to find a panel of people who witnessed first hand the horrors of the genocide allows us to empathise and this is assisted by the quality of the interviews we are given and how well his narration sews together a consistent story. Doyle asks open questions, allowing for long answers, beneficial for both audience and interviewee. Chantler and Stewart (2003) note emotional interviews can bring up ethical issues, although admittedly a tear jerker Doyle never pressurises for a reaction. When handling the genocide convicted Hutu rebel, questions are short and direct, a strategy known for extracting the most information, this encourages the rebel to expand on answers but equally the silences are just as telling. The last words of the podcast are spoken in French by the murdered Rwandan president’s daughter who wouldn’t be alive without Diagne; a poignant tribute to the culture.

Location in radio is nothing without sound to create ‘atmos’ (Chantler and Stewart, 2003); Doyle perfects this with vibrancy. A short criticism would be Doyle falls short of becoming cliche with the noise of angelic African children singing, eliciting a peaceful sense of innocence and sacrificial heroism surrounding Diagne’s death. Contrast works well, with archive audio of gunshots, military radios and vehicles accentuating casual sounds of present day, marking the result of Diagne’s work. Furthermore Doyle uses sound as a transition tool for locations, such as the train announcement to Switzerland; we feel we are experiencing the journey in the present. ‘Wildtrack’ and ‘carpark interviews’ support this feeling of reality and music accentuates tension within the story.

Doyle’s podcast is a recommended listen whether a fan of documentaries or not, it is rich in sounds and strong from all angles. Doyle’s own experiences with Captain Diagne, adds to the quality of narration and description, criticisable at times for being too bias but in this case it is a rewarding feature. The format is cleverly constructed through use of interviews, narration and chronology which will leave any audience gripped.

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