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Prof. Jonah Choiniere on Paleontology, Ledumahadi Mafube and Jurassic Park


Jonah Choiniere is Professor of Comparative Palaeobiology at the Evolutionary Studies Institute of the University of Witwatersrand. Having relocated to South Africa, he's become integrally involved in the research institute at the forefront of some major discoveries in South Africa. In preparing for the latest Bingeing with Spling watch party of Jurassic Park, Spling found that a 12-ton dinosaur had been discovered in 2018. While this news generated a significant deal of interest in scientific communities, leading to a great number of research papers, it only amounted to a handful of mainstream news articles.

Shocked at the lack of interest from South Africa about research decades in the making, Spling decided to find out more information from the newsmakers themselves. After being referred to Prof. Choiniere, he managed to secure this Zoom interview, in which the two discuss paleontology in the real world, several major discoveries including the sauropodomorph Ledumahadi mafube*, South Africa as a goldmine of fossils and some misconceptions when it comes to Jurassic Park.

While the word "professor" conjures up a certain image, Choiniere breaks many of the stereotypes. Passionate, enthusiastic and committed to the study, he's able to unpack exactly what goes into the field of paleontology. Originally a student of archaeology, Choiniere's work as a paleobiologist has sent him across the world from the United States to China and South Africa. It's also easy to see how both sciences collide in Steven Spielberg's iconic Hollywood franchises, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park.

*While Ledumahadi mafube looks like with a sauropod, the dinosaur grouping that includes the Brontosaurus, it's actually more of a cousin. Living some 200 million years ago in the region now called South Africa, this herbivore walked on all fours and weighed as much as two African elephants. The name is Southern Sotho and is translated a giant thunderclap at dawn. Read more...

 
John Bartmann Performs Jurassic Park Theme in the Key of Spling


John Bartmann is a local Cape Town music composer and podcaster, who has dedicated his life to music. Playing as part of his band Pravda, composing music and podcasting about audio drama on How I Make Music are what keep the talented and versatile music artist on the go.

A true creative and passionate performing artist, he took the challenge of creating something unique to open this weekend's Bingeing with Spling watch party of Jurassic Park. It's essentially a movie night festival with exclusive interviews, live commentary, curtain-raiser short films, prizes, special features and movie trivia that takes place across streaming and social media platforms. Being built around the dinosaur theme, Spling originally asked Bartmann to perform a cover of Dinosaur Jr's grunge classic, Feel the Pain. Open to ideas as long as they remained within the realm of dinosaurs, Bartmann chose to perform a multi-screen rendition of the Jurassic Park main theme with a twist!

Bartmann's all about music, podcasts and audio experiences that keep people listening", which is summed up by this creative, quirky yet emotional cover in the key of "Spling". The innovative and entrepreneurial Bartmann is the frontman of Pravda, a band started in 2009, which recently released an album For the Benefit of Humans exclusively to Google Drive. Visit pravdaofficial.com to download and listen to the album. John's also the creator of How I Make Music, a global weekly podcast where behind-the-scenes musicians tell their stories.
 
Galileo Open Air Cinema and Drive In


The Galileo Open Air Cinema is approaching a decade since its first outdoor screening. A darling of the Cape Town events scene, 2020 has been a crazy time for the events company, which has had to reinvent its offering in order to roll with the changes. While you'd imagine that the Galileo would be one of the least affected events, the Galileo has taken a knock having to cut their previous season short. Already beholden to weather conditions, the coronavirus has had an adverse effect when it comes to numbers. Beyond crowd control, having your event's capacity reduced means the outdoor cinema has to get by on less when it comes to filling the house. Just like an ordinary cinema, when less tickets are sold... revenue is reduced.

While the Galileo is managing to continue its wonderful array of events around Cape Town and the winelands, it needs the help of loyal patrons to keep it going beyond the coronavirus era. Setting up the screen and hosting the event at beautiful venues around the Cape metropole requires event management and a full complement of staff. You need a competent AV team, facilitators to manage back rest and blanket distribution, a welcome person to advise on safety protocol, a box office and vendors at food stalls. The whole event takes a village for it to run smoothly. So your ticket price is going to ensuring that the screening goes ahead without a hitch over and above the hard costs of presenting a feature film in a beautiful place.

To accommodate the recent changes when it comes to capacity and social distancing, the Galileo has reinvented itself to provide three types of screening.

Galileo Picnic

The traditional Galileo event is now known as a Picnic screening, which continues to allow patrons to enjoy a picnic with family and friends before a main feature. While there are food stalls including delicious schwarmas, droolicious pizzas or gourmet coffee, you're allowed to bring your own picnic into the venue. The sweet and popcorn offering is now relayed by way of a wheelbarrow enabling the snacks to find their way to you. The film is now projected from front of house, which probably improves the vibrancy of colours on screen over rear projection and the sound seems better. It's also a good idea to take a cushion and a warm jacket because the nights can get a bit chilly.

At the rescheduled launch at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardenes, which included a bevy of media, there was a live performance from mother-daughter duet, Plumsong. Starting with a crooner version of Radiohead's Creep, the laidback picnic concert set the scene for a good season of outdoor entertainment with the Galileo. While the original launch with La La Land was postponed due to bad weather, the reinstated event was built around Sean Penn's soulful Into the Wild starring Emile Hirsch. A brilliant scrapbook character study and exploration of freedom and society against Eddie Vedder's music, this powerful true story seems that much more true to form when screened under the stars.

The traditional picnic style event continues to be a mainstay for the Galileo, but they've also added a drive in and VIP edition of the outdoor screening.

Galileo Royale

The Royale edition of the event is finding audiences attending more exclusive versions of the Galileo screening. Hosted at places like the Casa Labia, the experience is more restricted in terms of numbers and features a live performance as well as preset snacks and drinks. All of these events are amazing for romantic dates and the Royale is probably the way to impress your significant other depending on your film selection. The other variations suit families better but what's not to love about watching a movie under the stars against the backdrop of a beautiful Cape Town vista or venue.

Galileo Drive-In

The nostalgia around drive in cinemas has resurrected the event, giving many people a fresh experience and others a heavy dose of nostalgia. While the old style drive in required you to put a speaker into your car window, the newer events make it possible for you to tune in on your radio. Some people reverse their cars and open the boot for a glass-free viewing experience under the stars but it's not a big deal if your windscreen is relatively clean. Taking a portable radio is probably a good idea if you don't want to jumpstart your car to get home.

To stand a chance of winning a double ticket to a picnic event at the Galileo including a back rest and blanket (valued at R260!), tell us which event you'd most like to attend. You can find out more details about the upcoming season's screening schedule here.

 
Ashton Gardner's 'Vision of a Dawn' - A Meditative and Cinematic Instrumental Album


South African musician, Ashton Gardner, was born in Durban and made his way down the coast to Port Elizabeth before settling in Cape Town almost 20 years ago. Gardner can play acoustic guitars, bass, piano, keyboard and drums, making him wonderfully versatile when it comes to creating and performing his own music. The local muso writes all of his own compositions and material, able to carry his vision right through to performance. Having years of studio experience, this independent artist is able to take a song from inception to release.

Vision of a Dawn - Meditative Instrumental Album

While Gardner's written and performed most of his songs with lyrics, his latest offering A Vision of a Dawn is what he describes as a "meditative instrumental album". The 10-track instrumental-focused release runs at almost an hour and was produced over a few months in meticulous detail. Fans have described the music as "deeply relaxing", "wonderfully ambient", "ethereal", "otherworldly" and "a mesmerizing landscape of sound".

After listening to the album, it's all of these things and more. Gardner's brought a cinematic feel to his instrumental collection. Mysterious, warm, uplifting and at times creating a sense of weightlessness, it's just what the world needs right now. After a tumultuous 2020 with everyone trying to grab your attention through adverts, social media, triggering headlines and a constant barrage of noise, it's no wonder taking a break and escaping into a dreamland is so promising. Vision of a Dawn will help you get there.

Creating dreamy soundscapes with his music there are dabs of Angelo Badalamenti who's best known for the Twin Peaks soundtrack and his work with David Lynch. This surreal aspect and soundscape layering makes the music rich in melody and atmosphere recalling the meticulous and ethereal works of Billy Corgan. There's a touch of melancholy, which is restrained by more optimistic riffs giving the blend of guitar and piano an emotive quality. The uplifting yet magical undertones are reminiscent of Owl City at times, making Vision of a Dawn enticing and more universal.

 
Electric Africa Virtual Reality Festival - The First of its Kind


Electric Africa VR Festival is an online virtual reality festival presented by Cape Town-based NPO Electric South. The first of its kind and based in Africa, the festival will be happening online for one week from 5 to 11 November.

Virtual reality is strongly associated with gaming but is becoming more integrated into experiential storytelling. AFDA film school featured a narrative-driven virtual reality short film at one of their recent graduation film festivals, so it's becoming more of a focus. The challenge associated with this kind of storytelling is that directors usually frame shots to direct an audience's attention. Enabling the story to spread in all directions, one has to create situations that exist concurrently, focus on experience-rich atmospheres or grab one's attention so there's a clear thread to the story.

VR usually requires a special viewing headset or goggles for a more immersive experience, however this online festival is making it possible to get the 360 degree experience without one. Through the partnership with webXR platform LucidWeb, the programme is enhanced for desktop, mobile phone or VR headsets.

The Electric Africa VR Festival is committed to showcasing African artists working in the virtual reality arena, alongside international works of narrative fiction and on-fiction. This is your opportunity to discover new voices and realities. The festival includes: Another Kind of Dying: Virtual Experience (South Africa), A Visit at Cissé Films (Mali/France), Daughters of Chibok (Nigeria), the world premiere of Gr8ness (South Africa) and an African premiere for afro-surrealist VR dreamscape, Ferenj: A Graphic Memoir in VR by Ainslee Alem Robson.

The festival is geo-blocked for Africa but includes a series of freely available live talks and webinars with directors, producers, leaders in creative technologies and acclaimed artistic teams. Panelists include founder of Kenya’s BlackRhino VR, Brian Afande; Nigeria's Judith Okonkwo of Imisi3D and Daliso Ngoma, founder of African Technopreneurs.

Antoine Cayrol, co-founder of France’s leading VR company AtlasV and producer of ATOMU, together with its directors Shariffa Ali and Yetunde Dada, alumni of the 2017 Digital Lab Africa acceleration programme, will discuss their pioneering participatory movement piece which formed part of the official selection of the New Frontier Exhibitions at Sundance Film Festival 2020.

 
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