National Geographic’s new short documentary An Unfinished Symphony tells the story of South Africa’s world-leading income inequality, with a focus on two members of the Miagi Orchestra. Through them, we see vastly different experiences of growing up in South Africa and the impact apartheid continues to have in that country.
The documentary follows Tsepo Pooe, who grew up in Soweto Township; and Lize Schaap, who grew up in wealthy Pretoria. Upon meeting them both, it becomes painfully obvious they have come from two very different backgrounds and have very different life experiences.
We first meet Pooe, who explains the poverty-stricken nature of Soweto Township. He explains, with an assist from some very gripping visuals, how hard life can be for the people living there. And yet, we see him seemingly completely at peace while playing music and enjoying a vary happy home life with his family.
We then meet Schaap, and immediately see the difference in the living situations of these two musicians. Pretoria is a beautiful town, seemingly very similar to a quiet and familiar American suburb. She explains her upbringing and discusses how segregation leads to prejudice while we are shown some more, very on-the-nose visuals of just how different these two living situations are.
The two musicians share the same message as they speak in separate confessional-style interviews. However, the one thing this documentary fails to do is bring the two of them together for a significant portion. We do see them chatting briefly about the importance of their upcoming concert, but it would have been nice and could have given the documentary a bit more weight to actually see them share the screen a bit more.
On the other hand, the inability to bring the two of them together does speak to the segregation the country sees on day-to-day basis, hammering home the need for the Miagi Orchestra even more. As the two musicians explain in their brief chat, their purpose is two show the public how all of these different people from very different walks of life have come together and worked so hard together to creat a beautiful final product.
And speaking of that final product, the documentary finished up with the Miagi Orchestra’s concert. Countering the harsh imagery we saw in the beginning, An Unfinished Symphony culminates with a beautiful look at this very talented group of very different people, from very different backgrounds and shows viewers the incredible results they can achieve when they simply come together.
Overall, An Unfinished Symphony is a very well-made and touching documentary. It would absolutely benefit from more time for us to see more of Pooe’s and Schaap’s different backgrounds and what they went through to get to be a part of the Miagi Orchestra. However, even with its almost 20-minute runtime, the documentary manages to get its audience emotionally invested in the live of these two musicians and the work of their orchestra.
You can watch An Unfinished Symphony here.
Mike is a writer that has covered comic cons, theme park events, video game showcases and other fun events. He is a fan of theme parks, sports, movies, Marvel Comics and is a self-proclaimed “nerd.”