As 'Osher Günsberg: A Matter of Life and Death' launches at SBS On Demand, the host and "guy who hands out the roses" lets us in on what he's been watching.
SBS Guide

22 Sep 2021 - 10:09 PM  UPDATED 24 Sep 2021 - 11:31 AM

"Firstly, to be asked to curate an amount of television for SBS is an incredible honour. I remember when SBS came to Brisbane, you know, it was this huge deal for my parents. You know, both spoke English as a second language. We had to get the weird aerial on the roof and everything. And it was incredible for us. Blew our minds that we had this new television station with the soccer World Cup. It was amazing. The '86 World Cup was the first time we got to watch. So it's a great honour.

"[SBS On Demand] is somewhere that I very much like to go to satisfy my need for things that I just can't find anywhere else, you know? And I adore that we have this broadcaster in our country which provides such a fantastic resource for things that otherwise we'd never see. I think just because a show's on in English doesn't mean it's amazing. You know, in fact, I think we're quite limited because we're in English.

"As someone who makes television, the fact that we speak English as a first language in Australia, I think that limits our ability. For a lot of times, for production companies, it's cheaper to buy a British show or an American show or a Canadian show that has been produced over there because it's in English and they're relatively similar stories to what we have here. And 'boom, let's get it in'. But I spent a huge amount of time in the Middle East, a huge amount of time in the Netherlands. You can't tell a show about living in the Netherlands in English. No. So they are forced to make these shows about their own experience, their own life, their own culture, in Dutch. Similarly, I spent a bit of time in Israel over the years, they're forced to make shows about their own culture and in Hebrew and in Arabic. And it's super, super, super important because that not only buoys the industry, and makes sure all the people who do the lighting and the rigging and the cameras and the food, keep employed. But it also shows us as a community that our stories are worth telling, our stories are worth telling, and they're worth putting on television.

"One of the shows that I talked about was The Bridge. When you start getting into your kind of Scandi noir, you're getting into these incredible, incredible films that are told in two languages that could only happen in this particular part of the world. You could never tell that story in English. They tried it in America, wasn't as great. And it just blows my mind. And it really makes me want to, I guess, try to find a way to get more Australian stories on television. I think it's really important we should have more drama as someone who's made a living on reality..."

The Bridge Box Set (4 seasons) is ready to stream at SBS On Demand.



Martial arts movies – Ip Man, Way Of The Dragon

"I love music and music has been in my life forever. What I used to really enjoy, before digital streaming, was getting the record or the CD, and having a look and seeing who played bass or who played guitar or who played drums and go and see what other bands that person was in. Similarly, I have always loved martial arts films since I was a little kid, and I've always found them fascinating for various reasons. I think when I was young, I just enjoyed that there was punches and kicks and action. Now it's like: When you listen to a Blue Note record and then you listen to hip hop from the mid '90s and early 2000s, and oh my God, like, they've purely, in post-modern ways, they have sampled all of these records to make these modern songs.

"It was last year when I was in lockdown and I was in quarantine in Melbourne, the latest John Wick film had come out. I was like. 'OK, I've seen some of this', it's like when you watch The Simpsons and you get a bit of Hitchcock here and they're like, 'Oh, hang on, I'm going to... that shot totally has been stolen from someone else'. And so I just went down this rabbit hole of all the films that had influenced John Wick. And it was amazing. I found an interview with the director/stunt director, and he listed a couple of films. I just kind of went from there and it was just brilliant. And you start to see it, like you start like if you listen to a hip hop song and then you hear the original, you're like, 'Oh! that's the sample that's there'. Like, I would watch these films and like Ip Man or Way Of The Dragon

Watch Ip Man at SBS On Demand

"You see these particular shots in the way the camera moves in the way that people approach each other. You're like: That's it! That's the nod right there! It's kind of nerdy, but I think it's fantastic. Yeah. I think it's really important. I love the way the camera is such a part of the storytelling in in martial arts films. I think it's extremely important. But I love the way that martial arts film that a long time, probably before Western cinema, did they move the camera with the action, which never really happened much because it was hard to do. It was really hard to do. But yeah, I'm fascinated by that kind of thing. 

Watch Way Of The Dragon at SBS On Demand

Also streaming: Fist of Fury / The Big Boss / The Game of Death


Cycling: Tour de France 2021 / Lance

"I'm nearly 50 years old, with a hip replacement. I can't run anymore. So I ride bicycles. I've been riding bicycles my whole life and I kind of rediscovered riding bikes in my mid twenties and then in my mid thirties off it went absolutely through the roof. I think it's fantastic. With football, I'll never be able to, you know, go and kick a soccer ball around Old Trafford, I'll never be able to kick a soccer ball at New Wembley, I'll never, ever do that. But if I wanted to, I could get a bicycle and I can ride up Alpe d'Huez today. I can test myself on the very same pitch and conditions that the best riders in the world test themselves on. And that's pretty fantastic, there's a great democratic access to cycling, which I think is brilliant. And, you know, just feeling the wind in your face and moving under the power of your own body is pretty fantastic. And watching how the best people in the world do it is great at the same time as listening to, you know, the commentary and the knowledge and the drama. And it's like the soap opera that plays out over 20-something days.

"Also, I mean, I went to school with Dr Bridie O'Donnell, so I do like to listen to Bridie again. I was like texting her, going, 'That's not– look at that cathedral'. [She's too busy to write me back.] But come on. If we couldn't get out of the country, being able to watch, you know, this incredible visual tour of France is just glorious, man."

Relive the stages of the 2021 Tour de France at SBS On Demand (and related programming)

"And look, when it comes to documentaries about Lance Armstrong, I think you don't have to be into cycling to enjoy a documentary about a community. Of course, you don't have to be into cycling to enjoy a documentary about an entire industry that was making so much money of this particular person, and an entire audience that just loved watching this person's achievements. Everyone was kind of in denial about what was actually going on, and had this one person in the middle of it all, groomed and hoodwinked, and brilliantly orchestrated. That the facade would continue for years and years and years, and I think we can learn a lot about that and apply it to perhaps other industries where there's a group of people that are benefiting quite a bit and there's a group of people who love to see it. But what's actually going on in the middle?

"I think there's a lot of lessons to be learned about the psychology of the relationship between those three parties by watching what happened with him. And it's fascinating. It's just fascinating. It's Britney Spears and her dad, it's Michael Jackson and the people that surrounded him. And the fans, it's everything. It's the same story. But this time it's around cycling. It's not the first time it's happened. If we can learn a lot from looking at this particular human problem that has happened a lot of times in our history, we can look at a lot of it from looking at it from different angles."

Lance (Parts 1 & 2) are available at SBS On Demand


First Footprints

"Well, I grew up in Queensland in the '70s and '80s. And Queensland in the '70s and '80s wasn't particularly a great place to be if you were anything but a white person. Now, I'm an immigrant, but I'm white, so no one really cared. I do have a quite a funny surname and that was an issue, but that's about the end of it. We didn't get taught at school, barely anything about our nation's Indigenous First Nations cultures; if we did, it was derisive, if anything, it was 'They were lucky that we showed up', you know, that was essentially the narrative. And if you'd never been exposed to any other narrative and for a long time, just, you know, it's the time before the Internet, just how I grew up. For a long time, that's kind of what I accepted as I grew up and got older. I didn't meet my first First Nations indigenous Australian until I was 19. I mean, good gracious me, I'd lived in Australia for nearly 20 years at this point. But that's the reality of what my upbringing was. I think it's really important that we take the time to educate ourselves, take the time to really look at some facts and take the time to really consider what is actually the true history of our country and what colonialism has done. Still to this day, how colonialism affects you, me, every single person in this country, we absolutely have to look at it. We have to have a jolly good, long, hard look at ourselves in the magical maze of mirrors. And it starts with arming yourself with some facts and really filling in the gaps for what you don't know about Indigenous culture in Australia. And this particular program is a good place to start."

First Footprints (Parts 1–4) are now streaming at SBS On Demand



Osher also recommends:


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ZeroZeroZero follows the journey of a cocaine shipment, from the moment a powerful cartel of Italian criminals decides to buy it, until the cargo is delivered and paid for.




An ex-Federale launches a brutal rampage of revenge against his former boss, after he was set up and betrayed while hired to assassinate a Texas Senator.


Osher Günsberg: A Matter of Life and Death is now streaming at SBS On Demand


as told to Fiona Williams


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